Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Council Meeting Minutes
May 16, 2023
Present: Megan Baxter, Rob Blount, Craig Collins, Bonnie Hare, Kelly Jirschele, Cheryl Martines, Steve McIntire, John Volkening
Staff: Pastor Krista Zimmerman, Pastor Paisley Le Roy, Pong Sayasane
Absent: Deacon Heather Feltman (continuing education); Suzanne Warner
Visitors: Paul Dayton, Brian Ferguson
Location: Ekstrom Hall
Meeting called to order at 6:35pm.
Council Secretary: Craig Collins
Rob opened the Council meeting with a prayer.
In lieu of devotions, Council members shared their appreciation and thanks to departing Council members, Craig Collins and Suzanne Warner.
Agenda Item: Pre-School Update
BLC Preschool Director, Pong Sayasane, provided Council with a review of the past year:
● All in all, this has been a wonderful year for the preschool. The kids have been great, they are eager to be here, and we have been able to re-introduce some special events that have contributed to boosting morale within our school community.
● Staffing continues to be a challenge. We have spent the year with a shortage of substitutes. It has only been the past two months that we have been able to recruit/retain two substitutes.
● We are losing two teachers for next year. Fortunately, we have the next several months to replace these individuals and our current teachers have been very adaptable.
● Enrollment looks good for the fall. We have a waiting list for all of our full day classes. We have openings in our partial day classes. This past year we have combined the three and four-year old partial day classes. It is possible that eventually we will recommend moving to all full day classes.
● We purchased a new washer and dryer this year. In addition, we are in the midst of replacing a number of tables and chairs.
● We continue to experience water seepage in and around our storage area in Ekstrom Hall, especially when it rains.
● This has been a good year for me personally and professionally.
Following Pong’s remarks, Rob thanked Pong for her work this year as Preschool Director and expressed his appreciation, on behalf of Council, for her commitment over the years to leading the preschool program.
Agenda Item: Senior Christian Care Ministry
Cheryl led the conversation on this topic and started the discussion by identifying five different scenarios, including the pluses and minuses of each scenario, regarding the addition of a Senior Christian Care ministry at Bethlehem:
● Rent the space to a local agency (i.e., Elderday Center) as a part of Kane County Senior Resources
● Be a part of ESSE as a supporting church and/or apply to be a new location
● Partnering with an existing program (e.g., Epiphany Lutheran Church in Elmhurst)
● Begin our own unique program
● Decide to put a “hold” on this ministry at this time for a variety of reasons (e.g., financial, too much for our congregation to take on; more planning needed; unexpected roadblocks)
Cheryl then reported that at the Executive Team meeting the preceding week Heather suggested that a possible next step in the process is to determine if we can acquire an adequate amount of “seed money” from members of the congregation to take care of a number of expenses (e.g., hiring a part-time director and some other staff, marketing, some equipment purchases) in the event that we ultimately decide to move forward with this ministry.
Several Council members expressed interest in moving forward with the implementation of this ministry as outlined in the proposal offered by Deacon Heather because there is a societal need and there appears to be support and excitement within the congregation to offer a daily care option for seniors within our congregation and surrounding community. Furthermore, it might at some point in the future provide BLC with an additional revenue stream. Several others expressed a preference for exploring a partnership with another agency with experience with this type of ministry or at least soliciting more information about each of the scenarios above before we move forward with seeking seed money within the congregation.
Following further discussion, there was consensus to seek more information from other Adult Day Care providers, possibly bringing in individuals from these programs to talk with Council, and not solicit seed money within the congregation until there is greater clarity and consensus around the best scenario to pursue.
Agenda Item: Fall Worship Times
Last summer, the Council voted to move from two Sunday services (8:30/10:45 am) to one service (9:30 am) followed by an education hour for children and adults. Worship services have also been held on the first, third, and fifth Saturdays of the month. In the next two months, Council will re-evaluate our weekend worship schedule. In order to prepare for this discussion, the Rostered leaders identified a number of questions that will need to be considered:
● Location: two services in the same space or in two different venues?
● Human Capital: How many volunteers will be needed each Sunday? Do we have sufficient volunteers?
● Tech Support: Will additional tech hours be needed to manage the tech demands of a second service?
● Livestreaming: Do we stream one or both services? Do we have the equipment to livestream in Fellowship Hall?
● Equipment: Do we need to upgrade the sound system in Fellowship Hall?
● David’s Responsibilities: Where does David put his focus? Preschool/Youth Music? Praise Team?
● Sunday School: What impact would two Sunday services have on Sunday School?
● Confirmation: What impact would two Sunday services have on Confirmation? Would we need to move Confirmation to later in the day on Sunday, to a week-day night, and/or reduce the number of sessions each month?
● Nursery: Do we offer nursery care during one or both services?
During the discussion, Council members highlighted additional questions/considerations to be reviewed prior to making a decision about our weekend worship schedule:
● What are we hoping to accomplish by adding a second Sunday service?
● What will the impact be on our Rostered staff and David?
● What new financial costs might we incur?
● How do we solicit feedback from the congregation before making this decision?
● What other information do we need to gather over and above what is outlined above? Where might the source of that information come from?
Rostered leaders will be asked to make a recommendation about the fall worship schedule once we have gathered the necessary information and sought feedback from the congregation. Pastor Krista intends to invite congregation feedback in the Mid-Week message. We need to make a decision about the fall worship schedule no later than the July Council meeting in order to allow adequate time to make preparations for the fall in the event we add an additional service on Sunday.
Agenda Item: Small Group Gatherings
Several small group gatherings have been held since the last Council meeting. Suzanne, Kelly, Craig, and Steve report that these meetings have been well received with some thoughtful sharing by BLC disciples. Kelly reported that the feedback she received centered on getting families more involved at Bethlehem. A summary of each of the other conversations is attached to the minutes along the format that Cheryl created and used at the first small group gathering held at Bonnie’s home the week after Easter. Suzanne used a similar format the next week.
Bonnie will be following up with those disciples who indicated an interest at the Congregation meeting in participating in a small group meeting this summer. Council members will continue to schedule these gatherings.
Agenda Item: RIC Process Update
At the last Council meeting there was consensus among Council members that the next logical step in exploring the RIC process was to put together a core team of BLC disciples who would carefully and thoughtfully develop a plan to determine Bethlehem’s readiness for this type of ministry initiative. Rob asked again for council volunteers willing to make recruiting calls for the exploratory RIC core team. Megan reported that she has reached out to one individual.
Pride Sunday will be celebrated on Sunday, June 11. Pastor Krista is organizing this worship service and recruiting volunteers to help with the planning.
Consent Agenda: April Minutes & March and April Financial Reports
Kelly moved, seconded by John, to approve the April minutes and financial reports as presented.
Motion carried 10-0.
Agenda Item: Call Team Update
John reported that the Call Team is ready to receive the names of candidates for the Lead Pastor position. To date, no names have been forwarded by the Synod to the Call Team for review.
Agenda Item: Narthex Painting
After consulting with Jim Kautz and Dori Collins, John requested permission from the Council to do some painting in the Narthex area to reduce the brightness contrast between that part of the Narthex that was involved in the 2019 renovation project and that part of the Narthex that was not touched. There was no objection and John will proceed with the painting project.
Kelly moved, seconded by John, to temporarily adjourn the meeting at 8:35pm. Without objection, Rob temporarily adjourned the meeting.
Rob reconvened the meeting at 8:37pm and welcomed new Council members, Paul Dayton and Brian Ferguson, who were elected at the Congregation meeting on May 7th to each serve a three-year term.
Cheryl moved, seconded by Kelly, to approve a new Executive Team:
Cheryl Martines – President
John Volkening – Vice President
Megan Baxter – Secretary
Bonnie Hare – Treasurer
Motion carried 10-0.
The entire 2023-2024 council will be installed during worship on June 18th.
Pastor Krista invited Council members to attend the next newcomer’s brunch on Sunday, July 9, following worship.
There being no further business, Cheryl called for a motion to adjourn. Kelly moved, seconded by Rob. Meeting adjourned at 8:50 pm.
Small Group Gathering 2023 Format (created by Cheryl Martines)
Please introduce yourself (name) and briefly state how you see God at work at Bethlehem.
Agenda Preview: 3 topics
Please give your thoughts and/or ideas. No right or wrong. Just gathering feedback at this point in time. No pressure to say anything – your presence here is participation. Thank you for coming.
Present State of BLC – We are Bethlehem.
1. Congregation goals **
2. Financial status.
3. In search of a new lead pastor.
Changing ELCA Church – We are in transition.
1. Launching Expansive Church!
2. Faith Formation
Hope for our future – Exploring new possibilities.
What are your hopes for Bethlehem?
Thank you again for your precious time. This valuable feedback will be shared with the entire council. There will be several other small gatherings occurring in the next few weeks and overall results will be the backdrop for future council discernment. If you think of anything else you would like to share, please do not wait for a gathering to do so! We appreciate your input at any time.
As the work of the Spirit continues to grow and lead us, we thank you for your never-ending guidance in the work of the church, in our daily lives, and in our prayers to you. Thank you for allowing us to carve out a few moments in our busy lives to gather this day.
In your Son’s name,
1. Redevelop our sense of community.
2. Increase discipleship engagement.
3. Invest in spiritual growth.
4. Grow our commitment to creation care.
Four Small Group Gathering Summaries
1. Small group gathering at Warner home: Sunday, April 23, 3:30-5:00 pm
o Suzanne / Craig facilitated from Council
o 9 invited, 7 attended (2 had last minute conflict)
o Followed format provided by Cheryl
How is God working in and through Bethlehem? (Note – this was a great first question!)
● Despite “dings and bruises” over the last several years, God is still present, His work continues through us.
● Bethlehem is home, can’t imagine being anywhere else. Love the worship and music.
● Seeing young dads caring for their children at church
● Recovering from pandemic slower than we’d like
● Lots of ups and downs, but BLC has been persistent.
● Kudos to David Lincoln – music, choir
● Excited about expansive church and being more outward focused. Reaching out helps us strengthen BLC internally.
● Livestream worship and virtual meetings make it possible for our homebound members to stay connected rather than drift away.
Conversation quickly went to increasing disciple engagement:
● Volunteering continues to be a struggle. How can we pull in younger people, young families?
● Signing up for events can be a challenge. Ex. Day Trippers. Event was on Friday Blast, but could not be found on the website.
● Is there a specific plan around engagement, and if so, what is it? Feels like there is pent-up energy for jumping back into ministry, but don’t know what the choices and possibilities are.
● Talked about how to extend invitation to engagement
o Personal asks are most effective
o Think ‘invite’ rather than ‘recruit’
o Allow people to grow at their own pace – be sensitive to where the person is on their journey – give them grace and space if they are not in a place to be able to engage in a ministry.
o Ask our new members how we can minister to THEM before we ask them where they want to volunteer
o Consider the possibility of a refreshed congregational survey / gifts inventory
o Identify people who are especially good at invitation and/or train leaders on invitation
Conversation around redeveloping sense of community
● Acknowledging/ announcing celebrations and life passages in worship can help build community. Ex: announcing births.
● Should we go back to name tags?
● Leverage FB posts (with permission!) to build community. Ex: Several in the group saw the BLC FB post of the students who were in school productions – now we can acknowledge those directly to the kids when we see them.
● Consistently post in the Daily Herald “Church Notes” for people who still read the paper.
● Don’t forget about the group of people who are not ready to come back for whatever reason. We should be reaching out to them proactively.
o Worship (one person):
o Request to return to two services. Feedback that current format (every 3 weeks contemporary) doesn’t fully engage either the disciples that prefer traditional or those that prefer contemporary. (We shared that Council is evaluating resources needed for adding back a 2nd service.)
o Preaching is strong!
o Can we take communion at the communion rail? It adds to the sacredness of the sacrament.
o Transparency and communication to the congregation:
o Positive feedback on more frequent financial reporting. Can we add a monthly summary for transparency and to keep everyone current?
o Quarterly report-out on congregation goals
o Would be a positive boost to the congregation to know the number of people who are joining worship via livestream.
o Monthly update on pastoral search
o Funeral communication out to congregation is too late – barrier to disciples making arrangements to attend and barrier to adequate luncheon preparations.
o Housekeeping – proofread communications
2. Small group gathering at McIntire home in Elburn: Sunday, April 30, 1-3 pm
● Steve facilitated
● 5 people attended (10 invited)
● The discussion was more freeform than following an agenda
1. Financial observations from the group:
● We have had a number of big givers that are no longer contributing due to death, moving, or a change of income. We have had a number of new members joining, but they are not contributing at the same rate. It is more indicative of the stage in their lives. Young families typically have less disposable income.
● There is a feeling of impending bigger financial shortages as the congregation ages. Feeling like the congregation still doesn’t understand the full scope of the situation.
● Streaming has taken away from the feeling of “church”. Lower investment in the church.
● A definite desire for more contemporary worship. Hybrid service is enjoyable, but it still feels like a traditional worship service with different instruments.
● Wondering about specific concerns for contemporary worship in the sanctuary. Is it the space that drives the service? With all the improvements made in the sanctuary should we really look at spending more in Fellowship? From a sound perspective, recent services in FH were held together with duct tape and prayer.
4. General observations
● We talked about why we think people come to worship in person.
o A desire for intentional spiritual growth
▪ The place where we want to raise our family to be kind, noble, and respectful.
o Sharing of communion – physically sharing the meal which cannot be done virtually
o Formation of connections – strong long-term connections that can only be formed in person.
● There was a question about a congregational care team that existed in the past, who to come to with concerns potentially about worship leaders, council, etc.
3. Small group gathering during Bethlehem Brothers meeting: Sunday, May 7, 2023 – 4:45pm
o Craig facilitated
o We met at the Tap House Grill in St. Charles for our monthly meeting
o As I best recollect, there were eleven men in attendance when it came to my part on the agenda.
o The format was different from the one that Cheryl used and the one that Suzanne and I used last month. Prior to the meeting Brian Warner shared that I was available to answer questions from those who had attended the Congregation meeting that morning or provide a brief overview of the meeting for those who were not able to attend. I did not ask the question, how is God working in and through Bethlehem? The focus was on the Congregation meeting.
Call Team Update
● I basically reiterated what Judy had shared at the Congregation meeting. No questions. One person shared some frustration that it has taken a long time to get to this stage in the call process.
Expansive Church Initiative
● I hit the headlines with our Expansive Church Initiative. Lots of questions; some admitted to being unaware of what Expansive Church was all about and one person admitted that what was shared today was different from what he had heard at the April forum. Fortunately, several members of the Expansive Church planning team were in attendance to help me answer questions and clear up misunderstandings. They also reiterated that this is “work in progress.”
● Why don’t we simply take the surplus amount over what we need to pay each month/year and make an additional principal payment to reduce our interest charges?
● Can we use the grant money for projects within our congregation?
● How much do we have to distribute and who might apply for the grants?
● What can the grants be used for?
● What is the process for applying for grants? How will we know that the grant money is used for the stated purpose?
● Is this something that we are going to do every year?
● How did we get the surplus funds for this year?
● I don’t think there were too many at the Tap House Grill today who attended the Adult Forum in April. Hence, many questions.
Reconciling in Christ Process
● I shared what Cheryl had shared at the Congregation meeting. No questions or what I perceived to be resistance; lots of mental processing. I encouraged those who were interested in joining the exploratory team to contact a Council member.
Senior Christian Care Ministry
● Again, I hit the highlights, thinking that most had not heard much about this potential ministry.
● We were running out of time so there was not much time for questions.
4. Small group gathering following Friday morning Bible Study: Friday, May 12 – 7:45am
o Craig facilitated
o We met in the Welcome Center
o Five men attended. Prior to the meeting I had shared that I was available to answer questions from those who had attended the Congregation meeting on May 7 or provide a brief overview of the meeting for those who were not able to attend. Same format as with the Bethlehem Brothers meeting.
Call Team Update
● I basically reiterated what Judy had shared at the Congregation meeting. A couple of the men were not aware of how the process works so I took the opportunity to hit the highlights.
Expansive Church Initiative
● Lots of question surrounding this topic; many similar to those asked at Bethlehem Brothers meeting. I don’t think any of these gentlemen attended the forum in April.
● Is the Expansive Church Initiative essentially the Building Fund that we have referenced in years past?
● Why did we change from a three-year capital campaign to a one-year effort?
● How are we going to let non-profits know that we have money to distribute?
● Would groups from Aurora and Elgin be considered or are we looking at funding groups from the Tri-Cities?
● Have we put a minimum and maximum on the amount of the grants?
● Where did this idea come from and how will we evaluate success?
● Does our current unified budget provide for any distribution of funds directly to other organizations?
Reconciling in Christ Process
● I shared what Cheryl had shared at the Congregation meeting. Not a lot of questions.
● We talked about how we might be more welcoming to a variety of different groups. One person asked if immigrants and/or recent migrant arrivals to the Chicago area might be a focus too.
● I encouraged those who were interested in joining the exploratory team to contact a Council member.
Senior Christian Care Ministry
● We ran out of time and I don’t get to this topic.