Rooted in Faith † Growing in Christ † Reaching to Serve
Transition Team Final Report
May 27, 2015
Who We Are
Our Team represented a cross section of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (OSLC) and was composed of Interim Pastor Loren Anderson-Bauer, David Toole-spokesperson, Carolyn Flaschberger, Gail Baribeau, Kay Rent, Kris Cochran, Tanya Carlson, Tom Witty, Bob Rutka & Tucker Nelson. We met twice a month on Wednesdays from October 2014 through May 2015.
Kay and Tucker came up with the analogy of being on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. We need to get out the map and determine where we are, then we need to decide where we want to go and what is the best route to get there. And then, we need to get everyone to paddle the canoes in the same direction.
What We Did
The Transition Team determined that our chief task was to “listen to the congregation”. We needed to gather information that would be helpful to the church council, the future call committee and the congregation as they make choices regarding future leadership for Our Savior’s. These processes were to help insure mutual success in the challenging time of transition.
One tool for “listening” was a paper and online survey that asked four questions:
- What are your top three reasons for being involved OSLC?
- If you could change something about OSLC, what would it be?
- OSLC would be stronger if…,
- Where is God leading us?
We received over 100 surveys responses. Each team member reviewed each survey. As a team we discussed the responses and condensed the responses into eleven categories or Priorities. The team followed up with personal interviews with those that requested them. Members of the team also reported back comments and concerns that were heard from church and community members at our regularly scheduled meetings.
Our next tool for “listening” involved a congregation coffee an’ table talk session. The list of eleven Priorities were discussed and then ranked.
The Team performed an analysis of OSLC’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).
We discussed our OSLC Mission Statement.
Based on the priorities identified by the congregation, we developed a list of recommendations to help OSLC address those priorities.
What We Learned
As a team, we learned the characteristics of different sized congregations. Congregations with 50 to 150 active members (average worship attendance) tend to be pastoral centered. The pastor has a direct personal relationship with each member and the congregation acts as a single group.
Larger congregations with 150 to 350 active members focus more on church programs. These include youth, music, education, service, fellowship, committee work and other interests. People connect to others in these respective groups, through leadership opportunities and organizing program functions.
The pastor’s role is one of oversight for each program and less development of a personal relationship with each member of the congregation.
OSLC, with 146 active members has characteristics of both “pastoral” and “program” congregations. When larger program congregations reduce the numbers of programs offered, they often times shrink membership and take on the characteristics of a pastoral congregation. As we move forward, it will be important to have pastoral and staff leadership to oversee the programs that OSLC prides itself in.
The following is the rank order of the Priorities in order of importance to the congregation:
- Fostering and building a strong youth program.
- Finding agreement on church financial responsibility and strengthening our congregation’s financial stability.
- Being inclusive and encouraging involvement by all.
- Drawing in and welcoming others into our Christ-centered church family.
- Worship and music that is meaningful and moves us to discipleship.
- Spiritual care and appreciation for members who are in care facilities or homebound.
- Building nurturing relationships and friendships.
- Maintaining our church property so that we can serve not only our needs, but the needs of the community.
- Offering learning opportunities for all ages.
- Providing opportunities to serve in the greater community and world.
- Exploring ways to partner in ministry with other area churches.
Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats
Following are the results of the SWOT analysis:
We have many Strengths. First is our meaningful, Christ-centered, Gospel based worship and preaching. We have both traditional and contemporary worship services that include all ages. Our music is inspiring and allows each person to lift her/his heart to God while participating in community worship.
We are a welcoming, open congregation where people truly care for and respect one another. We seek to serve others both within our congregation and throughout all of God’s creation. We have a strong and growing youth program. We strive to keep our youth interested and involved in worship and service as they mature.
Our congregation has a very strong history of nurturing the call to ordained and lay ministry. We foster and maintain partnerships in missions through our Synod, the Seminary, Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry (VLM), and other mission organizations. We have a strong core of committed members who are dedicated to God and the church.
Even in times of financial challenges, our congregation has always been able to rise to meet those needs. Our building, with its stainless steel kitchen, lack of a mortgage, accessibility and location is a great asset, with many community organizations making use of the west wing for meetings.
Our building has its weaknesses: The aging heating system, lack of handicapped accessible restrooms, and old inefficient windows.
We have not only an aging building, but an aging and declining population/congregation. Financial shortfalls and reluctance to address financial issues is a recurring theme.
As individuals and smaller groups we have, at times, shown a resistance to looking at both sides of an issue. Likewise, we may fail to put personal bias aside, while not advocating for the mutual benefit for all. We have exhibited the phenomenon of the “meeting after the meeting” that leads to “cliquish” behavior.
We have a need for more “unofficial greeters” to extend the welcome to visitors and new members.
The team also felt that there is a need to offer more for families and young adults. Our congregation wants to see more interesting Bible study opportunities for all ages. We have the ability to expand our outreach to our community through our youth programs, our musical offerings, and staff and volunteers.
Our proximity to Mesabi Community College and the HRA Housing/Pine Mill Court lends itself to outreach and invitation. OSLC already participates with local aid associations including Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and food shelves.
Our building is a safe and welcoming meeting place for many outside organizations. We have many opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community.
Our economy is based on Taconite (Mining), Timber (Forestry) and Tourism. With the downturn in the steel and oil industries, there are increased financial worries for our families and our congregation. There is also less involvement and less interest in all religious activity throughout the general population. Many of our children and youth are not able to be present on a consistent basis for Sunday school and other activities. Traditionally, society has set time aside for church activities on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, but with community and secular activities being 24/7/365, we find that community worship is taking a back seat and church becomes an afterthought.
We have learned in assessing our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that as we work and plan for our future, developing a Vision Statement can help serve as a guiding tool for program development and staffing needs.
We learned that our Mission Statement is a valid and relevant mission to live by.
We are Rooted in Faith – We are a church family that is Christ-centered where the Gospel is preached and proclaimed in worship, music and learning opportunities for all ages. We wholeheartedly embrace former ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson’s statement, “We finally meet one another not in our agreements or disagreements, but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ.” We have a rich and long history as a church that has seen at least 14 sons and daughters of its congregation pursue higher levels of theological education and ordination. We have a strong history of lay ministry and leadership.
We are Growing in Christ – We are working on building a strong youth program, especially with the hiring of Meagan Esterby as our Director of Youth and Family Ministry. Our church is a welcoming part of our community that strives to be inclusive to people of all cultures and backgrounds. We are also working on strengthening our congregational financial stability so that we can continue to grow and thrive.
We are Reaching to Serve – We are a congregation that is a cornerstone within our community. Our church building is available for community groups to meet and is a place where many may meet Christ in real and tangible ways. We minister to members who are homebound or in care facilities. We are a mission partner through our Synod, with Mission Jamaica, with Teller-Brevig, Alaska and with VLM Ministries.
Where Are We Going
The Transition Team makes the following recommendations based on the top six congregational priorities:
The top priority is growing a strong youth program. The Transition Team recommends the continuation of Meagan Esterby as the full time Director of Youth and Family Ministry (DYFM). The Transition Team recommends that her compensation be reviewed and include health benefits. We also recommend that Youth and Family Ministry programming be adequately funded.
Maintaining financial stability is the number two priority of the congregation. This requires thoughtful utilization of our resources. In the past, we have been blessed with a full-time Senior Pastor and full-time Associate in Ministry (AiM). Brenda Tibbetts has provided almost 15 years of called ministry as a very dedicated AiM to our congregation at OSLC. This was noted in many of the congregational responses reviewed by the Transition Team. Brenda has recently resigned her call to OSLC effective June 30, 2015, and accepted a position as an Assistant to the Bishop of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. We wish Brenda the very best in her new opportunity.
With this change, the Transition Team recommends that the AiM position be eliminated. This will assist in achieving and maintaining fiscal responsibility as we move forward. Our staffing will more closely reflect what similar sized congregations have in the NE MN Synod.
The Team also recommends that the annual budget reflect the reality of our general giving. We need to continue to emphasize the importance of Stewardship in strengthening the spirit of our generous congregation.
The number three priority is Being inclusive and encouraging involvement of all. We recommend that the congregation revisit the “Fellowship Team” concept and explore other ways to energize people into more active membership. We strongly encourage members to go out of their way to welcome, include and invite all to participate. Similarly, our fourth priority, Drawing in and welcoming others into our Christ-centered church family, is an extension of our congregation into our communities.
Worship and music that is meaningful and moves us to discipleship, has been a strength of OSLC. Our congregation expressed appreciation for our talented worship leaders, preachers, choir, and musicians. They provide substance and joy to our worship experience and gives direction to our daily living. Many expressed a desire for continued and expanded variety of music in worship.
Spiritual care and appreciation for members who are in care facilities or homebound will need to rely on a strengthened lay program as we transition to a smaller staff.
OSLC is a “bottom-up” organization of people. Members step up and volunteer their time and talents when they see that something needs to be done. They pride themselves in taking the initiative to accomplish necessary tasks. Coordinating our efforts by working through our committees and elected council insures collaborative efforts. Improving our communications and connectivity strengthens our congregation and shows respect to our members and our leaders.
The Transition Team feels very positive about our future. We recognize that success for our congregation and our called leadership depends on continued hard work, mutual respect, fiscal responsibility, long range planning, and the ongoing prayerful determination of all.
We will be the church of choice for all people in our community.
NOW LET’S GET PADDLING!!!