Annual Meeting Prologue

By on January 18, 2017 in News & Musings

2016 Annual Congregational Meeting

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

The Prologue

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For almost three decades now, Zion has identified as a small, urban congregation that cares deeply about her neighborhood and God’s mission in the world. Both despite and thanks to our size, we have been creative, bold, collaborative, and good humored through many challenges and changes.

In recent years, we’ve worked hard to embrace this charming attitude and fierce calling in concrete ways:

1.       To experiment with the structure and strategy of ministries, learning new things through success and failure of experiments like Wednesday night Sunday School, Sunday Servant Teams, Ministry Area Co-Leaders, and a collaborative approach to LCD leadership.

2.      To embrace the transient and dynamic nature of our neighborhood and, therefore, our new participants. This has changed the way we approach membership, leadership roles, welcoming visitors, and bless people on their way.

3.      To share power and authority more broadly among staff and lay leaders so that institutional knowledge is transparent and carried by more people.

There are many signs of hope and joy these days:

·       30% of today’s average worship attendance is comprised of people new to Zion in the last five years.

·       More than half of our congregational council is under the age of 35.

·       Our membership and number of financial giving households has increased each year for five years.

·       More than sixty people have committed as Friends of Zion.

·       Our musical village has grown to include several kinds of instrumentation and talents from within the congregation.

·       We continue to be a teaching congregation by providing field experience and community for seminarians.

·       We have added the live-in staff position of Building Steward to ensure after hours building care and security for a busy building.

·       The Lyndale Community Dinner has experienced leadership, menus, and attendance more representative of our neighborhood’s cultures than ever before.

You know I can’t write a page without using a metaphor.

When I arrived at Zion in February 2012, I heard long-time Zion members describing this church as a small pond they wanted to see grow into a bigger lake. Today I hear Zioners of every demographic embracing a different model. We are like a flowing river, full of transition and change, ripples and rushes, as we move through this chapter of faith and life together. This gives me hope because moving water is clean, healthy water. Moving waters can sweep us into renewal through baptism and community.

We begin the 2016 Annual Meeting on the bank of Zion’s little river, acutely aware of this congregation’s mission, growth, and gifts. We are also aware of our individual calls to be part of this church. You are probably here because you have been found by these people, this community, this ministry, this love. You are probably here because you are beloved and, through that love, you discover deep purpose and joy. You are probably here because Zion welcomes all of who you are and what you bring. It’s good to be here together!

Rooted in this congregational identity, we’ll spend this annual meeting facing some truths about our financial viability and our strategic options for the future.

Here are the takeaways we will explore together:

1.       Our history of asking the Endowment Fund for loans or grants to cover basic operational expenses.

2.      Our main sources of income, our expenses, and their variables.

3.      A vote: The council will ask the congregation to approve a request to Endowment for an operations grant for fiscal years 2018-2020.

4.     A reality check about how much longer the Endowment Fund will last if we continue asking for grants at this rate.

5.      An identity check about the implications of number 4.

6.     A sneak peek of our strategic options for the future.

Our Church Council, together with the Finance and Stewardship Committee and Endowment Committee, are prepared to present the first four parts of this conversation. I know their research and results have been considered with thoughtful and generous care. I am grateful for their hard work in preparation for this meeting.

As your pastor, I am particularly passionate about the last two parts of this conversation. We will learn a common language about this moment in Zion’s story – our new opportunities, challenges, and a transformation on the horizon. It’s a chance to notice all the ways we’ve already been changing, preparing for this future, and a time to recognize the Holy Spirit’s sure and present guidance.

The good news is that we have several options and models for moving forward. Thanks to our healthy leadership, transparency, and timing, we can explore possibilities and build relationships with intention and discernment.

The great news is that we can use our reputation and gifts for being creative, bold, collaborative, and good humored to provide a witness to the wider church. Many small, urban congregations will be in Zion’s shoes in the coming decades. Our strategy and faith can provide a model for how vibrant congregations like us can transform and thrive in a new generation of church.

I look forward to this meeting because our mutual learning and discernment is both a gift to Zion and the wider church. May 2017 bring more scrappy joy, moving waters, and deep renewal to this river of life at Zion.

With Gratitude and Hope,

Pastor Meta

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