May 10, 2022
Dear Grace Commons Family,
On the first of the month, you received an email from me saying that we are adding a monthly channel of communication, an e-newsletter. The purpose of this new newsletter is to keep you abreast of our church’s inner workings—straight from the horse’s mouth, to use an old expression.
(A word upfront: we are careful to keep our communications with you relatively short. I want to give you context and allow for nuances, so these letters may be a little longer. There may also be a couple of times annually when we need to communicate twice a month, but be assured we’ll settle into a sustainable rhythm. Thank you for your time.)
A transitional pastor is different from an interim pastor
In a staff meeting, I re-emphasized the difference between an interim pastor and a transitional pastor—something I shared with you last summer soon after my arrival. Our old denomination, PC(USA), used the interim model. An interim pastor comes to fill the pulpit, shepherd the congregation and help guide the pastoral search. A transitional pastor does all the former but is usually called in the wake of some crisis to help the overall church family system grow towards health. In so doing, this pastor prepares the way for more fruitful ministry when the next pastor is called.
I reminded our staff about the nature of my role here for another reason: change is a natural part of the season right now. I like to think of the roughly 1,600 takeoffs and landings at DIA each day as an analogy. There might be a little bit of turbulence but each gets safely to its destination.
Session and our ministry priorities
Session has been hard at work defining ministry priorities. This group of faithful servants has identified three key areas of focus for the next three years:
- Shifting our primary ministry focus to be more local and outward facing
- Attracting young disciples
- Equipping the congregation
Recently, our college ministry witnessed the fruit of these priorities in action.
Change and opportunity
On April 26, our University Ministry, known as The Annex, baptized nine college students who made a public profession of faith. How incredible is this? But, what happens to those college students and their friends who stay in the Boulder area after graduation? How do we continue to be a relevant part of their post-college lives? How do we create a context for them to continue to grow and contribute to the life and ministry of Grace Commons?
We have been asking many strategic questions of late (and this is not an exhaustive list). A few more include:
- Church attendance has changed since the pandemic. (This is a nationwide phenomenon with which all churches are grappling.) How do we do ministry in a post-COVID era? What approaches and technologies do we need to retool? What does it mean to be the body of Christ, and what do we miss when we don’t gather in person? How do we reach those who can’t be with us in person on Sundays?
- We have roughly two thirds the number of people (compared to pre-pandemic 2019) making a commitment to our annual budget, which necessitates a change on our side. We are en route to a lower annual budget in 2024 with a transitional budget for 2023. Still we’re used to being a church with a larger budget. So, what has Session said our focus needs to be? How do we appropriately steward and deploy the resources God has given us through you? What does this mean for our staff, our ministry programs and our ministry of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry”? (Ephesians 4:12)
- Since the pandemic, we’ve experienced shifts in lay involvement along with natural staff attrition and transition. How do we care for our staff and better utilize their gifts? How do we meet the needs of a post-pandemic era and care for all the generations with which our church is blessed? How do we meet the needs of the changing demographics around us? How do we move from a “big church mentality” (where staff and a few key volunteers do much of the work) to the realization that we will function at our best when everyone in our church family discovers and uses their spiritual gifts?
I share these questions with you to invite you into the conversations we are having on Session and into my heart—I want you to better understand the breadth and depth of our grappling.
This evening, Session will do a first read of the Ministry Year 2023 budget. On June 21, Session will adopt a final budget that is fiscally responsible and sustainable. We will share this information once it is finalized. I covet your prayers as this group of servants prayerfully discerns the way forward.
At the core of this: change and opportunity go hand-in-hand. Undergirding all this: the infinite love and care of a Father who has a good plan for us, and who is sovereign.
In my next update, I’ll share how we are realigning so that we are better able to pursue our ministry priorities.
Know that Carrie and I care about you and pray for you daily.
Grace Commons Church