“Growing Together:” WPLC’s Future Direction
WPLC is experiencing rapid growth, and it’s very exciting! WPLC’s church council, tasked with providing tools for the congregation to live out its mission and vision, has been working to determine how best to equip the congregation during this time of change.
To understand our current status, the council spent time learning about the various church size categories and how to best navigate church transitions. In addition, the council conducted two surveys and had conversations with the congregation to understand where we are and where we want to go.
With regard to church size, the council discovered that our average Sunday attendance (63 people in 2015) places us in a plateau zone between “family” and “pastoral” size congregations (see Appendix A). Over the past three years, attendance has steadily increased from an average of 49 in 2013 to 63 in 2015 (a 29% increase). Research shows that our leadership will need to direct the congregation in one way or the other (either to shrink or grow) in order to firmly establish ourselves in one category and develop a vision and structure properly suited for that congregational size. To learn more about church size theory and some of the other work the council has been doing, check out this presentation for Episcopal congregations or read a chapter from “The In-Between Church.”
The council also spent considerable time evaluating responses from the WPLC Ministry Survey and last year’s Listening Project through a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis and discussion. In general, the council observed that WPLC’s strengths include being welcoming, creative, engaging, refreshing, comfortable, inspirational, and a giving presence. On the flip side, there are opportunities to strengthen WPLC’s fellowship, educational offerings, social justice initiatives, communication, members’ ability to share their faith with others, and the use of all members’ gifts. (See Appendix B.)
After evaluating responses and pondering WPLC’s mission, vision and purpose, it became clear to the council that our strategic plan should involve long-term intentional growth strategies. As a first step, we have developed a set of short- and long-term goals that should better position WPLC for growth, while keeping in mind our ever-present mission, vision, purpose, and existing values. These new goals are being established in addition to all the engaging and inspiring work we already do! Below is a breakdown of each of these goals with brief action plans and a rationale.
Goal #1: Increase average worship attendance to 75 over the next four years, firmly establishing WPLC as a pastoral size congregation
- Acknowledge and inform congregation of the intent noting that changes in how we function are coming, accomplished partially by this written explanation (by September 2016)
- Increase church musician’s pay from $12,000 to $15,000 to ensure the chosen staff member has the skills required to develop a robust music offering that fully engages the congregation (by 2018 budget)
- Create and develop a team to conduct individualized community conversations and interviews to learn more about the larger Wicker Park and Bucktown community and how WPLC can engage (by summer 2017)
- Evaluate this goal and develop further action items (as needed)
Rationale: This long-term goal is meant to help us strive for our vision to “be a thriving Christian presence in metro Chicago, recognized as offering spiritual and social resources in our community.” Through conversations with the community, we hope to be able to evaluate our current offerings and expand our ministries to invite new community members in the years to come. This goal further helps us live out our mission to “be a passionate, Christian community . . . through welcoming, creative, and diverse ministries,” as we are a church that is passionate about the community. The goal also connects with our constitutional purpose to reach out to all people (C4.03).
Goal #2: Use our resources to more robustly engage in social justice initiatives
- Create and disseminate a survey to discover where WPLC members and visitors are currently volunteering to better connect them with others at WPLC interested in serving (by October 2016)
- Work to identify existing opportunities not currently being leveraged (by the end of 2016)
- Publicize synod and churchwide events in WPLC e-news and during worship to encourage deeper participation (ongoing)
- Create “social ministry grants” for members to receive funding for social justice exploration events to enliven WPLC’s understanding of social justice (by 2017 budget)
- Increase our financial participation in ELCA’s social justice initiatives by expanding our support to 10% of annual budget (by 2021 budget)
- Fund and send two congregation members each year to our synod’s anti-racism training (beginning in 2017)
Rationale: Our mission is to be a passionate, Christian community that is committed to nurturing and building up the body of Christ. Constitutionally, our congregation’s purpose is to “challenge, equip, and support all members to carry out the calling” and furthermore to “respond to human need, work for justice and peace, care for the sick and the suffering, and participate responsibly in society” (C4.03). In responses to survey questions, much of the congregation viewed social justice initiatives as important, and this goal is meant to help WPLC live out our commitment to social justice in our local and greater community. It is also a primary way that we can put our faith into action and respond to the calling at the end of each service to “go in peace.”
Goal #1: Better engage all WPLC members and visitors
- Update Fellowship Hall photo board to build community by providing better name and face recognition (by August 2016)
- Host an annual “member party” to allow for deeper fellowship and connection (by June 2017)
- Establish a Congregational Life Committee tasked with engaging current members and reaching out to new members and/or visitors to involve them in WPLC ministries (by the end of 2016)
- Create a “Visitor and New Member Buddy Program” related to the Congregational Life Committee (by the end of 2016)
Rationale: This short-term goal is driven by the welcoming and nurturing components of our mission and vision to provide spiritual and social resources for the community. Our congregation’s purpose is to “challenge, equip, and support all members in carrying out their calling” and to assist all members in providing pastoral care for one another. This goal deepens our engagement as a community to build up the body of Christ and reach out to engage all in God’s loving and redeeming word. Furthermore, this goal directly supports long-term goal #1.
Goal #2: Identify and establish a selection of small group ministries
- Create and disseminate a survey around adult education that will assess current offerings and determine other interests to deepen our faith and fellowship (by September 2016)
- Identify, train, and empower new and existing leaders to: 1) actively engage and encourage participation throughout the congregation, and 2) evaluate ministries by obtaining feedback (by March 2017)
Rationale: This short-term goal was created to inspire, nurture, and help build up the body of Christ by offering opportunities for all to be nurtured through direct interaction and connection with others (pastoral care). It is intended to provide spiritual resources that will aid in fulfilling our vision to be a thriving Christian presence by challenging, equipping, and supporting all our members in their own unique challenges and joys. It will also help us live out our purpose to “teach the Word of God” and “witness to the reconciling Word of God in Christ.” Finally, this goal directly supports long-term goal #1 and has potential to support long-term goal #2.
Goal #3: Establish an improved communication system between the council and the congregation
- The council will recommend an improved methodology for communicating with the congregation (by September 2016)
Rationale: This short-term goal will help the council accomplish one of its constitutional tasks to better equip, support, and foster participation from all its members (C4.03). This goal directly supports long-term goal #1.
If this is a lot to take in, we’ve created a short video above, and we will hold two forums to discuss the congregation’s reactions, suggestions, and insights. We encourage you to attend these forums and offer your feedback and suggestions for ways to live out these goals in the years to come.
- Weekday Forum: Thursday, September 15, 7:30 p.m., WPLC Fellowship Hall (upper level)
- Weekend Forum: Sunday, September 18, 8:30 a.m. (before worship), WPLC Fellowship Hall (upper level)
The council is enthusiastic about our future and asks for your confidence and prayers as we to lead the congregation along this journey. If you have an idea to share or want to participate in any way, please do not hesitate to contact Pastor Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-276-0263) or council vice-president Nora Militz (email@example.com). Our community is stronger as we join together in this work to be a thriving Christian presence in metro Chicago. Thank you!
“Ministry Survey” Data (2016)
Table I. Type of survey respondents (“Answer Choices” column) with corresponding percentage/number of responses (“Responses” column) for each type out of the total number of respondents (75) for the 2016 ministry survey. The ministry survey was based on the ELCA’s assessment of congregational vitality; click here to learn more.
Table II. Ministry survey responses to the question: “How well do these phrases describe WPLC?” (Note: weighted values are from 1 for “poorly” to 5 for “great.”)