This final Crossroads report will be presented at the annual congregational meeting Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.
A year ago, the Falcon Heights Church Crossroads Team began a journey with an unknown destination. Crossroads was described as “a program and process to help your congregation answer the question “What is God calling us to do and be … TODAY?” For the first six months, we felt as though we were wandering in the wilderness, not quite sure what we should be doing or where we were going.
We used that time to explore the current landscape for faith communities. We looked at the demographics of our surrounding neighborhoods; talked with local leaders about community interests, needs and trends; and read articles and books, including “The Agile Church” by Dwight Zscheile, that gave us historical and cultural context for the declining participation in religious institutions, as well as ideas for their reinvention. And we spent a lot of time discussing what that meant for Falcon Heights Church.
Several themes emerged. First, we are unlikely to return to the high point of church membership and attendance of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. That means, with a smaller membership, we will need to focus on a smaller number of priority tasks. Second, we need to learn from the early Christian church and go out into our neighborhoods to identify and meet the needs of the people outside our doors. Third, we need to be agile and continually experiment with programs, structures and approaches to internal and external concerns in order to thrive.
Congregational Priorities – As steps along our journey, we asked the congregation in September to help us focus our efforts by giving us your ideas and then in October by telling us your priorities. The top three were Dinner for 8, small group conversations and book discussions on faith, and to hire a permanent youth minister. These and other suggestions have made it onto our recommendations reported below.
Executive Board Task Force Recommendations – Moderator Carol Holm asked a small group of executive board members to examine building repair and maintenance and staffing needs and to suggest ways to fund them, now and in the future. Their recommendations, included in the Moderator’s Annual Report, included seeking tenants to share our building space, creating a community organizer position to identify and help the church respond to external needs, and launching a capital campaign for building projects. Some of their recommendations make it on to our list as well.
Governance – As we considered the ideas generated by the “sticky note” exercise in September and building and staffing needs reviewed by the Executive Board Task Force, we realized that the current governance structure codified in our Constitution and By-laws is a hindrance to becoming a more agile church.
We need the flexibility to address new needs and experiment with new ways of doing things. The number of people needed to fill the officer, Executive Board and ministry team positions is almost half of our active membership at a time when work and child rearing demands have increased. We see a need to streamline the governance structure and to take advantage of technology to make it easier for people to get together to get the work done, and that is also reflected in our recommendations.
With that, we submit the following recommendations for your consideration.
Stuff we can start now (i.e., activities that are low-/no-cost and for which we have people who are interested)
- Small group “ministries”: Dinner for 8, Bible studies; book groups studies; tweens parent group, etc., and invite community residents through social media
- “Practicing” restructuring of governance/ministry team models
- Begin to rebuild our relationship with our neighbors by hosting a table/display at the FH ice cream social this summer
- Send postcards to surrounding community re: Maundy Thursday & Easter services
- Little Free Library
- Talk to a real estate agent re: seeking tenants for church
- Explore alternative meeting technologies and, for Executive Board, less frequent meeting schedule
- Measure participation across all activities (not just worship) rather than or in addition to membership
Stuff that will take more money and/or planning
- Develop new governance model and revisit constitution and by-laws
- Funding for Zoom/video conference technology
- Development and maintenance of new website
- Building modifications that might be needed for any outside partnership(s) established
- Major building maintenance projects
- Consider how we can turn our patio into a community asset
- Parking lot rain gardens
Stuff that needs more discernment
- Staffing, including permanent Faith Formation and/or community engagement position(s)
- Prioritize major building maintenance projects and how to fund them
- Parking lot partial sale
- Make patio more available to the neighborhood
–Crossroads Team, January 2020