Final Crossroads report and roadmap

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

Sharing our space with partners

One of the priorities that arose from a recent congregational discussion was to seek opportunities for sharing our space with partners that align with our mission and vision. In 2019 we talked with a Montessori school about classroom space and with Keystone Community Services about establishing a food shelf here. Neither of those ideas proved feasible. Because of engineering requirements, we would be unable to create a large enough open space for a Montessori classroom, and recently we got word from Keystone that they lack the funding to reopen a food shelf at any location.

We have, however, started very initial communications with Spirit of St. Stephen Catholic Community. This is not a typical Catholic community! Their website ( says, “No priest. No kidding.” They are an independent Catholic community rooted in social justice. They believe in the priesthood of all people and center their worship on the Eucharist. Their ministry is based on justice, peace, inclusion, gratitude and the wisdom of the Spirit that ignites their prayer as they seek to follow the nonviolent Jesus.

The door to this potential partnership was opened because one of our members has openly talked outside of church about this priority for FHC. All of us can do the same! We’ve worked diligently over the years to maintain our building, and we can be proud of our willingness to modify spaces if necessary to establish a partnership that will help nurture our demonstration plot and further our outreach mission.

Reconsidering our governance structure

One of our challenges is the governance structure of the church and the large number of people it requires. The Crossroads Team and the Executive Board came to that conclusion as we have discussed the future of our congregation and looked at ways to continue Jesus’ ministry within the congregation, to our immediate community and to the world.

The Constitution and Bylaws require seven officers, four of whom are members of the Executive Board, which also has nine at-large members, for a total of 13 persons on the Board.  Then, the Constitution and Bylaws require that each of the standing committees and ministry teams consist of at least three members of the congregation. That comes to 49 elected positions in a membership of slightly over 100 persons.

Given the many commitments congregants have in their lives, we believe we can streamline our governance structure to better utilize our group wisdom and thrive in the future. We need a more agile structure that gives us the flexibility to meet the church’s changing needs with fewer people.

While the Executive Board and Crossroads are not yet ready to make specific recommendations for revising the Constitution and Bylaws, we can experiment over the next couple of years to discover what works better. Expect to hear more about this in the coming month. We will be looking for your forbearance, as well as your ideas, for designing a governance structure for the future.

Connecting through our church building

The Crossroads Team has heard from the congregation that our church building (and parking lot) could be a great asset to the community. People have proposed ideas for sharing a portion of our space with another organization.

We’re hearing from other churches that moving beyond a single use for church buildings is a trend that bears examining–whether it’s sharing space with a community service organization, an educational institution, another church or something else. Sharing space, done wisely, could increase our impact in the community while also providing additional financial security for our future.

One of the areas the Crossroads team has been exploring throughout the year has been ways we can serve the larger community of which we are a member. Last week, we asked you to share any ideas you might have about partnerships we could start or expand in the community, and we still need more of them.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts or ideas about sharing our space with the Crossroads team, including Cor Wilson, Carol Holm, Rev. Rick King, Conee Biggs, Margee Fabyanske, Mary Gaasch, Brian Knapp and Larry Schumacher.

Connecting as a faith community

We asked you to identify experiments we can conduct as a congregation for connecting as a faith community, and you responded with gusto!

We got lots of ideas for building stronger relationships with each other: intimate group dinners, small group discussions on faith, all-ages sing-alongs and more. We also heard your interest in hiring a faith formation staff member to help our children connect better with the life of the church.

But a third area we heard from people throughout this process came back a little less clear–building connections with the community of Falcon Heights and our neighbors.

You put some great ideas forward about how we could use our building as more of a community resource–possibly hosting a community food shelf, or a Montessori school, or other options. And leadership is already investigating and exploring these ideas to see if any are a good fit.

But we’re still looking for ideas about new ways we can get out and into the community to build connections. So take this as an invitation to bring forward one more idea about what we can do to get out of our comfort zone and strengthen our ties to the community.

Whether it’s a new service project or an event you think we should be present for, send your ideas to any of the Crossroads Team: Carol Holm, Cor Wilson, Margee Fabyansky, Mary Gaasch, Brian Knapp, Connie Biggs, Larry Schumacher or Rev. Rick King.

We’ll incorporate any suggestions we receive into our final congregational roadmap, which we hope to have completed by the end of the year. Thanks again for your input!

Results are in!

Thanks to everyone who weighed in with their votes on the ideas and suggestions offered by fellow congregation members as experiments to improve our relationships with each other and with the community.

After collecting all the votes, a few things became clear: there is a strong desire to reconnect on an intimate level with each other; a strong desire to connect our children to the life of the congregation; and a strong desire to connect with the broader community in meaningful ways, using our facilities as an asset.

The top goals identified by those who cast their votes were:

  • Dinner for Eight: intimate meals with small groups of the congregation
  • Hiring a faith formation staff member
  • Conducting small group conversations on faith experiences
  • Sing-alongs for all ages
  • Making more use of our patio to connect with the neighborhood
  • A collection of other ideas revolving around the use of our building to serve the community

All the responses – not only those identified above – will be collected and used to help design our congregational road map to guide future decisions about small experiments and large strategic decisions the congregation may make.

In the near term, our Crossroads Team will meet with our multi-congregational cohort on Nov. 4 to share our results and plan next steps.

More input on priorities

Many thanks to those who stayed for the last 15 minutes of Sunday’s service for a time of visioning, discernment and prioritization of the ideas and suggestions that members of the congregation wrote on Post-it Notes as part of the Crossroads initiative. Thirty-eight people submitted responses to our request to choose three priorities from the list. If you weren’t at the service or you couldn’t stay, there’s still time to give us your priorities.

If you have not yet weighed in, we ask that you submit no more than three priorities that you think our church should focus on in the near term — ideas that would align closely with our mission and move us toward a position of vitality and relevance in the changing culture that churches all over the world are facing.

Why no more than three? We need to be cognizant of our resources of time, talent and funding. But also be aware that none of your ideas and suggestions will be discarded. Those not chosen for immediate action will be placed in a “parking lot” for future consideration. One of our tasks on the Crossroads Team will be to develop a process for reviewing these ideas on a regular basis, as well as inviting new ideas and suggestions.

Please turn your priorities in to the office as soon as you can. The Crossroads Team will tally the responses and will meet later this month  to review them.

This time of visioning, discernment and prioritizing is an important step in our life together. It will be a major piece in our Crossroads Road Map, and it’s important to get input from as many people as possible.

Help set priorities for our church

You can help set priorities for Falcon Heights Church. The Oct. 6 worship service will be structured with the last 15 minutes of the service transitioning from the sanctuary to the Gathering Room. Led by the Crossroads Team, this will be a time of visioning, discernment and prioritization of the ideas and suggestions that members of the congregation have written on Post-it Notes as our focus will transition to the Crossroads initiative.

From the ideas and suggestions people have submitted, begin thinking about two or three of these ideas that you think our church should focus on–ideas that would align closely with our mission and move us toward a position of vitality and relevance in the changing culture that churches all over the world are facing.

Our final minutes of worship together will be spent in conversation and discernment and will conclude with each person choosing three priorities from this list. If you will not be attending Sunday’s service, the Crossroads Team encourages you to submit your priorities by printing a copy of the document and turning it in to the office as soon as you can. This time of visioning, discernment and prioritizing is an important step in our life together. It will be a major piece in our Crossroads Road Map, and it’s important to get input from as many people as possible..

Note: Activities will be available in the sofa area of the Gathering Room for the children who attend worship, and we ask everyone to refrain from refreshments until the worship service concludes at 11:30.

Book discussions and brainstorming

Thank you to everyone who has come to the first book discussions of Dwight Zscheile’s  “The Agile Church.” The author (at right in photo) joined us at dinner Wednesday before the discussion. It’s not too late to join the remaining sessions, either on Sundays during First Hour or this coming Wednesday evening.
Especially for the Wednesday group, it helps to have you sign up so we know how much pizza to order. These are the remaining dates:

  • Sundays, Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, at First Hour, 9:15 a.m. (If you plan to attend this group, please sign up even if you’re already a First Hour regular. It helps in our planning.)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 6:15 p.m.

Also, please remember to share your thoughts, hopes and dreams for where we might go as a congregation and what new experiments we might try to help connect with each other and the community. Put it on a sticky note and add it to one the sheets we’ve put up in the Gathering Room (see photo above) by this Sunday, Sept. 29. Put up as many ideas as you can think of!

Small experiments

Churches progress through small experiments, author says

“Churches often assume that trying something once means they have to get it perfect,” writes Dwight J. Zscheile in his book “The Agile Church.”

“If they fail, the whole endeavor (new ministry initiative, worship service, program, etc.) often just quietly disappears, without seeking to learn what changes might be made in the next round. Often, there is no next round. Churches tend to have unrealistic expectations of success. Innovators make clear that you have to try things out again and again, while making small modifications, to see what works. That is the value of small experiments.”

Intrigued by this idea of small experiments? Please join us this fall to discuss “The Agile Church” as it relates to our journey as a congregation.

And check out this short video about experimentation, “Learn from Failure,” that may relate to our efforts:

Choose one of two book discussion groups:

  • Sundays, Sept. 8, 15 and 22, at First Hour, 9:15 a.m.
  • Wednesdays, Sept. 11, 18 and 25, at 6:15 p.m.

We hope you’ll join us for the “adventure of God’s mission.” Sign up for one of the book discussions on the clipboard in the lobby, or sign up online.