The Church Council of Community UMC met September 20, 2021. After the meeting, there were several great questions asked of Pastor Erik and the Church Council chair, Dave Lanzer. Rather than reply just to the individuals who asked the questions, Pastor Erik and Dave put together this FAQ.
Q: What was the purpose of the meeting?
A: The Church Council is established by the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (the book of covenant, or rules) to “provide for planning and implementing a program of nurture, outreach, witness, and resources in the local church. It shall also provide for the administration of its organization and temporal life. It shall envision, plan, implement, and annually evaluate the mission and ministry of the church.” (❡252.1) The Church Council is amenable to the Church Conference and must meet at least every three months.
Q: Why was the whole church invited to attend Church Council but only five people can vote on issues?
A: Membership of the Church Council is set by the Church Conference. Only members of the Church Council may vote. However, everyone who is a member of the church can attend and has a voice but not vote.
Q: Why would members be interested in attending Church Council if their opinions/vote wouldn’t count?
A: It’s up to each person to decide if they are interested in attending Church Council meetings. It is here where the leaders of the church gather to hear reports and make important decisions about the vision, mission, and direction of the church. And even though most people do not have a vote in Church Council meetings, they do have a voice and are welcome to offer their opinions, thoughts, ideas, and questions.
Q: Are the five people who can vote paid staff, and if so, should they have a vote?
A: The only paid staff person on the Church Council is the pastor. By Discipline, she/he has a vote.
Q: If each member had a vote, wouldn’t that bring the church together?
A: In the United Methodist system of organization – what is called “polity” – the only place that the whole church gathers and where every member has a vote is the Church Conference. Those happen, normally, about once a year (the next one for Community UMC is Nov. 1, 2021). The Church Conference is chaired by our District Superintendent, the Rev. Sarah Schlieckert, unless she authorizes the pastor or another ordained Elder to preside. The Church Council is amenable to the Church Conference.
Q: Should a “meditation” be longer than a pastor’s sermon?
A: Church Council meetings, like all meetings at Community UMC, contain an opening prayer and/or meditation. These meetings, in other words, are not just for administrative purposes. Through such prayer and meditation, Church Council becomes a place where we help our leadership grow and discern the direction of the ministries of the church.
Q: In this venue, why were we getting a history lesson in Scouting?
A: Community UMC is a long-standing supporter of Scouting. As a church, we charter two Boy Scout troops and one Cup Scout pack. The Boy Scouts of America are in the middle of a bankruptcy settlement negotiation, whereby they are limiting liability for past harm done to young boys by adult leaders. The report at the Church Council on Sept. 20 was an attempt to let the whole church know about the issues we currently face and our hopes to continue to support this important ministry in our community.
Q: Dave Lanzer (the chair of the Church Council) said during the meeting, “We can’t go back to where we were” (before the pandemic). Why not?
A: Over the last decade, we have seen a steady drop in attendance, membership, and giving. In 2019, church leadership began planning for discussions to evaluate our approach to ministry in our community and identify changes to meet the needs of the community. Up to that point, we had continued to do the same things we had done each year before and we were continuing to see the same results – disengagement and decline. The world has changed significantly since 2019, and to just return to “the way we used to do things” would soon render Community UMC irrelevant in our community. We must find a way to honor our history and the foundation that was built, while finding new ways to engage a community that is moving forward without us.
Q: Being flexible during the pandemic, and now, (actually always) is important. Innovating? Pivoting? Those are big, corporation words.
A: Those words describe what we, as an organization, have been doing in the past 18+ months, and what we’ll need to continue to do to remain effective in ministry. They are descriptive of a church that is forward-looking with a vision of serving Crofton and the world in Jesus’ name.
Q: Why was the Pastor’s salary being discussed in front of him?
A: The pastor’s salary is set by the Church Conference, not the Church Council, at the recommendation of the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC). Barb Julian, chair of the SPRC, brought the salary recommendation to the Church Council as a piece of information and to receive their blessing. The Church Conference, which will meet online on Nov. 1, 2021, at 6 p.m., will have the final say.
Q: Why aren’t Seniors loved, honored, and included?
A: We’re sorry that you feel that they aren’t. Seniors are very active and important members of the church, without whom much of the ministry at CUMC would cease. Pastor Erik has met with the Seasoned Seniors twice in three months (the only times they have met); he attends the men’s breakfast every month; he drops in on the Stitchers (sewing group) almost every Tuesday morning; he has visited the homes of several Seniors. If there are ways that people feel Seniors could be more loved, more honored, and more included, please send them to Pastor Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org or, better yet, drop by the church.
Q: Why is traditional music being phased out? It is not old fashioned and obsolete. It is a style just like contemporary music.
A: Traditional music is not being phased out at Community UMC. When the church returned to in-person worship earlier this year, leaders felt it best to combine the two previous worship services into one. Thus, that one service – which now meets at 9:30 a.m. to better accommodate Seniors – is what is called a “blended” service. Traditional and contemporary music is played. And remember, worship is about more than music.
Q: Why was Wilson “given the store” at the sacrifice of so much and so many?
A: Members of Wilson Memorial UMC are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Community UMC leaders saw a need and met that need with grace, generosity, compassion, and love.
Q: If it is acknowledged that some mistakes were made, why can’t the mistakes be corrected pronto?
A: While there have been some growing pains associated with this new relationship, they are not so significant that they cannot be overcome. For example, when both church’s choirs wanted to rehearse at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, the leaders of both choirs and the pastors sat down and worked it out together.
Q: I know that when new pastors come onboard, they are advised to make changes gradually. HOWEVER, before Pastor Erik came:
- Was the congregation apprised about Wilson, time changes, going to one service, etc.?
- Was the congregation invited to help find solutions to make these changes work?
Q: Are new pastors the only people advised to go gradually?
A: It is a myth that needs to be smashed that new pastors are advised to “go gradually.” While it is true that ANY new pastor needs to learn about her/his new ministry setting – and that takes years, not weeks or months — it is also true that Community UMC has experienced a long season of decline prior to July 1, 2021 (the date Pastor Erik started at Community). Membership was down. Worship attendance was down. Giving was down. Participation was down. This gradual slope is not the fault of any one person nor pastor, and no blame is being cast. But these are the facts, and something new needed to be done.
Why? It is impossible to drive forward while staring in the rearview mirror. If you keep doing that, you will crash the car.
What that means is change and all that comes with it. Nobody likes change (except a baby with a dirty diaper). What that change is, exactly, we don’t fully know. We are opening ourselves to new directions and new ways of being in ministry around the corner and around the world. With the blessings of strong lay leadership at Community UMC – including leaders of all ages – the church will move forward into a vibrant future.