Here is my annual report to the congregation for 2006, written on the first anniversary, to the day, of our arrival here. It has been a wonderful first year of ministry.
Dear Members of Grace Lutheran Church,
It is with gratitude that I look back on my first year as your pastor. Mindy, the children, and I are so thankful to be here at Grace. On December 18, we celebrated the first anniversary of Grace’s vote to call me as pastor (on the day of our new building dedication at our church in Eveleth). Today January 15, 2007, we remember our move from the Iron Range one year ago – with the help of so many people who helped us move or helped prepare the parsonage. After so many transitions and big events at my former congregation, then a move to Detroit Lakes, and then building our new addition and getting to know you here at Grace, it feels like we are finally catching our breath as a family and settling in to our new community. We are grateful for the warm welcome we have received at Grace and in the community.
2006 was a year of building our church physically. A tremendous effort by dozens of volunteers has culminated in a functional, beautiful addition to our building. All of you who were able to help with the building effort, thank you! All of you who were able to help by supplying food for the volunteers or financial or other kinds of support, thank you! All of you who helped with prayer support, thank you! Of course, a lot of other good things have happened at Grace this year: read through the excellent articles of this Annual Report and see for yourself.
2007 will be a year of building our church’s mission and outreach. We will discover God’s vision for Grace, and our mission will flow from that vision. Grace’s mission is this: Grace by grace, seeking to be God’s faithful people. Our goals for 2007 are to grow both Christian discipleship at Grace (especially with youth and adults, but also children and confirmands), and outreach in our community. How, specifically, are we to accomplish those goals? I want your help and input to set our course for 2007 and beyond. So, beginning in Lent, we will have regular meetings during our fellowship time (between the worship services) to discover together how, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can best fulfill our mission.
One thing to keep in mind: As we grow as a church, we will experience growing pains. That is to be expected. We are approaching the line between a “pastoral sized” church (50-150 in worship each week) and a “program sized” church (150-350). As you approach that line, you move from a model where the pastor is involved in much of the ministry of the church, to a model where the pastor and other leaders primarily work to recruit, train, and support lay people to do the main ministry of the church. There is sometimes the temptation to derail growth, to keep a church at a smaller size. We must resist that temptation, even as we find ways to keep a warm, friendly, family church spirit.
As in any family and any church, sometimes there is conflict, differences of opinion, or clashes of personalities in our church family. As a ‘historian’ here at Grace this year, I have learned a little about conflicts and miscommunication in our church’s history. Even Jesus’ disciples had disagreements and personality conflicts. These things happen in every church – if you read Paul’s letters to churches in the New Testament, you see the same dynamics. Paul’s wrote this in his First Letter to the Corinthian church, 12:4-7:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
If we can step back and take a larger view, perhaps we can see that we are not alone in having conflicts. With a larger perspective, we will not be surprised by conflict, but will expect it, grow through it, learn from it, and work together to fulfill our mission. We will also learn that, in most situations, both sides can learn to relate to each other in Christian love. That is my hope and prayer. Let us “begin with the end in sight”: that is, let us focus on the desired outcome, and work step-by-step to achieve it. It may take time and effort, but it will be worth it. The desired outcome for us is to be a church that is harmonious, with a clear vision and mission, clear ministry descriptions and clear communication, which allows for everyone to use our different gifts and service for the common good of sharing Christ with our neighbors.
It is an exciting time in the life of our church. We are just now beginning to make use of our new addition. We have more room for youth, children, and family events. It is my hope, prayer, and conviction that 2007 will be a growing year at Grace – growing in prayer, in mission, in faith, in the circle of our church family.
Walking with you in God’s amazing grace into 2007,