First and Foremost

Guided by God's hand

From September 2016 First Word
By Pastor Peter Strommen, Executive Pastor
     Here we are in September already! I hope you’ve had a great summer and a chance to do some of the things you love to do.
As you know, our efforts to discern God’s preferred future for First Lutheran Church are being embraced with incredible dedication and our resulting focus ministries represent a pretty big enchilada! So how did things progress over the summer?
     Really well. Our work this summer continues to look like that part of a construction project, when foundations, pipes and wires are laid – the stuff that isn’t usually noticed on the outside but is terribly important on the inside. And let me add this observation: all through these months, every step of the way has been more involved and taken longer than anticipated. I mentioned this to Tom Simmons, a senior executive at Midco, and he replied “it always does!”
     Here are some accomplishments:
•    First, step back for a moment and notice the incredible change in our staff over the past two years, especially the last 12 months: five retired, four moved away, six took other jobs, one resigned and one left through re-structuring. What is encouraging is the excellent people who have joined our staff. We have welcomed Zachary Rygiel as Director of Music; Jana Elkins as our Parish Nurse; David Houck, Dennis Tranberg and Roger Noer as visitation pastors; Dave Wilson as facilities manager, Jeff Backer as Director of Evangelism, Mission and Outreach; Jean Hoff as Volunteer Ministry Developer; Donna Jahr as Office Administrator; Justin Jenness as Youth Minister and Heather Smith as Children’s Minister. These part-time and full-time people have an incredible heart for ministry to go with their fine skills. Collectively, we have a “new generation” of sorts and all are anxious to embrace First Lutheran’s new vision.
•    Youth and Family Ministry is now at full staff. An important focus this fall will be to enhance support systems for parents, especially of young children, as we partner in passing on the faith and strengthen the home.
•    Caring Ministry is developing its partnership with “Face It Together: Communities Facing Addiction” as a way of strengthening our ministry with those facing addiction. Also, work has begun on FLC’s hospitality to those with needs while deepening our partnership with other downtown agencies.
•    Friendship & Engagement & Sense of Community’s work has been focused on laying the foundation for volunteer ministry development. Leadership training has begun and some outstanding training material developed. You’ll encounter more and more opportunities beginning this September.
•    A “Downtown Outreach” leadership team has been formed and Jeff Backer begins his work this month as Director of Evangelism, Mission and Outreach. We are finding other downtown churches and community agencies are anxious to partner. Our participation in a block party Sept. 7 reflects these opening conversations.
•    Worship & Music has been experimenting with our 11 a.m. worship service and worship bulletins.
•    Teaching & Faith Formation is now recruiting and planning for this fall’s sessions of “Scripture First.”
•    Major work has been going on all summer on improving the effectiveness of our leadership and administrative systems. This work continues, some of which will likely need to be reviewed by the congregation. 
•    Stewardship is working on its fall campaign but also year-round communication of the wonderful ministries of FLC.
     In all of this I see God’s hand. I am convinced we are being guided and led on a journey that will make a difference in the lives of many. My partners in prayer concur. Please continue in your prayer for our collective journey.


Strategic Plan roll-out

From May 2016 First Word
By Peter Strommen, Executive Pastor

I’m very pleased to announce that copies of our Strategic Plan will be available to you this month. You’ll like its inviting and informative presentation and be impressed by the energy and thoughtfulness poured into it – thanks to the wide participation of our congregation! A summary brochure will be included in the April 30/May 1 worship bulletins and full copies of "First and Foremost: Fulfilling Christ's Call" (strategic plan) will be available on Sunday, May 8 (Mother’s Day weekend).
     You are also invited to a short, 15-minute Power Point presentation between services on Sunday, May 8, or plan to attend one of the one-hour congregational forums on Tuesday, May 10, at 2 p.m. or Thursday, May 12, at 6.30 p.m. Whether you attend an abbreviated or more in-depth session, it’s important that as many members as possible understand the basics of the strategic plan.
     On Sunday, May 15, we’ll celebrate, thanking the many people who have contributed to this effort and to God for His abundant guidance, inspiration and blessing of this process.
It’s also time to look ahead. We now begin putting legs on this plan. If compared to a race, I’d liken it to a long-distance run. A good start is important but not as a sprint. We need to establish a good pace. As I’ve thought into the course ahead, here is what we need to anticipate:
          – This plan is really good. It focuses on matters at the very core of vibrant ministry. It can also be overwhelming. FLC members aspire to the kind of ministry that happens only when many people are involved, according to their gifts. We’ll need to break things down into sections and attend first to what is most important for the long-run.
          – This plan will challenge us to grow in HOW we run. It’s not always how hard one works but how one works hard that helps most. There is wide agreement that some of our past approaches to things need a change. We’ll be learning more generative approaches to organizing things, such as ministry teams and volunteer/leadership development.
     I think you understand that the extent to which FLC engages a much fuller measure of its gifted membership is the extent to which we will run a good race. Paul puts this vision imaginatively when he likens the church to a body – with many members and functions. Paul “gets” how critically important the health of each member is to the body’s overall health. And here I see a convergence of our overall aspirations for First Lutheran and our desire that all people have a sense of community here. It will indeed take this whole village to raise this “child” – the very process of trying to do this together should itself take us far down the road.
     I have been keenly aware of God blessing our efforts thus far and I underscore the importance of fervent prayer going forward. What we seek is spot on. What it takes is God-given.