Frequently Asked Questions
2023 Discernment Process & Insight Leadership Team
Why did we start a discernment process?
We began the discernment process for several reasons. So much in culture and church life has changed throughout the pandemic and beyond; with a congregation involved in worship and programs in new ways and with more people participating online, we knew we needed to listen to how and where God is leading us in this season. We wanted to engage the congregation in a conversation to discern what our hopes and dreams are for Calvary, asking them what is important about who we are as well as where we can improve as a community and beyond. The goal of this process is to work together as a congregation/community to live into our vision, hopes and dreams and to be agile in how we listen and respond to the movement of the Spirit.
Who are the individuals who have been leading the discernment process?
As the discernment process was being planned, individuals were needed for both facilitation and analysis tasks. The discernment planners recruited Calvary folks with those skills. After that initial phase of the work was completed, those individuals were asked if they wanted to continue to work on the project; all but two individuals agreed to stay on. To serve the next phase of the process, the volunteers and pastors have been formed into the Insight Leadership Team (ILT) and work with Council and others to move this work forward. The ILT strives to represent diverse experiences and perspectives and toward that end, invited a newer Calvary member to join the team recently. The ILT’s current role is to maintain the momentum in moving the work related to the four Insights forward. ILT members participate in developing and implementing beta tests and in evaluating the impact.
I wasn't here for the listening sessions. Can you tell me how you gathered all your data?
The Calvary community was given many and varied opportunities to provide their ideas and input into the discernment process from March 1 through April 9, 2023. Participation included surveys, worship discernment response cards, one-on-one interviews, small group discussions and one Congregational townhall meeting. Options included face-to-face, Zoom and electronic survey access.
How did you distill the four Insights?
The process to distill the four insights was fun and dynamic. Members of the ILT read through all of the feedback received from the congregation (over 60 pages) and wrote down on sticky notes the ideas and dreams that were shared. We broke into small working teams to distill the themes of those ideas. The next step involved placing those sticky notes on the wall to narrow the categories further. The purpose of reducing the categories was to create a collective focus and begin to discern what ideas came up most often to inform us where we should begin our work. The outcome was the development of four key insights. This doesn’t mean that other input won’t be utilized as we delve deeper into the data, but by using the four insight themes, we are starting with the most prevalent results first.
What discernment processes has Calvary done in the past?
Calvary regularly conducts discernment and planning processes. The most recent was the Vision 2020 effort that began in 2016 with the help of the Rev. Jim Kitchens from the Center for Healthy Churches. Calvary also conducted an Appreciative Inquiry process under Pastor Mary Hulst in 2004 and used several forums in 2007 to gather information to develop our Church Profile and provide input to the Pastoral Search process.
How is this process different from processes in the past?
This process might have been more comprehensive in the gathering of data and feedback from the congregation than past efforts. With the leadership and support of Rev. Sam Kim of the Evergreen Association, this process is also using a change model that encourages small tests of change to impact Insights and programs, and encourages a more organic, fluid approach to planning and implementation. This process involves charting goals and progress along the way, rather than laying out all the goals or ideas at the beginning.
Is this a strategic plan and why or why not?
The process we are undertaking is a strategic approach, rather than a strategic plan. A strategic approach involves stepping back from our organization so that we can view it in a way that helps us understand what is important today and what we need to do to make it successful in the future. This approach helped to inform the ILT in developing action items that address the hopes and dreams that came out of the discernment process. A few outcomes of this approach include starting to plan our 2024 budget now versus waiting until fall as we have done in the past, developing Connect Six and Connect Two initiatives, and developing a methodology to evaluate our church programs. While this approach is strategic, it looks different than traditional strategic plans that outline many strategic initiatives with defined goals to achieve those outcomes. Our approach allows us to focus on two to three priorities at a time to help address the immediate needs of our congregation and evolve with the needs that come up as we move into our future. This approach also allows us to evaluate how our programs and efforts are doing and to adjust accordingly.
What changes are going to be made in response to the discernment data?
It’s a bit too soon to tell, but the answer to this question will be at the center of this work. As we try new things (“beta tests”), we will use the agile approach that was introduced to us by Rev. Sam Kim of the Evergreen Association and is described in The Journey. We will assess/evaluate current projects and programs, work collaboratively with Council and continue to invite and listen to our Calvary community. We anticipate a collaborative and thoughtful path forward that will explore and implement adjustments, improvements or other changes that best serve us all.
How will this process impact current or future Calvary programs?
The ILT is developing a methodology to evaluate our programs. This process will involve those who are directly involved with the programs and other church members interested in looking at the program. This process will help determine if we have leadership and volunteers to support the program(s) moving forward, and will also consider financial, building, and staff resources as well. We will continue to discern how we can best serve our community and each other and, in that spirit, we will make those decisions with thoughtful consideration. These decisions will not be made by the ILT – it is just facilitating the evaluation process. The appropriate entity within the Calvary organization structure, e.g. Council, a Committee, or staff, will use the data collected to make decisions about the program being evaluated.
Who can I go to for information and answers to questions?
Any member of the ILT is available to answer questions;view their names, pictures, and contact information here. In addition, anyone is welcome to submit a written question to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a pastoral question, as always, you can reach out to Pastor Anne, Pastor Morgan, or Pastor Alice.
Do I have to participate?
The decision to become involved in any projects, programs and activities of this Discernment/Insight work and all other Calvary ministries is entirely voluntary. We pray and believe that people participate or not as they are called or led.
How long will this discernment/insight process last?
The ILT developed a Roadmap for the activities, timing and benchmarks of each of the four insights over the course of the next year. Continual assessment and evaluation of the ideas, activities and programs and the work of the ILT will be an ongoing process to ensure relevance and impact.
What role does Council play in this discernment/insight work?
We are actively figuring out the relationship between Council and the ILT. There are currently five Council members who are part of the ILT, ensuring that Council is directly involved with this work. Because of the nature of the Discernment process, the ILT enthusiastically jumped right in to the follow up work! We have realized through reading, consulting with Rev. Sam Kim, and continued joint conversations, that clarifying the collaboration and decision making between ILT and Council is critical. Upcoming plans include a meeting this fall, to focus on Council and ILT working together to solidify the relationship between the two groups going forward.
How are we going to grow the congregation and attract/retain new members so that Calvary will still be viable in the decades to come?
The growth of Calvary is our collective responsibility. We attract new members by inviting friends and family to attend and get involved. We will also continue to evaluate how we message and market to the community about who we are and provide opportunities to become involved with Calvary. It is on all of us to tell folks about Calvary and invite them to church. And – it’s important to ensure that we are not welcoming them with the intent of growing the church, but because we have something spiritual to offer that they might need and vice versa. As we celebrate who we are today and who is among us right now, that will create positive energy for the future. Rather than focus on numbers or who is not here, it’s important to focus on who is here and what we are called to do in the present. Of course, we hope we are around in the future, but that will depend on our faithfulness to God today and our ministry in this moment, rather than focusing on gaining new people for the sake of the numbers to sustain us for future decades. This focus on faithfulness and ministry will in turn result in a sustainable church going forward.
How are we going to encourage a more diverse group of people to volunteer and lead?
Encouraging a diverse, interested, and representative group of Calvary family members to volunteer and lead is a priority throughout Calvary. The ILT is individually and collectively inviting people to learn about the discernment and insight work and to become involved. We are trying to use many methods of recruitment and believe this is a long-term priority goal in this work and in the overall life of Calvary. See “How do I get involved?” for ways you can volunteer as well.
How do I get involved?
To get involved, you may reach out to any of the ILT members. Your ideas, interest and availability will be brought to the ILT to match with upcoming insight plans and needs. You can expect direct outreach from an ILT member to explore possibilities.
Is stewardship season going to be different this year?
The Stewardship Committee, with the leadership of Natalie Ralston (also an ILT member), has been meeting since February. They are currently exploring ideas for the stewardship theme, messaging, and timing. Natalie and the committee are aware of the Discernment feedback on stewardship and are incorporating that feedback into their ideas, discussions, and planning. Stewardship season will take place later this fall. In the meantime, if you have Stewardship-related questions, please feel free to contact Natalie Ralston, Chair of the Stewardship Committee (email@example.com).
How could this process impact staffing?
The Financial Wellness team, established as a result of the discernment process and including the Chairs of Staff Relations, Stewardship, Finance Committee, and Resource Management, is meeting with the Senior Pastor to look at our finances overall and prepare for 2024. Ultimately, the budget reconciliation committee balances the budget every year, which may or may not include reductions in funding for the Staff Relations budget depending on the results of the stewardship campaign. All decisions around the budget related to staff go through Staff Relations; if you have questions, contact Beth Dickinson, Chair of the Staff Relations Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org).
One way the process is impacting staff currently is that we are holding off on hiring a Pastoral Administrative Assistant until we assess our staff needs and financial position moving into 2024. This means staff are currently doing their own administrative work with the help of volunteers.
How did the Miracle Match in January affect the 2023 budget? How will it affect the budget in 2024?
The budget is balanced and reconciled every year according to our income and expenses. Every year we make budget adjustments. This year we had the amazing gift of Miracle Match and a generous donor who inspired many of us to participate in the match campaign, including 40 giving units who were not otherwise engaged with regular giving at Calvary.
We were actively adjusting the 2023 budget to reduce expenses when Pastor Anne received the phone call from the member who inspired Miracle Match. If the donor had not called Pastor Anne in January of 2023, the budget reconciliation committee would have moved forward with its task of balancing income and expenses, with difficult budget cuts.
Miracle Match solely affects the 2023 budget; our stewardship campaign for 2024 will help inform our budget creation for 2024. However, because the people of Calvary produced Miracle Match…not the staff or Budget Reconciliation Committee…there is reason to hope that we will continue to experience this generosity as people reflect on what Calvary means to them and what they can give. We always welcome generosity! And we always balance the budget within our means.
How is the church going to “live within its means” going forward?
Calvary has a long history of managing the budget well and balancing its budget annually, and in fact our Bylaws require fiscal responsibility. We live within our means every year, making adjustments as needed based on income and expenses. For more information about Calvary’s current financial position, please read this document. As part of our annual process,we are evaluating our current budget and what our budget will look like next year. The evaluation process includes the Financial Wellness team, the Finance Committee, the Stewardship Committee, the Staff Relations Committee and later in the year, the Budget Reconciliation Team.
Are we going to do something with the Discernment results this time?
Calvary has a history of results and actions that resulted from similar processes in the past, such as Vision 2020, 2007 Pastoral Search Inventory, and 2004 Appreciative Inquiry. We expect that our current discernment process will also be a useful tool in helping Calvary to move forward as a community of faith. However, the follow-up activities will be a little different. This is not a “one and done” approach to working with the feedback received through the discernment process. Our intention is to focus on a few action items at a time instead of trying to work on everything all at once. This deliberate and strategic approach will help us address near-term solutions with agility and responsiveness to your feedback and to the ever-changing needs of our congregation, while keeping a keen eye towards living into the future we wish to create together.
What is the timeline for identifying and completing all of the follow-ups?
Again, this is not a “one and done” approach to working with the feedback received during the discernment process. Our intention is to focus on a few action items at a time instead of trying to work on everything all at once. The ILT developed a Roadmap for activities, timing, and benchmarks for the four Insights over the course of the next year or so. The work may well continue beyond that as we dig deeper into the data while continuing to work on only a few initiatives at once to ensure quality outcomes and volunteer and staff bandwidth.