Ask and Inform
Will the 240 Bethesda members that took part in the “2015 Ask & Inform” initiative please stand up and take a bow? Thank you for sharing your views on where Bethesda is today and the direction Bethesda should travel in the future.
The team of over 30 members plus clergy and staff led 18 different events at church and in private homes during January, February, and March. We will be a stronger parish as each of us helps to shape our mission and programs, and shares a commitment to our common faith.
We committed to provide feedback on the results; the Vestry, chairs of the Rector’s committees, and senior staff were briefed in April. These four pages provide a comprehensive picture of the conversations from our Ask & Inform process.
The comments and suggestions put forward fall into three groups: (i) possible actions that will be considered by the staff and/or relevant committees to determine how they may be incorporated into our plans (details on the following pages), (ii) questions that will be answered through our existing communications including the Bethesda Bulletin (see the list of questions on this page), and (iii) other comments that included a range of positive and negative viewpoints about the leadership, staff priorities, communications, and personal needs and expectations. The latter will be addressed, where possible, through personal discussions.
Major points discussed that demonstrate the breadth and depth of our 60+ ministries:
• Bethesda has wonderful worship and music, but we would like an additional and different type of service not on a Sunday morning
• We need to explain and promote both our outreach activities and the positive results of our activities including the Feeding in February initiative
• We should serve and support our existing and new members equally
• Regular communications about news, decisions, and changes would help
• Children and youth education is vital and growing—we should do the same for adult education
• How can we get to “know” our Vestry members and get a new parish directory
• We need to make stewardship as high a priority as worship, education, and service
• Please solve the parking problem quickly
If you have any additional suggestions or comments please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to our Rector. Father James as chair of the Vestry is leading all of our committees and setting annual strategic priorities as we seek to make our mission a reality; this includes periodic changes to the committee leadership. One suggestion made by many members is to be implemented immediately; to provide a regular update on planned improvements, major decisions made by the Vestry, staff changes, and the financial position of Bethesda. This will be included in the March, July, and November editions of the Bethesda Bulletin plus the updates provided at the Annual meeting each January. Bethesda has spoken. Bethesda is planning and executing. Bethesda is committed to a common faith. Alleluia.
There was a perception among some members that Bethesda Cares is just the Shepherds (with their yellow ribbons); the Shepherds bring together a range of ministries that include Eucharistic Visitors, meal ministry, card ministry, and many other pastoral ministries that address specific needs. We also began offering Bethesda Cares Bears that have a matching yellow ribbon and a prayer card to people who need a tangible reminder that we are praying for them regularly. A few participants also expressed a belief that Bethesda Cares was going to replace the pastoral ministry of our clergy. Rather, Bethesda Cares is offering a more complete pastoral ministry that enhances and expands on our clergy’s pastoral presence. Bobbie Leek (our Senior Warden) chairs this committee, the co-chair is Jodie Payne, the lead Associate is The Rev. Kimberly Still, and Regine Reimann is our Worship and Pastoral Care Coordinator. The Bethesda Cares committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• How do we communicate what each of the ministries within Bethesda Cares—including clergy and shepherds—does (and does not do) more clearly for our members?
• How do we integrate the different Bethesda Cares’ ministries more effectively so that we are able to provide timely and appropriate support to our members when needed?
• How do we help all parishioners understand the importance of informing the parish when they are ill, admitted to the hospital, or experiencing some other crisis?
BUILDINGS & GROUNDS
Our buildings and grounds share the clear and strong presence of God around us. Our restoration project is on schedule to be completed this year (subject to adequate funding), and the new Garden Chapel is complete. Over 100 communicants shared the sunrise service on Easter Day. Wendy Victor (our Junior Warden) chairs this sub-committee, the co-chair is Tanner Rose, and the lead Associate is Fred Staley. The Buildings & Grounds sub-committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• How do we resolve our parking issues?
• What is the best use of the vacant lot across County Road from the church?
• What are the next priorities for the Buildings & Grounds sub-committee after the restoration project is complete?
Christian education is a never ending journey; we are all called to continually grow in faith both individually and collectively. Amy McGowan chairs this committee, the co-chair is Debra Hale-Hagy, the lead Associate is The Rev. Kimberly Still, and Greg Knight is our Director of Children and Youth Ministries. The Education committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• Can we create a plan for the period from September, 2015 through May, 2016 and effectively share it with all parishioners as well as the local community (perhaps through a brochure for education activities)?
• Can we invite nationally-known teachers and preachers more often within an expanded Education program, and what resources would we need for this?
• What do we need for adult education to create the same vitality and positive results that have started to appear for Children and Youth Education?
• How can we best use the Adult Forum on Sundays?
EVANGELISM & COMMUNICATIONS
Bethesda as an organization needs to improve its communications, especially by sharing news and information in multiple ways. It is also true that our members must consider if they are contributing actively to the communication process by reading (this Bulletin!) what is provided. Becky Myers chairs this committee, the co-chair is Helene Lorentzen, the lead Associate is Fred Staley, and Renée Boger-Cheifet is our Communications Coordinator. The Evangelism & Communications committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• Can we ensure that the development of member and visitor “experiences” is a priority this year?
• How do we make evangelism something that everyone can understand?
• How do we improve communications related to news and changes?
• How can we produce an updated member directory?
• What additional communication channels/media could be used to improve the effectiveness of our communications for our members and the local community?
FELLOWSHIP & HOSPITALITY
It is clear that most members already know about Fellowship & Hospitality—it must be fun! It is chaired by Carol Stewart, the co-chair is Phyllis Goodner, the lead Associate is The Rev. Kimberly Still, and April Lawrence is ourStewardship and Membership Coordinator. The Fellowship & Hospitality committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• How can we address the perception that current members do not receive the same level of attention and support as is being provided to new members—practice and perception?
• How can we address the fellowship needs of the different age groups within Bethesda (e.g. after Anchors) and integrate new members with existing members particularly during Sunday coffee hour?
• What do we need to do to include more hospitality events that deliberately bring together multi-ministry and cross-generational groups?
LEADERSHIP & FINANCE
Bobbie Leek (our senior warden) chairs the Leadership & Governance sub-committee, Matt Lorentzen chairs the Finance sub-committee, the lead Associate for both is Fred Staley, and Sharon Lawrence McGee is our Financial Coordinator. The Leadership & Governance sub-committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• How should the results of the 2015 Ask & Inform initiative be implemented?
• How can Bethesda improve the transparency of decisions and the roles of the Rector and Vestry members (reality & perception)? (This would be part of a wider update for members published three times a year in theBethesda Bulletin).
• What needs to be done to improve the “visibility” of Vestry members?
• What type of policy should Bethesda have for weddings and funerals, and how can we help everyone to appreciate the reasoning for the policy?
• How do we strengthen the Bethesda community?
The Finance sub-committee will address this question that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• What level of financial detail in a regular update would be most helpful for parishioners? (Published three times a year in the Bethesda Bulletin).
There was one common theme to almost all the comments made about Outreach: “I don’t know much about it, but it seems great”. So let’s start with some basic information: Pat Reichenbacher chairs our Outreach Committee, the co-chair is Susan Barnhart, and the lead Associate is The Rev. Kimberly Still. The Church Mouse and the Bethesda Shoppe raise about $350,000 a year and all of those funds support our Outreach ministries (with Vestry approval) serving people in need. Our outreach priorities are education, feeding, and shelter. Though the substantial majority of our outreach efforts focus on Palm Beach County, we have several important ongoing relationships that reach further afield, including Our Little Roses in Honduras and the Southeast Florida Haiti Project. The Feeding in February initiative, working with other local groups, raised $50,000 at the Empty Bowls event and packaged over 100,000 meals for hungry families in Palm Beach County through Feeding God’s Children (PB Unites). The meals were distributed through the Boys and Girls Club and other local agencies. The Outreach committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• How can we communicate the Outreach activities more effectively within the Bethesda family, particularly for those who wish to volunteer?
• How can we promote the Outreach results, including personal stories of how lives have been changed—both for the volunteers and for those being helped?
• How can we expand the Feeding in February initiative, not just keep doing the same?
Doug Daft chairs this special working group, the 2015 campaign chairs are Edie Dixon and Mary Hulitar, the co-chair is Paul Coombs, and the lead Associate is Fred Staley. The Stewardship team will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• What resources (staff, processes, and systems) does Bethesda need to improve stewardship education and fundraising significantly?
• How can we increase the number of members that make an annual commitment?
• What are the stewardship priorities for Bethesda: education, annual campaign, capital campaign, and/or planned giving?
• How can we explain the many programs that cannot be implemented because of a lack of financial and staff resources?
• What is the role of the clergy in stewardship?
WORSHIP & MUSIC
Almost all participants (but not everyone), both members and visitors, regard this area as wonderful. The concerts provide an opportunity to share our common faith in Christ and provide a service to the local community. Daniel Koinis chairs this committee, the co-chair is Gary Sullivan, the lead Associate is Hal Pysher, and Regine Reimann is our Worship and Pastoral Care Coordinator. The Worship committee will address these questions that arose from Ask & Inform events:
• What type of extra service could be provided, when should it be scheduled, and what extra resources would be required?
• How should announcements be communicated at Sunday services?
• How can the Worship Committee help all worship ministries to carry out their tasks effectively and to cultivate the spirit of welcome, charity, and love that we want?
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