March 22, 2017

Council Officers’ Gathering Inspires, Informs

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CP17-Bishop-detailMore than 80 lay congregation council leaders participated in Bishop Claire Burkat’s annual Council Officers’ Gathering on March 18.

‘Here’s what I love about the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod: You!” the bishop told the council presidents, vice presidents, secretaries and treasurers gathered at LTSP’s Benbow Hall. “I love our leaders, and today I especially celebrate our lay leaders. You have jobs, busy lives… Hopes, dreams, fears and challenges. But you are here because your faith matters to you.”

She thanked the leaders for their commitment to “the Church in her Lutheran witness” and lifted up that “the people of God inside and outside the walls of your congregation…are your business, because they and we are God’s business.”

Among the highlights of the event:

  • Pastor Bradley Burke

    Pastor Bradley Burke

    Pastor Bradley Burke, assistant to the bishop for youth, young adult and faith formation, shared insights on the demographic challenges facing our congregations and offered hope-filled research that shows that while traditional measures of participation in religious institutions are down, measures of people’s engagement in faith and spirituality have held steady for many years. This, he said, is an opportunity for congregations to innovate new ways to meet their neighbors’ (and members’) spiritual hunger.

  • He also outlined Synod programs aimed at this target, including the Cross+Gen faith formation initiative and the beta test of the Brave New Church resource, which will be rolled out shortly.
  • Watch Pastor Burke’s devotions for the day on our Facebook page.
  • Bob Fisher

    Bob Fisher

    Bob Fisher, assistant to the bishop for communications, offered a primer on managing adaptive change. For much of our experience church leaders have dealt with technical problems — issues that can be resolved using the information and knowledge we have now. Adaptive challenges don’t have clear solutions and will require some changes in the organization’s preferences, behaviors and values. A congregation experiencing a heater failure faces a technical issue that the property committee, with funding and outside contractors, can resolve in a known fashion.

  • Fisher gave the example of a congregation that lost it’s heater. Already in a space that was far too big, they took the problem as an adaptive challenge and used the opportunity to move Lenten services and suppers to share with a homeless shelter, and began looking for temporary rental space closer to the community center they wanted to serve. Avoidance and fear are common reactions to adaptive challenges. Research show that people do not fear change as much as they fear the loss that (might) come with it. To lead through loss, leaders need to acknowledge people’s sense of loss, including their own, and set a context in which the losses lead to a better future.