ECLA Vitality Survey




Dear Friends of Gloria Dei:

On Sunday, January 14, our Council President, Alan Budahl presented the ELCA’s Vitality Survey to the Congregation and those present had the opportunity to complete the survey about our perceptions of how well Gloria Dei was doing in areas of worship and outreach.

If you were unable to attend Sunday's worship, Alan's Sermon and the survey is attached for you to complete.  We know some of you are on the mailing list to receive the newsletter and do not regularly worship with us.  We encourage all feedback but especially want to hear from those of you who worship at Gloria Dei.

The survey is anonymous and the information is compiled by the ELCA for our use in creating a new strategic plan.

Thank you for your continued support and your time and attention to this survey.

Gloria Dei Church Council

Survey Link: Click here


 
Alan Budahl’s Sermon:

Congregational Vitality

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

January 14, 2018


Narrative Lectionary:  John 2:1-11

Grace and to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our lesson this morning is the Wedding at Cana.  This is an apparently simple story – the alchemy of turning water into wine.  Jesus, his mother and the disciples are invited to a wedding, but we do not know how they were related to the bride and groom. The wine runs out and Jesus’s mother asks her son to do something about this faux pas.  Jesus replies that it is not time or the place – but then apparently acquiesces to his mother’s request and so his ministry begins, not with a landmark speech or a public healing but in helping this family deal with a social embarrassment.  

The way I look at this story – is Jesus was simply trying to be hospitable.  Wedding celebrations back in those days went on for a week. Wine was vital part of the celebration.  Running out of wine was a breach of hospitality.

And so the bride and groom’s family would have to deal with that breach.  Would the consequences have been shame? Ridicule?  Would it be an omen for the newly married couple?  Would the family have been looked down upon because of their poverty?

But yet Jesus cared enough about this wedding couple,  and when his mother asked him, he turned the water into to wine.  I believe that Jesus’s mother had instilled in him the sense of hospitality.  A sense of caring, for others.    And in this case of the wedding at Cana, his caring is going to be shown by providing.  It was a sign of outrageous hospitality.

And I strongly believe that hospitality was vital to Jesus’s ministry. The God-centered motivation for hospitality begins in the Old Testament, and carries through the New Testament. Hospitality means to be friendly to guests.  And the stories we read in the Bible of Jesus’s life and  his ministry confirms his passion for hospitality.  And he projected vitality – the energy and vigor – when he displayed this hospitality.


So today I want to talk you about the vitality and hospitality of

Churches.  As I was studying this material I came up with this thought.  Maybe what’s wrong in congregations today is that we are too much like the wedding in Cana and our congregants feel like we’ve run out of wine. 

They’re embarrassed that our budgets are smaller, they’re afraid of ridicule because attendance is down. Why do we not have the strong Christian education program that existed when we were young. They’re comparing our churches to the other weddings they’ve attended.  And it feels like they don’t measure up.

This feeling is circulating throughout all denominations. It is the topic of many research articles by the Pew Foundation and many others.  It is discussed at many of the conferences I attend.  The question being asked is, “How do we make our congregations vital again”?

The ELCA has come out with a Congregational Vitality Survey.  The Alaska Synod held a training session on this topic last April that Pastor, Laura, Karen Ellis and I attended.  I then presented this to the Congregational Council in October and this leads us to  today. 

The Congregational Vitality Index measures the strengths and challenges of a congregation according to three dimensions:

ï    the congregations connections with God

ï    the congregations connections with each other

ï    the congregations connections with the world


Vital congregations may be large or small.  They may be growing, shrinking or holding steady.  The key to their vitality is that they experience God’s active presence in everyday life and live as disciples of Christ. This way of describing vitality points to the relationships between the congregation’s members and God, each other and the world.  These relationships are at the heart of what it means to be church and are summed up by Jesus in scripture in the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with your soul, and with your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the laws and prophets.”

(Matthew 22:37-40) And the Great Commission when Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20)


This survey will offer ways for our congregation to assess our own vitality.  It also provides some tools to begin understanding what aspects of our congregation are promoting vitality and what are distracting from it.

I truly believe that the first step to vitality is hospitality.  I am not saying that Gloria Dei isn’t hospitable. But there is greater joy experiencing the liberating power of God’s hospitality making us a new and radically different kind of people, who love to reflect the glory of His grace as we extend it to others in all kinds of hospitality.  The reason hospitality is so important is because it helps us meet Jesus. That is what I want all of us to experience.

We need to strategize how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to those who benefit from the food we provide LSSA or the individuals around the world who are blessed with a LWR quilt from this congregation.

What we are asking of you is to take a few minutes right now and fill out the survey.  We will then send the completed surveys to the ELCA to be scored and a report will be sent back to us.  It is critical that we get as many members to fill out the survey and we will be emailing this sermon along with the survey to all members asking those who are not present today to please help us get a larger return. 

Our plan will be to share the results at the annual meeting of the congregation and then begin the work to draft a strategic plan that build on our strengths and addresses our weaknesses.

There are many resources outlined on the website for us to use as references when we begin to draft our plan.  I am very excited to get started on this plan for Gloria Dei.  Our goal is to have a strategic plan that each successive church council will be able to pick up and run with it.

I read a saying this week that said, “You have enough time, energy and resources to do everything God wants you to do this year.”  And for me, when I read that, it was like Jesus showed up to remind me that I can leave the wine up to him.  He will provide. 

We have enough time, energy and resources to do everything God want us to do this year. And it offers us the opportunity to begin a new and intimate relationship with Jesus, a lasting and supporting one, like the very best marriages.  And of course, all the wine we need to celebrate God’s presence among us.

Please pray with me;

Almighty God, we thank you for the ministry of your son Jesus who fills our lives to the brim with his love and hospitality.  We thank you for this community of faith, for the opportunity to come together and measure our vitality as a congregation.  We ask these things in the name of your son, our savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen





 
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