Transition Update: Needs Assessment Submitted to Office of Bishop

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The Vestry has been working since May on gathering input from members of the congregation in order to develop the "Needs Assessment" document, which was submitted to the Office of the Bishop on 6/19.  At congregational input meetings, members of the congregation were asked to consider specific questions related to what they value about Good Shepherd; how they’d like to see the church grow; and the qualities they’d like to see in the next Rector.  These answers, among others, were compiled into the Needs Assessment, which follows.  Thank you to all the members of the congregation who participated in this process - your input was immensely helpful in completing this document. One more thing to note, each section of the document could be no more than 1200 characters, including spaces and punctuation.

Narrative

Our Vision  
We invite people to explore their life with God. We strive to equip individuals and families to live out their faith in the world so that they may answer Christ’s call to grow spiritually, live courageously and give generously.

Our Mission
To celebrate God’s love through worship and music, grow together in faith, and to serve the world in Christ’s name. 

Our Values
We are a congregation that cultivates and nurtures trusting relationships, building a loving community that welcomes all people. In serving others, we strive to reach people where they are, meaningfully touching their lives. We value our Episcopal traditions while embracing new and creative styles of worship.

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church began as a mission in March of 1976. The first service was held in Vicar Art LeClair’s basement. As membership grew, land was purchased, and ground was broken in April 1980. In 2002, Good Shepherd was recognized as the fourth fastest growing Episcopal parish in the US. The church would later experience the impact of the turmoil regarding human sexuality. Over the last decade, Good Shepherd has deepened its commitment to serving the larger community and living out our mission.

Describe a moment in your worship community’s recent ministry which you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.

In 2017, the vestry conducted a Spiritual Life Inventory program.  A large number of people responded seeking more opportunities for spiritual development and renewal.  Frequently, Good Shepherd has been characterized as a congregation of doers, not thinkers.  Yet, the survey indicated that many desired guidance on cultivating internal spiritual work.  Small groups were offered reflective topics, e.g., “Hazardous Saints”, which looked at the lives of ordinary people who followed God’s call to radical ministry, and “What’s in Your Spiritual Toolbox,” a program introducing multiple spiritual practices.  These different formats, as well as contemplative retreats in our chapel, using self-guided materials, offered at specific times in the liturgical calendar have been modestly attended, but whetted appetites of a small group who have expressed an interest in further offerings.  We held a women’s day retreat in the recent past, too. 

We consider these events to be successful under the Fill All Things (Gallagher) model of building a core group to inspire, share and lead others in spiritual formation.  This parish wants a rector who can help us develop and continue with this goal.

Describe your liturgical style and practice.  If you have more than one, describe them all.

Good Shepherd utilizes Rite II BCP with weekly Eucharist at two Sunday morning services (7:45am and 10am), the latter service offering blended (contemporary songbook and hymnal) music styles. Our Sunday evening service is contemporary with communion held at 6pm. Various retired clergy, who are members of Good Shepherd, celebrate and preach at 6pm. The liturgy uses a customized form, which is based on the New Zealand prayerbook. 

Music is central to our worship and community life.  We have a traditional choir with a dynamic leader who has recently integrated youth into the choir. There are two contemporary music groups that include guitar, banjo, mandolin, percussion, etc. called MorningSong and EveningSong, a men’s choir called Black Sheep, a women’s choir as part of the larger choir, and a handbell group. The church is blessed with many talented musicians in the congregation who share their gifts frequently in worship and at social events with our church family. 

How do you practice incorporating others in ministry? 

Parish lay leadership is currently organized under four primary areas. The Celebrate team covers music, worship and prayer ministries. The Serve team encompasses outreach and congregational care. The Grow team works internally on family ministries, adult & children’s education and youth. The Stem team is comprised of financial and administrative teams, supporting the three primary ministry areas. Children’s education ministries are highly valued and supported within the multigenerational church family. The youth group meets weekly on Sunday afternoons, engaging in small group bible study, games and fellowship, service projects and diocesan youth retreats and events with other youth groups. 

Service September (SS) provides opportunities to learn from and serve our community. Church ministry leader training, a ministry fair, guidance for handling conflict and avoiding volunteer burnout are offered. SS programs have been designed to balance education, spiritual development and service. Programming included an educational series on the refugee experience, a special liturgy geared toward immigrant and refugee communities, and a service project assembling hygiene kits for this community.  

As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional, and physical well being?

We struggle in this area, recognizing that a segment of our church community is aging and that we are experiencing an influx in membership composed of retired people moving to the area to be closer to family.  Our “Congregational Care” committee (responsible for coordinating rides to/from church or medical appointments, meals for the sick, etc.)  has been without a leader for twelve months and we have struggled to fill this role. Volunteers tend to come together when they are aware of a parishioner in need of extra support after a surgery or illness; the program operates on an ad hoc basis and by word of mouth.   Once a month, healing prayer is offered, during the morning services.  We also have five licensed Eucharistic Visitors who make 3 – 5 visits per month to housebound parishioners.  We desire a rector who will help us develop this area. Pastoral care came up repeatedly in our focus groups to gather feedback in terms of “growing edges,” attributes desired in a rector and areas that need attention. 

Describe your community’s involvement in the wider Church and/or region?

Good Shepherd members have a long history of getting involved in diocesan committees, regional councils and working at the office of the bishop and the Diocese.  Members have also been active in start-up and board leadership of Jubilee Ministries, within the Diocese. Our Youth program typically sends 20-25 people to Quest diocesan youth events. The youth group also collaborates with other episcopal youth groups to engage in joint activities, social events and mission trips. Our choir director organized a choral event with eight choirs from the High Plains region in early 2018. The combined choir sang three pieces, including one composed specifically for the occasion. Also, three Good Shepherd parishioners sing in an outreach choir funded, in part by the region, to sing for charities and nursing homes. The choir also sings at fundraisers for various ministries or for churches raising money for ministries. 

How do you engage in pastoral care beyond your worshipping community?

We tend to be a church of action, so our activities outside of the worshipping community focus on outreach to the hungry and homeless serving meals and donating food and clothing.  The Serve team coordinates the efforts of Good Shepherd’s presence, in the wider community. Current touch points include in-gatherings for community partners, Angel Tree, Birthday Bags, Prayer Shawls, Pumpkin Patch, St. Clare’s, Music with a Mission, Jamaica Dental/Medical Mission and the sponsorship of two missionary families.  We also offer our facilities to community/support groups (AA, SA, Home School) at no, or very low, cost to provide pastoral care in the wider community.

We would like to learn more about how we can engage in pastoral care, both in the church, and in the community.  A need has also been identified to have a larger presence in the greater Centennial community.  This might include opening our chapel during times of national tragedy, developing unique programs to offer to the neighboring business community, (“ashes to go” on Ash Wednesday or lunch hour spiritual offerings, etc.), or identifying other ways to reach the spiritual needs of the larger community.  

Tell about a ministry you have initiated in the past five years. Who can be contacted for more information about this ministry?

The Music with a Mission Concert Series began in 2015 as an effort to engage our surrounding community by providing a yearly series of 5 free concerts where donations benefit local charities. Thus far, parishioners have sponsored the series by donating “angel” funds to cover the expenses of each season.  These expenses include marketing materials, direct mail advertising, as well as musician and licensing fees.  We have just completed our third season, and over $27,000 has been collected at the concerts and distributed to the designated outreach ministries. Though many enjoy this ministry, and it attracts neighbors and community members to our church, most of the work is completed by a small committed group of volunteers. Shared leadership and broader volunteer support will be needed to sustain this ministry. 

Contact: Dee Dee Atwood, Director of Contemporary Music and Communications.  

How are you preparing yourself for the Church of the future?

We are working purposefully to become a relevant and engaging church of the future.  One step is building our online presence and social media footprint. Currently, staff and volunteers maintain and update our website and social media accounts.  We utilize these avenues to publicize events, relay communications and present a welcoming face for visitors. Our 6pm service is forward-thinking with changing liturgical setting and use of technology. The later time and casual, laid-back nature of the service are attractive to many people.

We are also starting to use data to inform program design.  We collect info from parishioners through online surveys and forms to better understand the wants and needs of our church family. We also utilize demographic data in our decision-making. The surrounding area population segments growing include Singles & Young Families (25-34) and Retirees (65+). Through 2026, these segments are slated to grow by 1.6% and 6.9%, respectively.  A Senior Singles group has been formed to support on growing population. We hope to attract singles, young families and retirees by reviving and growing our family ministries programs under new clerical leadership. 

What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community?

We have a long history of emphasizing stewardship in the areas of time, talent, and treasure.  Our church has a Stewardship Council, which has begun to meet year-round to emphasize not only an annual pledging campaign but also the unique financial and volunteer needs of each individual ministry.  The worshipping community is largely driven by the efforts of volunteers, and significant portions of our stewardship program focus on outreach such as the annual Pumpkin Patch and Music with a Mission.  Our annual budget is determined by pledges from parishioners, collected annually in November on Consecration Sunday.  Such pledges historically have satisfied most of the church’s financial needs. While church attendance has declined, the average annual pledge, among those parishioners who actively participate in the worship community, has trended upward.

In the last few years, stewardship has been more challenging, given declining attendance. In 2017, the pledged budget would not support both the Rector and the Curate roles.  The vestry made the tough decision to reduce the Curate role to a half-time position.  Subsequently, the Curate left Good Shepherd to seek a full-time position.

What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?

Most conflict in our church occurred around issues of sexuality.   Three events have challenged the parish.  By the third one, we were finally able to face the conflict and engage in dialogue.  First, when G. Robinson was consecrated bishop after admitting to a committed relationship to a male partner, a meeting was held at the church to address the issue. Many felt betrayed that their convention delegate voted in favor of this consecration.  Little was done beyond the meeting. Secondly, in 2003, Our Asst. Rector fell in love with a parishioner and received consent from the Interim rector to hold a service recognizing her commitment to her same sex partner.  Several left the church.  The conflict was never publicly addressed.

Lastly, members desired to respond to the bishop’s call for churches to discern their stance on same sex blessings.  The Rector at the time did not share the bishop’s letter with the parish but others found out and formed a plan for a discernment process.  Consequently, a discernment committee (DC) was formed and met regularly on the issue without the rector. Finally, people came together with varied opinions to dialogue and discern God’s will for Good Shepherd.

What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church?  When has it gone well?  When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?

The DC was a time when parishioners came together to discern what was right for the parish – aligned to our mission and people.  DC members agreed to set aside their personal opinions, conduct open discussions, and be sensitive to other’s beliefs. Members felt that their role was to offer the parish a voice on the subject, establish avenues for electronic input, and offer opportunities for one-on-one discussions with DC and vestry members. This allowed parishioners to be comfortable expressing their opinions on the sensitive issue.  The team recognized and understood that any decision, including no decision, would have an impact on the parish.  The group spent many meetings focused on what could and should be done, reflective of God’s will.  The rector chose not to be a part of the process, intentionally leaving it to parishioners, to discuss and decide.  The rector did not steer or control the process. 

In 2016, the vestry began visioning work, to articulate where God was calling the parish, but ultimately stalled.  The change effort did not have wide buy-in, as only vestry was involved.  To make this work more successful in the future, more parishioner involvement would be needed.

New Priest

Provide words describing the gifts and skills essential for your future priest. (up to 4 descriptions one or two words each)

  • Relevant and Motivational
  • Relational Collaborator
  • Creative and Engaged
  • Pastoral Leader