By Ann Lin

Messenger President’s Report for December 2023

I hope you had a blessed Christmas.  This past month the church has been in high gear with extra worship, fellowship, volunteer service, and fun events.  We had our first Snow Day on December 22.  This was a free event for all ages and open to the public.  It was an outrageously fun and unbelievably well attended event bringing together 20 tons of snow, activities, church members, newcomers, and neighbors to our campus.  At times the campus was so full one could hardly turn around. I wouldn’t be surprised if a thousand people attended.  Thanks to all who helped dress our church in its best holiday attire, entertained in costume, and assisted in providing an afternoon of unbridled fun. 

Here is the President’s report for the Board of Trustees meeting held December 11, 2023.

Finance Committee reports we are running $38,000 less in pledge and non-pledge donations compared to last November.  This could be due to impact of the NextGen campaign on individual’s cashflow.  NextGen improvements funds spent to date is $322,585, with $5,000 in invoicing outstanding.  These are all capital expenditures for the C.E. Building and are primarily deferred maintenance. 

Stewardship reports the annual Stewardship campaign is well underway drafting a brochure and other materials.  Kickoff will be Sunday, January 21 with a congregational meeting held after the worship service.  Charts with financial data will be thoroughly reviewed, emphasizing the difference and need for annual operating support vs. capital improvement needs.  The NextGen campaign and the million dollar anonymous gift for capital campaign will accomplish much but cannot be used for our operating expenses – keeping the lights on and paying for staff salaries.  The Stewardship campaign will conclude on Commitment Sunday set for February 11.  This year, donations can be made by check, stock transfer, and through the Church Center app for one-time and recurring donations.

Personnel reports in the next week or two they will circulate a conflict of interest statement within the Committee.  We will not prohibit staff or board members from serving on boards for other organizations.  This is just for transparency and is standard procedure in non-profits and for-profit organizations.  The process will be an annual disclosure for all staff and board members to sign.  A small group of Personnel Committee members have drafted a housing policy that consists of a ‘menu’ of options for the church to consider in the event future hires require housing as a benefit consideration.  This does not impact current staff with housing benefits.  A draft of the policy will be sent to Finance Committee to review.  We are currently reviewing vendors for cloud storage of our Personnel files and a decision will be made next week.  The Employee Handbook update is expected to complete in January.  Steve will send the Personnel Committee the 2024 ministers’ annual housing allowance requests.  This is for IRS reporting purposes and does not impact or cause changes to total salaries.

Buildings & Grounds has reviewed and revised its fiscal year budget as requested by Finance Committee.  The revision is impacted by capital improvements expected to be completed this fiscal year and is derived from the Facility Assessment Report.  Not all of the million dollar capital improvement gift money can be spent in this fiscal year due to necessary delays due to winter rains.  The copper coil sound system, which works with hearing aids, is installed and will be turned on in January.

Mission Board’s proposed nine candidates were approved by the congregation at the November 26 congregational meeting.  As part of the 2024 all board nominating process, Mission will add another four members to comprise a full board of 12. There were November service events at CityTeam with Scott Kail leading a high school group, December adopt-a-family at CityTeam and Harbor House Christmas Store.  Two new international organizations were added to the Alternative Gift Market offerings.  Children Rising will be the recipient of this year’s Christmas offering.  Mission Board continues to plan for monthly service opportunities. 

Deacons discussed the issue of church members still having difficulty using Church Center app to register for activities.  Outside the Sunday worship, Deacons use the bounce pads to register individuals for events and sign ups.  It is not easy or clear to see who has signed up for ushering.  Using paper sign ups may be needed in the interim in order to send reminder notices.  There is unfamiliarity even among some Deacons so more training is needed in using Church Center app.  Discussion continues on how to get individuals into the Sanctuary on time for Sunday worship.  We will return to ringing the bell five minutes before services start.  The bell is rung three times for the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.  Donut holes for after Sunday service will be increased to 18 dozen with four dozen going to NextGen.  Sunday name tags are well received.  A new member class will be held in January.  The Oktoberfest fellowship event had 82 attendees including five children.  The event actually made a profit of $1,000 which will be used for the December fellowship event.  Kathy passed a signup sheet for fellowship event volunteer support.  We especially need additional cleanup help to relieve the Loaves and Fishes team, especially if we use non-disposable plates and glassware.  The women’s retreat is planned for January.  CityTeam is asking for $1,000 in donations for turkeys, which will come from the Deacons’ budget.  Suzie Skugstad is leading discussion to have the church go green and lower environmental impact by reducing use of disposable plates, silverware, and glasses.  This creates need for additional volunteers to wash and dry items before putting away those items.

NextGen and Children’s Ministry reports November was busy with events.  Around the Thanksgiving holiday, attendance was predictably lighter but otherwise continues to remain constant. In November, three new families completed the New Family registration form and their children have been attending regularly.  Preparations are underway for Snow Day.  Two new volunteers joined the NextGen team. The biggest focal point in November has been the Mexico Trip.  Church member registration opened November 13 and public registration on November 15.  Registration was slower than in past years due to increased registration cost and that full payment was required to register.  In the past, payment by check was allowed and some students did not pay promptly causing extra staff administrative effort.  Scholarship applications were available to students and adults.  A total of six scholarships were awarded prior to trip registration.  However, two declined scholarship resulting in four scholarships being redeemed.  12 teams are assembled to participate.  Snow Day was marketed in Facebook, Instagram and Piedmont Post ads, and a flyer distributed.  Door hangers were prepared for neighbors to alert them of street access inconvenience during snow delivery.  Boy scouts and Mexico Trip students were asked to volunteer at Snow Day.  The event is a community event for all ages and an opportunity to get to know our neighbors and vice versa.  20 tons of snow will be delivered and two sledding hills and a snow play area created.  There will be bouncy rooms, face painting, balloon animal artistry, hot cocoa backpacks, and more.

High School Ministry reports the middle and high school groups continue to go well with steady attendance.  The high school retreat was deemed a success.  In November, the parents group met, but the December event will be cancelled due to busy schedules and will resume in January.  The November service event for high schoolers went well at CityTeam.  The Mexico Trip registration had challenges but 12 teams were compiled.  Lack of early communication regarding increased fees and scholarship availability and its application deadline preceding trip registration led to students and parent complaints.  Some learned for the first time during online registration of the pricing increase and requirement for payment in full to complete registration.  Some families complained they did not learn of scholarship availability until after the application deadline.  Scott sent a letter to students and families after registration to apologize for incomplete communication and provide explanation for the increase in Mexico Trip fees.