2/12/2015 – Download a PDF version of February 2015 SC Summary
The focus of synod staff’s work for the coming year, budgets and learning more about ministries associated with our church were highlights of the February Western North Dakota Synod Council meeting. The council met February 6 & 7, 2015 at First Lutheran in Minot.
The Friday evening session is our “Mission Table Time,” a time for the council to help synod staff think about the Mission God calls us to in Western North Dakota. As always the evening began with a half-hour of Bible Study. Council operates with an underlying understanding that all of our business flows out of our relationship with the risen Christ.
Next we welcomed Lynea Geinert, diaconal minister, to meet with your council. Lynea leads Community Connections one of the significant partnerships which the synod council has recently entered into – a partnership with First Lutheran Church of Williston (with hopes that other congregations in Williston will over time become financial partners). Community Connections is working to find solutions to the human needs issues in the Williston area including homelessness, hunger issues and more. Lynea has been on the job for about 4 months and at this point is working to pull partners together who have an interest in helping care for people. She is hearing great enthusiasm from community members for this program. Your synod has committed $20,000 per year to this program for three years.
The last 45 minutes of the Friday evening session were spent in review of synod staff goals for 2015. The staff have identified 3 areas of focus for this year: Faith Formation, Congregational Renewal and Stewardship. Synod council members were asked to give feedback on how they see these goals connecting with their congregations.
Saturday saw the work of your council shift to business and education. On the business side council took action which allowed the financial books to be closed on 2014. The Western North Dakota Synod’s fiscal year runs from February 1 through January 31. In 2014, congregations of the synod shared more in Mission Support (benevolence) than had been budgeted – this allowed your council to share an extra $96,845 with our ministry partners including ELCA Churchwide, ND Campus Ministry, Luther Seminary, Heart River Bridges of Hope and Minot State Lutheran Campus Ministry. What I hope you see is that the generosity of members of our congregations shared with the synod will mean ministry in Christ’s name will continue to happen. These funds help start new congregations, support missionaries, maintain the readiness of Lutheran Disaster Response, ensures that we will have seminaries to train future leaders, that we will have a presence on three of the state’s university campuses to help young people think about issues of faith and life and much more. What the generosity of members also meant is that we did not have to dip into reserve funds to cover staff salaries – thanks for your faithfulness.
The council also revised the 2015 budget to reflect the increased cost of Portico Health Insurance and addition of a full-time staff position in Stewardship. The 2016 budget was also approved and will now be sent on to synod assembly for final action at the June Assembly.
During Saturday’s meeting council members had the opportunity to learn about two of the programs supported by the congregations of the synod. Rev. Christoph Schmidt, campus pastor at Minot State University, talked about that ministry. Highlights include Tuesday Soup where the previous week 160 students came to eat. The community has a weekly Bible study and worship service as well. The focus of the work is to help people, not just Lutheran students, explore issues of faith and life.
Susan Grundysen, program director for Adoption Option – LSS of ND spent a half-hour with council. This was an educational session about the work of Adoption Option and their work with women who are experiencing crisis pregnancies. Adoption Option walks with people who are considering releasing their baby for adoption. If a mother choses instead to parent the child the program staff then shift to help put together a parenting plan as a way to support the person and the infant. Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is owned by you, the congregations of this synod and the congregations of the Eastern North Dakota Synod.
Council also heard about the upcoming synod assembly (June 5 & 6 – Grand Hotel, Minot with the pre-assembly workshop being June 4th). The assembly theme is “Living in God’s Abundance”. The assembly is being planned as an educational event and congregations are being invited to bring as many people as they would like to assembly. The event will help people think about all of the ways that God blesses us – from the breath in our lungs, to the relationships we have, to our time, talents and finances. During the assembly a Bible Study being written by a group of pastors from our synod will be unveiled. The Bible Study will have 6 sessions to help people engage in conversation about abundance. The offering from Friday morning’s worship will be given to the ELCA Campaign toward this year’s focus on Congregations.
One item of business being brought before this year’s synod assembly will be Rostered Leader Compensation Guidelines. In September, the Synod Council directed staff to research the compensation guidelines of synods in our area and the cost of living across our synod. Staff compiled that information and shared it with the Synod Council Executive Committee in December. At this council meeting the issues were discussed and the synod council passed on to synod council a proposal to increase rostered leader salaries 4%. A proposal was also brought to the council to equalize salaries between pastors and lay rostered leaders. Currently lay rostered leaders are paid about $4,000 less than ordained clergy. Clergy also receive either a parsonage to live in or a housing allowance, lay rostered leaders often do not. Council approved a three year process of equalizing the compensation schedules between the rosters – those at the synod assembly will have final say over the proposal.
If you would like to talk with synod staff about any of this please give us call – we would love to chat (701) 223-5312.
Rev. Mark Narum
Serving as Bishop