Mission Task Force Report

Mission. Business Concept.One of the Board’s major initiatives this year was to create a Mission Task Force charged with engaging with the congregation to discover and articulate our church’s purpose.  Prior to this work, the last mission statement had been officially adopted by the congregation in the late 1990’s.

  • We, the members of Foothills Unitarian Church, unite in a religious community to provide a loving, accepting and stimulating atmosphere for spiritual and personal growth. By living our Unitarian Universalist principles we seek to be a force for healing and a light of reason and understanding, promoting justice and compassion among ourselves and in the larger community.

Finding the 1990’s formulation too long to remember or apply to tough problems, the Board of Trustees had adopted a much shorter statement as a working draft in 2014:

Foothills Unitarian Church furthers the reach of love in our own lives, in Northern Colorado, and beyond.

This statement was admirably clear and succinct, which made it easier for the Board to use as a guide in its work.  But it had never gone through the important process of formal adoption by the congregation.  Given that mission statements should have the full and official approval of the congregation, and are often revised or replaced every 5-7 years, it was clear that the time was ripe for a fresh look at this central and defining statement of the church’s identity.

The group consisted of Rev. Gretchen Haley and a mixture of new and seasoned Board members: veteran Trustees Karen Harder and Larry Watson; Erin Hottenstein (President Elect); Michelle Venus (Secretary Elect), and Rich Young (Past President).

We began our work with a substantial head start.  First, we benefited from earlier efforts by a group including Tim Pearson, Keith Hupperts and Ken Kassenbrock, who had surveyed the congregation in 2013 about what gave Foothills such a special and valued place in our lives.  This group’s work was paused when Rev. Marc Salkin announced his retirement in the fall of that year: ministerial transition often prompts exploration of a church’s identity, and it felt premature at that point to conclude a rewrite of our mission statement just as we entered transition.  We also were able to apply insights gained the congregational survey conducted by Bob Green and the Ministerial Search Team during the search process, and from our own participation in the appreciative inquiry workshops and our conversations with congregants during our time on the Board.

From this healthy start, we conducted a series of forums in January of this year.  We presented the very long 1990’s mission statement and the Board’s very short 2014 working draft, and asked the question: was the 2014 draft adequate, and if not, what important concepts were missing from it?  Consensus seemed to be that it left out too much of what is important to us about who we are, and the task force gathered detailed input on what was missing.

Armed with all of this preparation, we began writing in February.  Many drafts were considered and rejected because they failed to capture cherished qualities we’d heard so much about from the congregation, or left out important aspects of our identity that would help newcomers understand who we are.  Others were so long that we knew that they’d never be remembered, much less usable for guidance in the work of the church as a good mission statement should be.

As we worked, it became apparent that it would be very challenging to say everything that needed to be said, so concisely that the statement remained memorable and useful.  We knew that every word would have to carry a great deal of meaning.  When Rev. Nancy Bowen held a leadership development workshop here in April, she drew a helpful distinction between what a church does, how the church does these things, and why the church does them; of these, she said, the “why” is the most central question.  Invigorated by this framing, we returned to our writing process and arrived at a draft that we feel captures the essence of all the input we’ve gathered:

Foothills Unitarian Church awakens our spirits, heals our divisions and grows our faith, empowering us as partners in the unfolding meaning of life and equipping us to create more love and justice in our lives and in the world.

At 39 words, this is substantially shorter than the 1990’s mission, but also substantially longer than the 2014 draft. Working with it, we found that any further cutting removed important concepts we’d really worked hard to include; adding anything further pushed the statement across a threshold of unwieldiness.  Present were key concepts like spiritual growth, community, intellectual stimulation, healing and sanctuary, and our commitment to social justice and service.   With the Board’s unanimous endorsement, we felt that we had arrived at a candidate statement that was ready for the congregation’s consideration.

Throughout the month of May, we held meetings to acquaint the you with our proposed mission statement.  Our purpose was to explain its nuances, help you grow comfortable with it, and collect feedback about whether you felt that this statement captures our church’s mission adequately.  We were under no illusions that it would be perfect – indeed, our spiritual diversity virtually guarantees that, for any given phrase, one congregant’s experience will resonate with it while another will find it troubling.  But we hoped that we would all find enough echo of our own reasons for attending Foothills that the candidate statement would be embraced and adopted at the Congregational Meeting.

What we’ve found at these meetings is that we are not quite ready to recommend that the congregation vote on whether to adopt this statement.  As I write this in late May, it’s unclear whether further refinement is necessary, or if the congregation simply needs more time to sit with the language and recognize in it what it is that we all come together for.  Or, most likely, a little of both.

It may seem disappointing to come up short so close to the end of all this important work.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time on the Board, it’s that it’s not a good idea to rush these things.  The work of the Mission Task Force will continue into the coming church year.  It’s important that we achieve an articulation of this church’s mission, so that the statement can welcome and inspire new members, so that it can remind existing members of what the church means to them, so that it can guide future Boards and committees through difficult decisions, and not least, so that this community can grow from the experience of contemplating its purpose with this much care and depth.

 

Board of Trustees Year End Report May 2016

As this church year is coming to a close, the board has been reviewing the work we have done. These past two years of Interim have been incredibly important and often times challenging for many of us. As a board this year, we identified our priorities as Mission, Governance and communication. We have worked so hard to heal, rebuild trust and communicate about our work. We believe we accomplished that goal.  We were resilient, and we stuck together. We worked as one body, and one voice. This church year began with a very successful start up festival getting dunked so we could hear from you what you wanted to see happen at Foothills. From there we got to work!

 

Here is a summary of what this year’s dedicated board has been working on:

Leadership development:

  • We held productive retreats, one leading to development of our top priorities and task forces, one leading to new ideas for governance structures and a new approach to the mission statement.
  • We participated in 2 leadership development days, and have made it a priority for our congregation moving forward to better prepare our lay leadership positions.

Board efficiency:

  • We had a good, and strong relationship with our second year Interim senior minister, The Rev. Howell Lind, allowing us to heal from the previous year, and do our work well.
  • We appointed task forces within the board for mission, governance and communication to efficiently accomplish more work between monthly meetings.
    • Two models were used – the Mission Task Force and communication task force being composed of Board members and a minister, and the Governance Task Force being composed of Board members, other members of the congregation and a minister.
  • We met with former Presidents and Treasurers and benefited from their historical knowledge and perspectives. This was a wonderful kickoff to our year back in August.
  • We have improved efficiency of Board meetings
    • We finished every meeting on time or only 15 minutes over. Yes – we are pretty excited about this!
  • Established more responsible and fiscally conservative budget policies
    • We have brought to the congregation a budget that addresses growth in key program areas, and achieves fair compensation for all staff, while still increasing our support of UUA regional services and earmarking funds for the reserves for the first time in years.
  • We effectively managed (had oversight of) two minister searches in one church year!
    • Senior Minister search
    • Assistant minister search

 

Communication:

  • Improved the Board’s communication – we did a lot more listening this year.
  • Per Rev. Howell Lind’s guidance, we initiated the practice of quarterly informational forums, where the ministers, board, and other important leaders report on their activities and receive input from the congregation.
  • Held forums conducted by the task forces on mission and on governance.
  • Wrote Blog/article posts in the Extra to help educate the congregation of our work throughout the year.
  • Board members attended most church events to make sure the congregation always had access to us.
  • We practiced being more visible, sharing our experience on the board as we did our work.
  • We got a church app, made improvements to our website and the church grew its connection on Facebook.

Mission:

  • Appointed a mission task force made up of members of the board and Rev. Gretchen Haley.
  • Held Mission Task force forums to listen to the congregation, to find out who you said we were.
  • Made significant progress toward a mission statement that will guide the work of the board, staff and church as a whole.
  • Continuing to work on discerning and articulating the mission to be completed in the fall.

Governance:

  • Carried last year’s governance work forward with greater congregational participation and engagement.
  • We conducted book discussion groups on “Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership” by Dan Hotchkiss, supporting the development of Board members and also engaging other members of the congregation.
  • Appointed a governance task force and built a foundation for a multiyear transition to form of governance suitable for our size church.
  • Held Governance task force forums to listen to the congregation as well as share what the process will be to determine the best governance fit with our congregation.

Growing our church and our reach:

  • Share the plate continued to be shared and grew our giving to local and national organizations important to Foothills.
  • Experimented with multi-site partnership (Greeley); although this experiment was concluded at the end of this year, we developed a stronger sense of our role as a resource church for congregations in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming. Learning from our partnership with Greeley, we will continue to be a resource to smaller churches in the region, but exactly how we play that role is evolving.
  • Our experiment with a new style of a pledge drive was a big success. Many increased their pledges, and the church was educated about our cash flow needs and issues.
  • Continued growth of our campus ministry program
  • Began offering young adult OWL

 

 

As you can see, it has been a very abundant year and the board is so grateful for the opportunity to serve you as well as to work alongside our excellent ministers, The Rev. Howell Lind, and our soon to be new Senior Minister, The Rev. Gretchen Haley.

 

Before our work is done this year, we will continue to prepare next year’s board members, and the work we want to continue as well as begin.

 

We could not have accomplished what is written above without the incredible participation we received from all of you this year. Thank you for taking the time to communicate with us, for showing up at our forums, reading our blogs, bumping into us at coffee hour, and telling us how we were doing.

 

In closing, I want to thank The Rev. Howell Lind for bringing our board, staff, and congregation the opportunity to breathe, reset, and heal. Thank you for your 50+ years of ministry and insight that you brought to all of our meetings and conversations. We will miss you, and we wish you and Nancy much joy in your next adventures.

 

I want to thank the board members who are rotating off the board this year for their many hours of service, wisdom, friendship, and commitment to our church. You will be missed greatly next year, please don’t go far.  Rich Young, past president, Nate Donovan, Treasurer , Elizabeth Stanley, Secretary, Karen Harder, member at large, and Larry Watson, member at large.

 

Last, it has been my honor being in the role of president this year, and I look forward to working with Erin Hottenstein, your new president as we continue to serve Foothills church during this exciting time of new ministries and growth. May you all have a playful and restful summer – you can find your board at the start up festival in August – possibly near a dunk tank!

 

In faith and love,

Jennifer Hawk Powell, BOT, President

 

 

 

 

Update from One Village One Family

OVOF May 2016 Funny Faces OVOF May 2016b What a ride it has been. A year ago I saw a new acronym OVOF (One Village One Family) and learned of a new program just being started at Foothills Unitarian Church  in collaboration with Homeless Gear. I sent an email expressing curiosity and within seconds, I swear, Gretchen texted me asking if I would be a Village Lead. Gretchen’s enthusiasm is hard to resist and without further thought, I agreed. And I am so glad I did! It has been an interesting, rewarding, challenging, and very meaningful year.

Six Foothills Villages have been trained since May, but it has been common that Villages are not assigned to families right away. In our case, it turned out to take several months. That gave us time to do the necessary fund-raising. Originally, we were five Foothills Villages and each needed to raise $1500 that would help support our family to pay their security deposit or first month’s rent. Families admitted to the OVOF program must have sufficient income to pay rent, but they often do not have the savings to allow them to pay these extra fees. This initial, one time, support can make all the difference between persistent homelessness and stable housing.

To raise funds, Foothills started by devoting one month’s Share the Plate with the Foothills-OVOF program. Our almost 30 OVOF Village members then organized a fun and tasty pancake breakfast, donut give-away/donation stations at the Quail Hollow Neighborhood Garage Sale, and a family pizza evening at Odell Brewing Company. Between these few events, we raised the funds needed to support six families! While the Foothills OVOF Village members were responsible for the pancake breakfast, others, especially the Men’s Group, helped us out by cooking the sausage and pancakes. King Soopers, Lamar’s Donuts, Odell’s, and Domino’s were some of the other community businesses that have aided our endeavors. These few events enabled us to raise the start-up funds we needed.

My Village met our family at the end of August – right after this single mom had procured housing for herself and four teenage daughters. We helped her move, and get new tires donated for their suburban, a new car battery, some essential furniture, a laptop, and food. There were ups and downs, but we all enjoyed celebrating this family’s graduation last month as they met all the goals they had set for our six month One Village One Family partnership. There will still be challenges for this family, but they are in a much better place than they were when we met.

This is the tale of one of our six Villages, and each Village has a tale to tell with similarities and differences. There is no consistent pattern – each family has its unique challenges. But they all are so grateful for the support our Foothills Villages have provided as they searched for and obtained housing and worked to remain stable. These families now sleep in their own beds in their own homes. All of the participants, both Village members and our families, have expressed enthusiasm for this project. Many of the Foothills Village members have agreed to mentor a new family after a short break. A six month mentor commitment sounds long, but really the time flew by.

Newspapers are full of horror stories of the scarcity of affordable housing and the impact on the homeless. Foothills Unitarian Church has helped six families – six single women and 23 children find housing and begin to live more independent lives. Five of those families have remained stably housed for at least 6 months. Thanks to the Foothills-OVOF partnership, these moms and their children are no longer are living on the streets, in playgrounds, or couch surfing.

Our long-term plan is to have two or three Foothills Villages/year to sustain our impact on reducing homelessness in our community. I am proud of our church for taking on this project. I encourage others to consider joining One Village One Family. You won’t do it alone – you will have a Village at your side every step of the way.

If you are interested, you can make a difference by joining one of our upcoming Villages – please contact Gretchen.

Jane Everham, OVOF Village Lead
Anne Fisher, Foothills/OVOF Village Liaison

Thank you from the Stewardship Team

Our Annual Stewardship Pledge Drive is winding down, and we are pleased with the results. We hope you agree that it feels really good to give what you know is generous for you – so that you feel it a little bit!

Giving in Gratitude is a spiritual practice that we strive to live here at Foothills. We now have 380 pledging households for the 2016-17 church year. And we have 35 new pledgers this year – that’s great!

This year’s pledge drive is up about $40,000 over last year. Since we haven’t emphasized money so much in the past, the last several years we’ve tried to educate the congregation about how important it is for all of us to share our resources to help maintain and grow all of the wonderful programs and activities at Foothills. We’re attempting to make talking about money not so taboo anymore. 77% of our income comes from your pledges – that is our reality. We are the church.

Most congregants responded well to the Stewardship Team’s request to increase their pledge this year. As our Treasurer said at the May 1st Budget Hearing, our church really needs an increased pledge income every year, since our expenses also go up.

If you’ve ever wondered what kinds of pledges we receive, here’s a snapshot:

  1. 15 households pledge between $6,060 and $18,250
  2. 34 households pledge from $3,060 to $6,000
  3. 66 households pledge from $1,560 to $3,000
  4. The remaining pledges range from $20 to $1500 per year
  • 202 households increased their pledge this year. Thank you!
  • Our average pledge is $1,607. Our median is $960.

To make our church and its exciting and life-changing programs sustainable, we need to responsibly support them. Looking ahead, can you see your family increasing your pledging level? Look especially at the categories of giving above – can you get on a path towards moving into the next higher level? Just a few additional pledgers moving from level 4 to level 3, or level 3 to level 2, would make a huge difference in what we are able to do and offer as we seek to fulfill our mission.

We ask you to thoughtfully consider what it would take to increase your commitment to Foothills. Our staff and lay leaders – and all of us- have worked so hard to make this such a warm and vibrant community.  It is our congregation, and it is up to us to ensure its vibrant future.  Let us continue transforming – together.

Thank You – Kay Williams, Stewardship Chair

Climate Justice Month – What next?

We have just finished Climate Justice Month at Foothills, with a kickoff event, films, book discussions, a Friday evening service, an Earth Sunday intergenerational service, a bike-to-church breakfast, a wrap-up discussion and pledges of action.  We can’t say exactly how many folks’ lives were impacted, but we collected 66 action commitments and handed out nearly 50 Lose-a-Watt kits from the city.  Was it enough?  Did you notice?  What will we do next to engage our church in Climate Justice?

Perhaps now is the time to begin working to become a certified Green Sanctuary congregation.

What is a Green Sanctuary?  This UUA program provides a path for congregational study, reflection, and action in response to environmental challenges.   Several steps are involved, starting with establishing a team representing various aspects of church life.  The team assesses current church programs and practices in four areas –

  • environmental justice
  • worship and celebration
  • religious education (for children and adults)
  • sustainable living

(Note – this is not just about the building.)  For more information see: http://www.uua.org/environment/sanctuary

Once the assessment is complete, the team proposes an action plan with 12 projects in the four areas and the real work begins that involves the whole congregation.

Congregations that complete the program are accredited as Green Sanctuaries in recognition of their service and dedication to the Earth.  It is a program that changes a church’s realization of its role in climate justice, an important step that we could decide to take.  Are we ready?  Is it time?

To learn more about this program, see website above or contact Peg MacMorris (peg.macmorris@gmail.com) with your questions.

 

In partnership,

The Foothills Climate Justice Team