We’re Staying!

By Sara Steen, Board Member and Space Committee Member

The Board of Trustees and the Space Committee are delighted to announce that, after 8 months of intense study, we have determined that staying on our current site will be the best way for us to continue to accommodate growth and live into our mission.  

At the Annual Meeting on June 3, the Space Committee presented an overview of the work it has done since October to reach this conclusion.  The full presentation, along with the Programming Report produced for us by inFusion Architects, can be found on the church website.  In this post, I’ll provide you with a summary of the year’s work leading up to our recommendation to the Board that we remain on site.

As many of you may recall, when the Board came to the Congregation in October, we had come to the conclusion that we would likely need to find a new site in order to accommodate the growth we have seen over the past several years.  We provided several opportunities for people to share their reactions to that news, many of which were deeply sad and concerned about what moving would mean for us as a community.  Based on your input, the Board asked the Space Committee to do a very careful assessment of our current site to see if there was any possibility that we could stay. The Space Committee hired a programming consultant, inFusion Architects, to help us with this task.

From January through April of this year, inFusion conducted a series of meetings with staff and congregation to identify what exactly our space requirements were and to do the detailed assessment of our current property.  Alongside the work inFusion was doing, the Space Committee did work to identify transportation options for remaining on site (parking is a major hurdle; there is simply no way to double the parking on our current site, so we needed to expand our thinking to come up with other alternatives); met with City Planners to identify city regulations that we needed to consider on our current site; and launched our first subcommittee, Communications and Engagement, to facilitate communication between the committee and the congregation.  

The final report produced by inFusion identified the following as our key priorities in the expansion process:

      • 400 seat sanctuary (more than double current worship space)
      • Double size of RE, social hall, kitchen, office suite
      • Minimize environmental impact, continually seek to embed green considerations
      • Maintain connection to outdoors
      • Create flexible spaces that can be easily adapted to different uses

In May, the committee worked diligently to develop decision criteria that would help us to determine whether remaining on our current site or moving to a new (larger) site would better enable us to live into our bold vision as a congregation.  Using the report produced by inFusion alongside the work the committee conducted over the year, we identified 13 criteria to consider in making a location recommendation to the board. These included things like cost, our ability to remain inside city limits, our ability to live up to our climate justice and social justice missions, future expansion ability, and transportation options.  We assigned a numerical weight to each criterion to acknowledge that some criteria should weigh more heavily in the decision, then we scored each location (current and new/larger) according to how it met the criterion. By multiplying the scores by the weights (full scoring can be found on the website), we concluded that there was a strong advantage to remaining on our current site.  We took this recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who approved it on May 24, 2018.  

Our immediate next step is to hire an architect to develop architectural plans for us.  This summer, we will be identifying architectural firms of interest, writing and distributing a request for proposals (RFP), developing and executing an interview process, deciding on decision criteria for choosing an architect, and finally conducting interviews and making a selection.  Once we have retained an architect, we will work with them to continue our conversation with the City of Fort Collins, and with Gary Schroeder of the Integrated Design Assistance Program which assists organizations invested in minimizing the environmental impact of building projects.

Our hope is that we will be able to come to the congregation in the Fall with an architectural plan approved by the Board for the congregation to vote on.  We will be hiring a financial feasibility consultant to help determine how much money we can expect to raise prior to beginning our capital campaign. Our fabulous communications and engagement subcommittee will be keeping you posted at every step along the way.  

This is a huge undertaking, and a massive milestone in the history of our church.  We want to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard. There are several ways to get involved.  First, we anticipate needing volunteers in a wide range of areas, including: finance/capital campaign, transition planning, exterior design (landscaping), interior design, and sustainability/green design.  If you have interests/talents/skills in any of these areas, please email me directly at professor.steen@gmail.com and I will add you to our ever-expanding volunteer list.  Second, we will be holding a series of forums in the coming months to provide opportunities to hear from you on a number of specific questions–stay tuned.  Third, you can always find updates on what we are doing on our social hall bulletin board or the update section of our church website; there are tools for you to provide input in both locations.  Finally, the space committee meets weekly on Tuesdays from 12:30-2:30 in the RE building (typically room 22); our meetings are open to anyone interested in knowing what we’re up to.  

We are so grateful to be part of such a dynamic congregation that is up for this challenge, and are looking forward with great excitement to continuing this journey with all of you. 

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Board of Trustees Spring Update

Date:​ Sunday, April 15, 2018

Governance Update

A smaller Board is currently focusing on visioning, delegation to staff, monitoring and oversight for Foothills. The Board committees (Finance, Personnel, Governance, Nominating, and Space) advise and support Board work. Additionally, the Leadership Development Team has worked with nominating committee to develop exceptional slate of candidates to bring to the congregation at the Annual Meeting on June 4.

Nominating Committee Update

The Nominating Committee has developed a new process for seeking out potential candidates. Through conversations with the Board, the committee acquires job descriptions and skills needed for each position. Then, the Leadership Development Team provides a list of qualified and willing candidates to the nominating committee along with a smaller list of elected positions. To date, all positions have been identified for the slate and will be announced in the packet before the annual meeting.

Board Visioning and Engagement Update

The Board has compiled responses from the Future-Oriented Questions and established priorities for the coming year. The Visioning Committee is also working with a consultant to set plans in motion for long-term visioning.

The Engagement Committee held three sessions for listening and discussion sessions for general questions and one additional session focused on Marc’s decision regarding non-participation at Foothills. The majority of concerns brought to the Board included:

○ What are we going to do about space? How can we improve conditions at RE building?

○ How are we working to be inclusive of those with different viewpoints?

○ Is there potential to hire a third minister?

○ What is the status of hiring for music director and church administrator?

Space Committee Update

The hired programming consultant has completed six meetings with staff and congregants to gather input regarding existing space and future space needs. The Space Committee has been in contact with other Colorado churches involved in renovation process (Denver, Jefferson, Lafayette). A group of staff and congregants visited First Universalist in Denver for inspiration and ideas. Updates from the Space Committee can be found on the bulletin board in the Social Hall. The committee is moving into more volunteer-intensive phase of operations: start thinking about how you want to be involved!

Coming soon from the Space Committee:

  • Presentation of programming report conclusions at Annual Meeting
  • Fun challenges for brave souls interested in exploring alternative transportation options for Sunday services
  • Opportunities to get involved

○ Communications and engagement subcommittee

Ministry Updates

Our Top Ten Sunday Worship Attendance Dates have all totaled over 400 participants across the three services. On February 4, 600 people gathered at CSU for the All-Church Celebration. On lower attendance Sundays, online participation spikes. For example, in the last snowstorm, 20% of our attendance was online.

As of March, we have had 602 unique participants in non-Sunday worship activities. This would include volunteers and class check-ins. It does not include ministry teams or small groups. We currently have 140 people involved in Gather Groups (our major small group ministry initiative). When you add in the participants in other sorts of small groups, 21% of our church is currently active in small groups.

Total donations to community partners through Share the Plate through February 2018 were $32,310 and another $8,000 was donated to Faith Family Hospitality at the Auction and another $3,500 to Homeless Gear through the Rummage Sale.

Regarding staffing, we are still in the midst of our music visioning process. The Administrator transition is also still underway. Our Financial / Operations Consultant – Patrick Murphy is re-designing administration staffing and processes, Kathryn has been promoted to Office Manager, and we are transitioning to a payroll contractor. Looking ahead to coming church year, we are looking into part-time ministry staffing focused on pastoral care and older adult support and programming.

Stewardship Campaign

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For more information on the church budget, please attend the Budget Presentation on May 3, 2018 from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

New Leadership Development Model

from Karen Harder, Leadership Develoment Team Member

It’s almost time to elect new church leaders. Where will they come from? A group here at Foothills has been busy envisioning a new way of growing our own. Instead of scrambling to find leaders to fill a nomination slate every year, a Leadership Development Ministry Team is working to foster a culture where potential leaders are continually mentored by seasoned leaders and where emerging and experienced leaders learn, grow, and discern together where they are next called to serve.

This new way of growing leaders is inextricably tied to Foothills’ faith formation vision. That vision is the product of a year-long effort by a team of staff and lay leaders to articulate what it means to grow in faith as Unitarian Universalists. The work likens faith formation as a journey, with steps along the way in five areas: growing in self, grounding in Unitarian Universalism, building beloved community, experiencing mystery and awe, and practicing church.

Folks participating in one of Foothills’ new Gather Groups already will be familiar with these components. They are the same five catalysts for deepening faith that Gather Groups explore sometime between their second and third meetings, when members are invited to reflect on their engagement and consider what it might mean to grow in each area.

Core to the new leadership development strategy will be the convening of Leader Gather Groups this fall. Leader Gather Groups will consist of potential and seasoned leaders invited to meet together for at least eight weeks to focus on relationship building, mentoring and mutual learning. They will use the Gather Group curriculum augmented with opportunities to focus on shared learning around leadership-related content. The goal is to harness the power and potential of all in service to the Foothills mission to unleash courageous love.

As the Leader Gather Groups discern together who might be called to serve and how, lay leaders will work closely with the Senior Minister in communicating to the Nominating Committee candidates to consider and place in nomination. Several times a year, emerging leaders as well as any interested congregants also will be offered workshops on specific skills and knowledge needed to serve on the Board of Trustees and other senior leadership roles.

“I’m excited about the new model,” said Jennifer Powell, past president of the Board of Trustees and member of the new Leadership Development Ministry Team. “It has been clear to many of us in leadership at Foothills, that we have needed to mature and expand our training and education for new, current, and potential leaders of the church for some time. The care, thoughtfulness, and connection to our faith that is present in this new model has impressed me. I know you will be, too. Providing this resource, as well as a more comprehensive leadership development program will strengthen our congregation and the good important work we do.”

Other Leadership Development team members are Sue Ferguson, Karen Harder, Jenn Powell, and Tim Weinmann, along with Senior Minister Gretchen Haley.

If you would like more information about the Leadership Development team, you can read the team charter here. If you are interested in church leadership, please contact Rev. Gretchen.

Following Up on #MeToo

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since our #MeToo worship service, and the conversation is just beginning.  A few of our Senior Sisterhood groups have been taking up brave and tender conversations around #MeToo – sharing their own experiences and reflections with one another.  The small group conversations for women to reflect on problematic sexual experiences started tonight, with another on Saturday.  And, the conversations for Men and #MeToo are set to begin next Wednesday.  This last one has drawn the attention of NPR’s All Things Considered, who is doing a story on men and the #MeToo movement – they reached out to hear about our intent for these conversations, and how men are responding.

Another part of this continued conversation is also just beginning to take shape – the Restoring Wholeness Task Force announced by the Board as a part of the #MeToo service.  Over the past few weeks, the Board has been drafting the charter for this Task Force, and thinking carefully about the desired ends.

The Board has been clear that we are called to be a church that deals directly with sexual misconduct and harassment, and that we want to be a part of shifting the culture towards one of greater respect, equality, understanding, and mutual liberation.  To do this, we know we need to start by taking a good look at our past – for, as the Rev. Jan Christian says, “going back can change the way we go forward.”

Part of the work of the Task Force will be in collecting stories about our congregation’s past – including relationships between congregants and religious professionals, and the ways our congregation’s culture, as a system, may have contributed to a lack of clarity or other factors that may have allowed misconduct or harassment to occur.  The goal is to learn, to change, to grow, and to do better.

If you are someone who is wanting to share about an experience that you are thinking through from the past that may connect to this conversation, please email metoo@foothillsuu.org, which for now (until our Task Force is fully up to speed) will be responded to by me, or by Rev. Sean directly.  You can trust that your confidentiality will be protected, as together we continue to understand and learn from our own past – so that we can create an even stronger future.

This is brave, and sometimes challenging work.  I am proud to serve a congregation whose leadership has been willing to do the difficult and yet faithful thing at each step, with a commitment towards being that church that we know we are called to be.  And, I am grateful that we can create spaces and opportunities for this brave learning to happen together, so that we can all grow, and learn, and change, for the better.

Board of Trustees Winter Update

Foothills Unitarian Board of Trustees
Informational Forum and Update
Date:​ Sunday, January 22, 2018

You can view the video recording of the forum by clicking on this link and choosing the January Board Forum in the video player menu.

Following is a summary of the meeting.

Announcements:
● Recognition and thanks to the Auction Committee this year for the outstanding work and funds raised for the church and Faith Family Hospitality.
● Sara Edwards stepped down from her role on the Board and we thank her for her service. Cheryl Hazlitt is filling in behind her in a temporary assigned role until elections are held later this year.

Governance Progress Report by Jody Anderson
This report provided an update on the efficacy of the transition to policy governance. Specific topics the Governance Committee has been tracking include the role of the Board; delegation of work and duties; accountability of ministry team; collaborative governance; and financial management. Overall, the Governance Committee felt the use of the policy governance model was extremely effective. Gretchen Haley provided feedback that it has been very helpful to clarify and define duties particularly related to finance and staff duties.

Mid Year Financial Report – Gretchen Haley
Gretchen reminded us this was a midyear picture (at the end of December) in the churches fiscal year. The church received a $100,000 gift to add to our operation funds this year which has been programmed to use in supporting church activities; staffing needs and the ongoing growth we are seeing. The total amount for the year received was $497,163. The budget set for this year was $426,640. The plate collection at this midyear point is $27,803, and we because of the “Share the Plate”, have share about 60% of that amount. Our operating budget is set at $760,000, and we now have been able to establish the reserves identified in policy levels ($30,000). We are also paying our full fair share to the UUA National and District organization.

Music Visioning and Hiring a New Permanent Choir Director                                                   A task force has researched and surveyed other churches to get feedback on how they operate and function. Vision discernment took place during the fall as the team did small focus groups to get feedback and online surveying as well. This information will be coalesced into the a strategy and assist in determining a job description for the music director position. A search committee will be convened later this spring to begin a national search. Our current director, Chris Reed will have the opportunity to be considered within the applicant pool. NOTE: The board has decided to delay the hiring of a new choir director since this report.

Church Administrator Position and Transition
The Board approved the hiring of a consultant to do an overview of the duties and functional responsibilities necessary for a growing church and priorities. The consultant (Patrick Murphy) will be in the office over the next few months reviewing the practices. We will review these recommendations and look to fill a new position in July. Kathryn has assume facility responsibility and oversight of custodian hours and office volunteers.
Future Staff Planning
2019 is slated to consider ministerial staff needs as we explore the possibility of satellite gathering locations or a minister at one of these sites. We have many people who are semi-engaged, but are not pledging to the church ministry at this time, making the hiring of additional ministerial staff a real challenge.

Sanctuary
● No applicants at the moment. The leads and team gathered for lessons learned.
● A survey for congregation feedback has been sent out.
● The current remodel in the RE building has worked well.

Engagement
A summary of the Future Oriented Questions survey from last fall was presented. There were a total of 48 respondents who identified most significant aspects of Foothills were Relationships & Community, Space Needs, Outreach and Service, Issue Driven Concerns. We are setting up various opportunities for small group dialogues and conversations through the remainder of the year.
● Gretchen is conducting “fireside chats” through the spring. There were 15 in attendance at the first one.
● The board is setting up dialogue groups for various groups based on anniversary years as members, beginning with a board exchange between previous and current board members. These will continue into May.
● The “gather groups” appear to be very successful. Vespers run between 20-40, but attendees are usually coming to an additional service. There are about 90 people that cannot make services work to date. Monthly reports show continued growth to services, and maintaining growth. (Comment: Small groups are wonderful for engagement.)

Space Update
The board met with the city and based on discussions determined we cannot stay at this site due to zoning, growth needs and other building related issues. We have hired an architect as a programming consultant to look at the building activity and space needs. They have met with the staff and will continue meeting with various church groups for activities and spaces. They are also going to review our current campus and give us an opinion about whether we could stay.

We are in the beginning of a 3 – 4 year process which will allow many opportunities for communication and feedback. The Space committee is developing visuals of the timeline and process. (Audience comments: It is important that we start thinking NOW about where we move as part of the process. We cannot wait very long to make that decision of where we want to be in 3 – 4 years. Location and facility are both critical considerations, and should be evaluated as part of our future vision as a church. The UU Church in Tulsa moved back to inner city as part of their outreach mission.)

The current situation with 3 services (which are generally full) is difficult and hard the church staff, but we will not go back to 2. We have received over 400 adults most Sundays. Our current space is a major limitation. The basement of the church is still in need of cleaning out.

End of report.

Mid-Year Governance Progress

 

Dear Congregation,

We are now mid-way through the church year trying out our new governance approach, and would like to provide an update. You may remember at our last congregational meeting in June of 2017, we voted affirmatively to slightly adjust our bylaws and move forward with procedural and structural changes targeted at further empowering and energizing our mission together.

The Governance Committee interviewed Board members and Rev. Gretchen in December of 2017. Together, we checked in on the progress of transitioning into the new governance roles and assessed where things were either working well or needed additional improvement.  

Generally, all parties are making very good progress toward filling their respective roles and increasing focus of talent and resources to appropriate tasks. Both the Board and the minister report strong collaboration in decision-making and discussions. Rev. Gretchen is providing excellent monthly progress reports to the Board to enable monitoring and oversight. Both the Board and Gretchen are referencing the policy book, appreciative of where sufficient guidance was provided and highlighting items that require more clarity.  The greatest challenge our leaders face in making this transition is completing Board adjustments to truly focus on their role in setting vision and mission, and achieving the desired level of congregational engagement in that process. This is expected in this first year of effort, and we expect it to continue for some time.

In the spring, a deeper assessment of the effectiveness of the governance approach will be conducted, collecting input more broadly from staff, volunteers, and members.

The full report of the mid-year progress is located in our Governance Documents area of the website. View it here. We will also be providing an update at the Congregational Forum on January 21st.

Yours in Community,

The Governance Committee on behalf of the Board

Board Update #3: Board Leadership Transition

We’ve been a busy Board already this year! Because we have so much to share, we are offering it in three parts, this is the third (you can find the first here and the second here). This one provides news about a recent transition on the Board.  

Last in our news roundup is a change in leadership. Due to work stresses, Sara Edwards has resigned from the Board. Sara contributed a lot in the last 16 months as she served as Secretary-Elect and Secretary. The Board is very grateful for all that she did.

Per our By-Laws, the Board is required to appoint someone to fill any vacancies when it occurs mid-term.  As a result, at our meeting last week, the Board appointed Cheryl Hazlitt to the Board. She will serve the remainder of Sara’s term, and is considering the possibility of being nominated for one of the vacant positions beyond that.  More information on this around February or March when the Nominating Committee begins its work of determining a slate for our elections in May.

Cheryl has been a great asset on the Personnel Team and we’re sure she will be a big help on the Board as well. Please give both Sara and Cheryl your thanks the next time you see them.