Third Service Experiment(s)

from Rev. Gretchen

Just about two years ago, we started talking about what we called the “third service experiment.”  Our Sunday attendance had grown exponentially, and we knew that if we didn’t make more space, people would start leaving.  Which didn’t feel aligned with our newly-voted-on mission statement of unleashing courageous love.

An expanded building was at least 3 to 5 years out in the future, so the Board charged the staff with adding a third Sunday morning service.

We were admittedly somewhat terrified, but then Christmas Eve came – where we have always had at least 3 services – and we realized it might not be so bad.  And we agreed, it was the right thing to do.  Finally, in February 2017, we launched the experiment, and immediately our service attendance grew by over 30%.

Critical to any experiment is seeking feedback, trying new things, and learning together.  Through practice and ongoing dialogue and a strong sense of partnership with the congregation, we learned so much in that first experiment – which lasted through May that year.  We learned what supports and systems we’d need (a lot), what volunteers we’d need (so many), and just how early people were willing to get up and come to service (8 am was too early, especially after daylight savings…).  We applied these lessons, and moved into a more routine pattern of three services in September 2017.

And still, as with most things in church (and life), it’s good to keep that sense of experimentation about these three services alive.  Because we know that what worked at one point may not keep working, we want to keep open to what will best serve the mission now.

One of the things we’ve been learning is that in the past few months, as we returned to the 3 services schedule, the 3rd service has been a little slower to pick up attendance to its numbers all of last year. We realized that while some of you were game to try out the later service for a while in support of making space for everyone (thank you!), the 10:00 service is just soooo convenient and filled with so many happy people!

From a worship-leaders’ perspective, we’ve struggled with what can feel like a strange shift from a full-house of 200+ in the 10:00 service, to the more intimate gathering of 60 or so at the 11:30 – and yet somehow we’re supposed to offer the exact same script.

At the same time, we’ve started to notice that the 11:30 has a certain vibe to it.  An energy seeking more space for silence, more ritual, more healing space, more calm. And there is an openness, and a really strong engagement.  Originally I was categorizing it as a “younger” demographic, but actually it’s a really diverse crowd.  Or rather, not a crowd….a diverse small-ish gathering.

So in the past few weeks, we have been experimenting again.  This time, trying to meet this smaller mid-day gathering with a worship style that fits its organic energy.

Simple things to begin, really.  We have moved ourselves closer to the floor, including sitting within the congregation – to lean into the intimacy of the experience.  We’ve added a participatory ritual to the joys and sorrows for more personalized engagement.  Looking ahead, we’re thinking about ways to reduce some of the talking in some elements to make more space for silence.  And other ways to work with – rather than resist – the different feel of this service.

We’re going to experiment in similar ways for three months.  After three months is up, we’ll hold feedback circles, and send out surveys, and see what we’ve learned, and how we want to apply this learning in the future.  Our goal remains to keep finding ways to best serve our mission, and to meet the real ministry needs of our community both as it is and as we are called to become.

If you’re curious about these experiments, and want to be a part of creating a healing worship-ful space together on Sundays, join us for our 11:30 service.  And if you do, I hope you’ll think of yourselves as partners in this shared learning.  After all, worship on Sundays is not a performance, like the theatre.  It’s our work together, our shared ministry, to create this space, and to show up with and for each other in service of a better world.

There is so much need in our world for healing spaces, and for authentic community.  In this third service – and for that matter, in all of our services, and in all that we do at Foothills – we can together try out different ways of to serve this need.  And we can (only) do this together.

See you Sunday.  Keep experimenting.


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 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.