1. Is Living Water a financial burden on St. Luke?
No, LW is not a financial burden on St. Luke. All three sites share the offerings together in one budget. In the ebbs and flows of monthly revenue and expenditures, we have all shared in the financials. Financially, It has been a fine partnership.
2. Will we be able to get financial help from the District?
The District has changed its funding structure for new congregations. We can get help on specific ministry ideas. In fact, for a particular idea they are willing to grant money up to $36,000.
An extension of the District ministry is the Church Extension Fund (CEF). CEF exists to help build churches. We have met with the president of CEF, Ron Steinke, and have been assured that CEF is willing to give us a mortgage. The amount depends on our worship attendance and the kind of facility we are seeking.
3. Can Living Water survive alone at current giving levels, is it financially viable? Has a projected financial statement been created for if we did charter? What indicators are we using to see if Living Water would be viable under a separate charter?
1. These are all great questions. Living Water has had a healthy giving level for the number of people attending. Our Charter Team is now creating a budget for us as an independent congregation. The numbers will be published in November. We do see some stretches to succeeding but we also see that it is quite likely. We have to remember this is a faith journey. People always give to a vision; so on our faith walk, we want to express a vision for our Living Water ministry.
2. Indicators for a separate charter include giving but not this alone. Worship attendance, adult baptisms, level of volunteerism by our attenders, some kind of measurement of our passion to do outreach in our area, are all used to answer the question of viability. So, to be frank, your attendance on Sunday morning really does make a difference as well as those other things listed above.
4. How many people will stay with LW?
Based on the results of our survey which (at the time of this writing) are 91 % complete, our data shows us that 75 % of Living Water worshipers will remain to support Living Water with any combination of their regular attendance, financial support, and volunteer support with 13% undecided. As with all data, this is a best guess and what attrition or growth may occur as a result of our actions cannot be stated precisely. But we can say that LW has the general mandate of the congregation in terms of a bid to charter as an independent church.
5. What is the “magic number” for a healthy congregation?
It all depends on how we define healthy. Living Water has had a history of strong giving, healthy volunteerism, and certainly a desire to do outreach. One major measurement is worship attendance. Our worship attendance has now been below 100 for the last four months. This is concerning.
6. What would the leadership team look like to ensure the church does not head into the same issues we have now?
The structure of the leadership team will be defined by a new Constitution and By-Laws. At this point, we are using the proposed By-Laws for St. Luke Lutheran Church as a model for Living Water which should address the governance issues that have been experienced. At times there are interpersonal conflicts, the desire is that we all follow the guidance of Scripture (e.g. Matthew 18:15-17) and as a community we help each of us to do so.
7. What is Living Water going to offer the Whitmore Lake area that the other churches do not currently fulfill?
We have been unique in our community outreach. Over the years we have demonstrated a willingness to support families and communities beyond our congregation. Other congregations have not been this active. Make sure to read our new vision statement. It gives a picture of Living Water’s uniqueness as well as the Pier-to-Pier Ministry hour long video published by the Michigan District. Both give a glimpse of what we wish to do to bring Jesus to the community.
8. How do we attract the Whitmore Lake and surrounding community differently in the next 10 years?
It is common knowledge among church leaders throughout the American Christian church that we all have to recreate our ministries to reach people. Living Water has certainly wrestled with that question in the previous 12 years. We are still committed to extending ourselves into the lives of people.
This includes making sure we have a permanent and visible presence in the community. That we become a catalyst for marshalling the existing resources in the community to address issues such as medical care, family, hunger, housing issues, transportation, childcare, jobs, etc., the aspirations of those who are struggling financially, emotionally and spiritually so that the love of Jesus Christ is evident in everything we do as part of the community. We want people to see that we are engaged in the community and that we want to share Jesus wherever we walk.
9. Is the Whitmore Lake and surrounding community growing or declining – population?
Howard Fink, the Northfield Township Manager, said in an interview with Pastor Dan the week of September 30th that the community [Whitmore Lake] has plateaued. He is expecting slow growth into the near future from people who purchase 5 acre parcels.
10. What happens to the Living Water Land Fund?
1. The Building Fund is an earmarked fund, which means that the monies donated into it must be spent for their intended purposes. So, yes, Living Water will be able to retain their building fund for that purpose: a permanent building.
2. If it does not charter, and stays a site at St. Luke, the fund will be used to find a permanent location for the site. If for some reason Living Water site no longer exists, then those who contributed to the fund will be approached and asked how they would like the money used (e.g. given to the Michigan District for planting new churches).
11. If Living Water charters, will it have any working capital? Will we get some help from St. Luke getting started?
If we charter, the parent (St. Luke) will support the child (Living Water) with some kind of financial help. How much is to be determined but it will take some time for a new church launch to be financially independent. This is common for any new church launch. A multi-site is VERY different from a new congregational birth.
12. If Living Water stays as part of the reformed St. Luke, what will LW look like?
Pastor Justin shared this with the Charter Team:
Just like ULC and LW, St. Luke is in a process of discerning what their core identity, mission, and direction will be for the future. If LW stays a part of the reformed St. Luke, the people of LW will need to be part of that visioning process.
At this point, it seems clear that as a congregation we will need to find ways to connect with the local communities in which our members live and work. We want to build bridges or piers into places where people would not necessarily be looking for a church, but where we can help them begin to follow Jesus.
St. Luke is at the very beginning of imagining what that could look like; LW could be the trail-blazing group of people committed to reaching their local community and partnering in service with their local community. What we learn in Whitmore Lake could benefit our people in Milan and Saline and West Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Questions about how we resource a group within our congregation who is building a pier into a local community will need to be answered for LW in ways that could be a model for other local communities. To keep a ministry presence in Whitmore Lake in our current situation of congregational size and debt, we would most likely want to find a way to have a physical presence that does not add to our debt load, develop a plan that includes partnering with the community, continue to provide worship at a time that allows one preacher at all of the services of the congregation, and resource the community connections in Whitmore Lake through the same staff that would begin to develop connections in other communities.
As a vision and ministry approach for the whole congregation becomes clearer, we will align ministries and staffing to that vision. As our efforts through the Living Water ministry bear fruit, we would determine at what point that ministry would need to be resourced more as it grows.
13. How do we make up for the value of the administrative services Living Water currently receives from St. Luke?
Look at partnering with another church to share costs (printing/copier)/ use volunteers where possible for data entry, social media updates, website updates, financials, mailings, etc./ budget in the projected costs before deciding if we are viable to charter. These are all possible ways being considered. At the same time, we expect to find some efficiencies and opportunities to right-size support and cut costs.
14. What are the benefits of staying in a multi-site?
1. The most obvious benefits are that of combined resources, which include sharing administrative costs such as personnel, volunteer organization, ministry resources (such as curriculum for children’s ministry), as well as information technology and other services which require up front and ongoing maintenance costs.
2. Indirect benefits include a wider reach into one geographical area, or into surrounding communities which serve similar demographics of the home church. Greater visibility in the community as a result of a larger overall congregation, and more access points. Wider reach in terms of what ministries can be tackled into the community. Because of a larger congregation with more volunteers, more unchurched can be touched by our outreach in more and different ways.
15. Why is St. Luke so intent on rushing this process?
Our SLC has been wrestling for some time with the structure of our multi-site of which the broader congregation was not aware. So, our leadership hired a consultant in May to give recommendation on what we should do. His recommendation was to dissolve. Not all of us agree with this decision but it is the direction that was decided. There are valid reasons for the decision. The problem is that the congregation at large was unaware of the issues so were caught off guard. We will all have to make decisions that are good for the growth of the Kingdom of God. This really is the core value for all of us.
16. How far out of the box are we willing to think as a congregation in order to remain a viable congregation doing a ministry in a challenging location [like Whitmore Lake]?
The vision statement which Pastor Dan and the Chartering Team have crafted will be the structure and foundation of the conversation of the congregation going forward. It is up to all of us to determine “how far out of the box” we want to go. We understand that the drafted vision statement will go through several iteration.
17. Why has Living Water waited so long to charter?
Living Water birthed in October 2004 as a multi-site community. Everything about the DNA of Living Water is enmeshed with multi-site thinking. As a small community in an under populated area, we shared the resources of the large congregation so we were able to do more. For example, Advent by Candlelight. The Music director of all St. Luke helped to create the program, provided production support as well as actors. We could add youth and children’s ministries, worship development (use of video or a sermon series), administrative support, all been a strong advantage to sustaining the multi-site. If we charter we lose these advantages so over the years the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.
18. How will the call process work if we charter?
1. A call committee will be appointed per whatever set of By-Laws we adopt. The call committee would recommend one or more candidates to be called at a meeting of the voting members of Living Water. Whoever we call would then prayerfully consider whether or not God is calling him to Living Water and that includes Pastor Dan.
2. The pastoral call process can be lengthy. As we have learned from other calls in our multi-site, calls can take years to be filled.
19. What happens to Dan?
1. Reform – Pastor Justin shared with the Charter Team: The Reform model will begin a process of discerning what kind of staffing we need as a congregation to fulfill the mission we believe God is placing in front of us. The congregation will have to make decisions about what staffing positions we need, how we will fill them, and in what order. Positions and job descriptions will be aligned to vision, and all of our staff, including Pastor Dan, will be considered for their role in the future make up of congregational staff.
2. CHARTER – Dan will continue with us throughout the chartering process. The pastor that continues with Living Water after the charter will be determined by the pastoral call process and voter’s assembly.
20. What happens to sound equipment, trailers, projectors, and computers? How about maintenance of the equipment?
The recommendation of the Chartering Committee will be that Living Water retain all equipment we use on a weekly basis. This would include the sound equipment, trailers, computers, cables, monitors, music stands, decorations, altar, cross, silver, etc. These are all assets held jointly with the other sites of SLLC. There may be other assets to be distributed as well (e.g. the vans, office equipment, tables and chairs, etc.). That will be determined jointly between the SLC and Living Water should we choose to charter.
As an independent congregation, Living Water would be individually responsible for such things as a/v equipment and the technology required for our church services, etc. Those will be considered as future costs and included in any budget projections put together to estimate future operating costs as an independent congregation.
21. I understand synod does not want to charter any more churches, but will charter missions. What is the difference? What is the difference between chartering a church or a mission?
The synod does want to charter churches. In fact, the health of the synod is based on the establishment of new congregations. As a newly chartered congregation, we will be stepping into a new mission start in many ways. We are relaunching our ministry and working through all the details of becoming our own congregation. We have been in some very helpful conversations with our District leadership on next steps.
22. What guidance will we be able to get from synod? i.e. How to draw people for children’s, youth, men’s, women’s, senior’s ministries.
Because all churches are struggling with relevancy, the leadership of all churches are asking the same questions. One thing that has been clear, the attractional model of doing church where you provide activities and they come doesn’t work anymore. We have to go to the community. Check out our new vision statement.
23. Where will band practice?
The band will figure this out with Pastor Dan. Margaret’s home is still available.
24. Will we be able to coordinate some events with St. Luke?
Yes, it just depends on the area and the need.
25. Where will we worship during chartering?
During the time it takes to charter, if we so choose, we will continue to worship at the Whitmore Lake High School until we find a suitable alternative location which the Site Selection Team is investigating.
26. What did St. Luke/ Living Water/ ULC perceive as its unified mission?
We did have a common vision of Reach Up, Reach In, Reach Out, and now Pastor Justin has crafted six discipleship areas for us to embrace, trusting relationships, giving generously, etc. The issue hasn’t been the unity of mission but rather the governance structure.
27. Is St. Luke planning to do a new multi-site location, other than Whitmore Lake, if so where?
St. Luke is working through its own direction without additional sites. Currently, there are no plans to establish any other sites as we have done them in the past.
28. Is St. Luke considering what happens to the multi-site if St. Paul in Ann Arbor continues with a plan to build a church at their school site on Geddes?
There have been no serious conversations at this time.
29. If we charter separately, would we remain an LCMS congregation?
30. If Living Water did not exist, would the district be looking to plant a church in Whitmore Lake?
Unlikely, the District is using a different model for planting congregations.
31. As a chartered congregation, will we continue to offer Sunday school, nursery and youth group for kids? Will the lack of children’s ministries keep families away?
Living Water has a children’s ministry and will continue to have one. We have children who do not attend Sunday school just as we have adults who choose not to attend Adult Bible Class which is offered each Sunday at 9 AM. In addition, we have Children’s Church which is held during our 10:15 AM Sunday Worship Service while the pastor is preaching. We will continue to try to understand and address the reasons they are choosing not to participate.
Children’s ministry is the gateway into the congregation. Not having children or youth ministries is unacceptable. We are considering a more family style ministry rather than individual groups.
32. What is Living Water – a Whitmore Lake church or a church that serves the area north of Ann Arbor?
The original ministry plan from 2004 states that we are “a church that serves the area north of M14 including Webster, Northfield, Green Oak, and Hamburg townships (see the Living Water Fellowship Ministry Plan, June 15, 2004).
33. If we stay in the reformed St. Luke model, are we going to be able to buy a building?
Because of St. Luke’s debt, the President of the Church Extension Fund (CEF) has said they will not loan any more money to St. Luke which makes the purchase of our own permanent facility only possible if we raise the funds directly or get someone to donate the facility to St. Luke. If Living Water charters independent of St. Luke, CEF has said it would loan us funds depending on the giving of the congregation.
34. Who chooses who is on the call committee if we charter?
It depends on the way the By-Laws are written but it is usually the Elders of the church.
35. Will there be a vote in the future?
Yes, first to approve the By-Laws, which will streamline the St. Luke Leadership structure. And, based on the possible recommendation of the Charter Committee, there would be a vote to charter as an independent congregation. Though there are no voters meetings currently scheduled on the calendar, we expect to vote on chartering before the end of 2015.
36. If Living Water charters, then will the location change and if so, where?
Probably – the Site Selection Team will recommend locations in the area. These recommended sites will be discussed and then voted on by the members of Living Water.
37. Will the expectation be to contribute more?
The expectation is that current giving levels would be kept. If a new building is built or an existing building refurbished, an additional giving campaign would always be part of that. Of course, healthy discipleship of believers creates healthy givers. Yes, the congregation will have additional financial needs but, we firmly believe that people give to a clear and compelling vision. We have been a healthy giving congregation in the past, we expect this to continue.
38. Will there be a new building soon and can we afford it?
Our Site Selection Team is aggressively looking at options. There is every intention of moving forward after the decision to reform or charter is done. We currently have $177,000 in our land account. This certainly is healthy seed money to establishing a permanent ministry.
39. What sort of site and/or a church building are we looking for?
The sort of site or church building chosen is completely dependent upon the future vision for Living Water as an independent congregation. The next task of the Chartering Team, alongside Living Water leaders, is to begin crafting a vision, both inspiring and strategic, which will carry Living Water into the future.
40. Will the location of the site affect people’s decision to stay or leave Living Water?
It appears, from our survey, that this may have some effect on those who are presently undecided as to whether they will continue with Living Water – about 14% (8 family units) to date. They are concerned with the lack of growth and development in Whitmore Lake and the surrounding community.
41. When we have updated the number of unchurched people in Whitmore Lake – is it still the same percentage?
The original demographic study from 2004 said that 63% are unchurched in our area. We do not believe this number has changed.
42. Would this be a total break?
Yes. We would be our own separate entity. We MAY choose to cooperate with centralized administration cost or in other ministry areas. These would be negotiated as a cost to our site.
43. Is Living Water hindering the mission of St. Luke?
We are not hindering the mission of St. Luke. In fact, our outreach has been an encouragement to the mission of our congregation.
44. What is the reason St. Luke wants to release Living Water?
Pastor Justin shared with the Charter Team: If Living Water decides to release from the congregation we want it to be because the people of Living Water believe they can best fulfill the mission of the church as a separate congregation. The congregational leadership has said we should not keep doing what we have been doing. The multisite consultant we hired to help us change the multisite recommended that instead we release all three sites because we have such strong separate identities. The all site SLC decided that the release model made sense for the sake of mission and ministry. If we decide not to release, we will still want to change how we have operated in the past and we would reform both St. Luke—Ann Arbor and Living Water if we agree to move forward together.