Our Strategic Plan
We have been on a “Vitality Pathway” at Naperville Covenant since 2012. The pathway has led us to assess our strengths, identify potential growth areas and then to seek God’s direction as we have affirmed a new sense of mission and vision. Our vision looks to a “preferred future” that we believe God has for us: Imagine an inviting community equipping people to go make a Kingdom difference. Our STRATEGIC PLAN, approved in the fall of 2012, highlights key areas to address in our life together. It is now providing a roadmap for us as we pray, grow and work together in the direction of that vision. Take a look and let us know what you think – and maybe where you believe God wants you to join us on this pathway to congregational vitality with YOUR gifts and passions!
Pastoral Transition at Naperville Covenant Church
What’s Next: Moving from Here to There Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Responses provided by NECC Executive Board — Kathy Buettner, Chair; Dave Sladkey, Vice Chair; Susan Casey, Secretary; Debra Streich, Stewardship/Finance Ministry Group Director & Pastors Scot Gillan and Diana Shiflett.
In May, 2017 Senior Pastor Scot Gillan announced his planned retirement from full-time pastoral ministry at NECC effective May, 2019. In doing so, he provided NECC with a tremendous gift — the gift of time. Time to plan, time to discern, time to pray and time to gather as a congregation to listen together for God’s call for our future. The key question the Executive Board has focused on for this transition period is clear and straightforward: What does God want to accomplish through NECC in the next 5-10 years? While the question is direct, the answers require prayer, careful listening to each other, and discerning God’s plans and will for NECC and our current and future leaders. It’s humbling and challenging, and we will struggle together to get it right. Yet, if we remain unified and focused on loving, listening, serving and following Jesus as a family of believers, we are confident God will make our path straight.
- How do we figure out God’s plans and purpose for NECC?
- What’s the proposed timeline for this process?
- What is the function of the new Staffing Study Committee and why do we need it?
- Who is on this committee? How were its members selected?
- When will their recommendations be available and will those recommendations be shared with the congregation?
- Why are we doing strategic planning BEFORE we call a new pastor?
- How do we hire a new pastor? Are we required to hire an Evangelical Covenant Covenant pastor?
- When do we establish a search committee and what is its role?
- How is the search committee selected?
- Is Pastor Diana open to moving into a larger role of pastoral leadership?
- What happens to children and youth programming leadership should Pastor Diana become the new pastor at NECC? Will she still be involved?
- Do we have an annual budget strong enough to maintain two full-time pastors in 2019 and beyond?
- How can I as one person be involved?
- Will NECC host a retirement celebration to honor Pastor Scot’s decade of leadership?
- Will Pastor Scot continue to attend NECC after he retires?
How do we figure out God’s plans and purpose for NECC?
Over the last four years the Executive Board has been taking time to pray and listen for God’s direction for our church; and over the last year the BSL has been invited into this process as well. In October we invited the greater body of our church to join with us in prayer, discernment, and conversation. We are currently reviewing and updating our vision and developing renewed goals to move NECC in the direction of an updated vision for the next 5-10 years. This won’t be a whole new vision and plan, but it is a time to build on and add to the progress we have made under our 2012 strategic plan. This is calling us all to prayerful listening and discernment together.
What’s the proposed timeline for this process?
As of December, 2017, we remain on track with this planning timeline:
September, 2017 – Executive Board, BSL worked on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Barriers (SWOB) Analysis.
October, 2017 – Congregation received letter from Executive Board with more information on planning process; finalized and distributed summary of 2012 Strategic Plan; held congregational meeting to approve a Staffing Study Committee, roundtable discussions focused on values and current strengths on which to build, and a time of listening prayer.
November, 2017 – Further follow-up conversations and feedback from with those unable to attend 10/29 congregational meeting; EB and BSL reviewed community survey information gathered by BSL about needs in our local community; began vision development at EB and BSL levels.
December 2017 – Reviewed all data and feedback, spent time in prayer and began to develop new sense of vision at EB meeting.
January 2018 – Finalize proposed vision, explain and invite congregation to January 28, 2018 Congregational meeting to present/discuss vision, invite feedback and explain next steps in process
February 2018 – Distribute meeting summary to church, invite further feedback and potentially hold Sunday morning conversations on vision; begin to zero in on a few key strategic focus areas to begin the work of strategic planning
March 2018 – EB and BSL continue strategic plan development; parallel staffing discussions held by Staffing Study Committee with recommendations due 4/1/2018
April 2018 – EB and BSL review and finalize Staffing Study recommendations; finalize strategic plan development, prepare recommendations for Fiscal Year 2019 NECC Budget, distribute information to congregation
May 6, 2018 – NECC Annual Congregation Meeting (Anticipated Action Items)
- Approve Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget
- Approve 5-10 year Strategic Plan
- Approve Staffing recommendations
- Approve Search Committee
June 2018 – Search Committee begins its work
March 2019 – Search Committee recommends final candidates (three or less) for interviews by Executive Board, BSL and existing NECC ministry staff
April 2019 – Board/Staff interviews
May 2019 – Annual Congregational Meeting to call and affirm new pastoral staff
What is the function of the new Staffing Study Committee and why do we need it?
We need to determine the staff structure that will best support the strategic direction of where God is calling NECC to over the next 5-10 years. In essence, we have to know what type of leader we are seeking. The Executive Board recommended for congregational approval, a Staffing Study Committee to explore various successful staffing structures at similar healthy Covenant and other protestant churches of our size, budget, age, governance, etc. The committee is closely tracking and working parallel with the NECC strategic planning process. Pastor Scot, Pastor Diana and Kayla Davenport serve as staff to the committee, helping the chair develop agendas, schedule meetings and provide advice to the committee regarding healthy church structural models, as well as information about their own job responsibilities. The Study Committee is also taking into account current NECC budget constraints and make recommendations for future NECC staffing (beginning in 2019) that may involve multi-year structural staffing plans to achieve full staffing in key ministry areas of teaching, worship, children, youth and adult programming, outreach and administration. The structural recommendations can include full-time and part time paid positions, as well as volunteer staff positions.
“A healthy pastoral transition is one that enables a church to move forward into the next phase of its external and internal development with a new leader appropriate to those developmental tasks, and with a minimum of spiritual, programmatic, material and people losses during the transition. The focus should be on preserving spiritual, programmatic, material and people resources as much as possible during the transition.” (The Elephant in the Boardroom, Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transition. Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree, 2004)
Who is on this committee? How were its members selected?
Members of the Staffing Study Committee include: Samantha Zylstra, Chair; Roy Hori, Vice Chair; Josh Christ, Ed Gilbreath, Debbie Morrone, Gretchen Pinard, Alice Salzman,and Debra Streich – one from the Executive Board, three from the Board of Spiritual Life, and four at-large members who were prayerfully selected to represent diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, length of time at NECC, single/married, etc. The Executive Board requested and received congregational approval for the Staffing Study Committee at the 10/29/2017 congregational meeting.
“A congregation planning for transition needs to build capacity at the leadership level. It needs strategic thinkers and planners. It needs marketing and communications experts. It needs people with skills in personnel recruitment, management and coaching. It needs people who understand fundraising and financial management. It needs psychologists and counselors who can help high-level people work together in periods of stress without getting entangled in personal issues and baggage. It needs professional artists who can paint and sculpt and sing people into new places. All these people need to be spiritually grounded.” (The Elephant in the Boardroom, Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transition. Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree, 2004)
When will their recommendations be available and will those recommendations be shared with the congregation?
The Executive Board has requested the committee provide future staffing structural recommendations to the Executive Board and the Board of Spiritual Life by April 1, 2018. The staffing recommendations will encompass Spring 2019 and beyond as our “What’s Next: Moving from Here to There” strategic plan is finalized and approval anticipated by the congregation at the May 6, 2018 Annual Meeting. The Executive Board and the BSL will share the Study Committee’s recommendations with the congregation once the recommendations have been reviewed and discussed, prior to the May 6, 2018 Annual Meeting.
Why are we doing strategic planning BEFORE we call a new pastor?
Members of the Executive Board began researching the methodology for a healthy pastoral transition process early in 2017. Pastor Scot suggested several books on the subject — specifically, The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken About Pastoral Transitions and NEXT: Pastoral Succession that Works. Other books such as Who Moved My Pulpit? And Weird, Because Normal Isn’t Working (by Covenant Pastor Craig Groeschel) and Navigating Pastoral Leadership in the Transition Zone (by Covenant Pastor Darrell Griffin) have also been referenced. What we’ve discovered is that NECC represents a “family church” model; the best way to transition in a healthy manner within this type of smaller church is to engage the congregation and church leadership in a strategic planning process around where God is leading the church in the next 5-10 years. Once the congregation is able to unify around a vision we believe God has for NECC, it will be easier to select new pastoral leadership to shepherd and guide the congregation along the journey to which God has called us.
“The pastoral leader must have the qualities that enable a church to accomplish its strategic objectives. A listing of these qualities constitutes a set of specifications that should be used by the board and the search committee in recruiting candidates. Linking the search process to strategic thinking has a particular benefit in that it produces a health-based approach to specifying a new leader…..we mean that the specifications for a new leader are: 1) linked to a positive vision for the future rather than restoring the past; 2) built on the strengths of the church, rather than fixing what’s broken; 3) intended to move the church to the next level of development rather than reduce to the church to a previous level and start over; and 4) focused on new opportunities in the environment for the vision.” (The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions.)
How do we hire a new pastor? Are we required to hire an Evangelical Covenant Covenant pastor?
As an Evangelical Covenant church, we use what is known as a “call system” where the local church searches and conducts interviews, eventually recommending a candidate to the congregation. When the congregation votes its approval, a “call” is extended. Our NECC by-laws state that the pastor shall be a “member in good standing in the Covenant Ministerium,” ordained or in the process of seeking ordination. That does not mean we cannot seek a candidate from outside the Covenant, but rather we would make the pursuit of Covenant credentials a condition of their call. However, keeping our search within the Covenant gives us a strengthened degree of confidence in light of the high level of training, required continuing education and accountability demanded of Covenant pastors.
When do we establish a search committee and what is its role?
Historically in Covenant churches, a search committee has not been established until after the previous pastor has completed his or her ministry. But with the increasing number of “boomer” Covenant pastors retiring and the uniqueness of our staffing situation, the Executive Board is proposing a different approach, including commencing the search in advance of Scot’s retirement. If we remain on-task in both our strategic planning and staffing study processes, the congregation will be asked to approve, on the recommendation of the Executive Board, the creation of a Search Committee and its potential members at the May 6, 2018 Annual Meeting. The Search Committee will begin work immediately, finalizing an updated pastoral job description and completing a church profile which will help candidates know and understand who we are. Our ECC Central Conference Superintendent will provide additional information, guidance and pastoral profiles to the Search Committee. The ECC will also make our position posting available to all Covenant pastors, and the Search Committee may choose to make contacts outside the Covenant. Again, departing from what has heretofore been a more traditional search process, the Executive Board plans to ask the Search Committee develop a selection process in which they recommend not more than three final candidates to the Executive Board, Board of Spiritual Life and existing NECC ministry staff for interviews. The Executive Board will then recommend one final candidate to the congregation and ask the congregation to issue a “call.”. If we are successful in following our timeline, the congregational meeting to vote on the “call” of a new pastor will be held in Spring, 2019 around the time Scot concludes his ministry.
How is the search committee selected?
The NECC Constitution & By-Laws are silent on the composition and selection processes for a Search Committee, other than to note that the Committee should be approved by the Congregation prior to beginning its work. Since the Search Committee will require considerable time and energy from each of its members, the Executive Board will consider volunteers and request participation from members of the Congregation who have specific skill sets in key areas that will ensure a representative, diverse and well-rounded Search Committee. The Executive Board is planning to recommend a Search Committee, its specific roles and responsibilities and potential members to the Congregation for approval at the May 6, 2018 Annual Meeting.
Is Pastor Diana open to moving into a larger role of pastoral leadership?
Pastor Diana has been very open with the Executive Board and the Board of Spiritual Life about her calling, love and passion for NECC and our congregation. She has expressed that she would be honored to accept a pastoral call to further her ministry at NECC at this time.
What happens to children and youth programming leadership should Pastor Diana become the new pastor at NECC? Will she still be involved?
The board would then recommend approval of a search committee to staff children/youth ministry leadership or a recommended position that results from the staffing committee (after review and discussion by the BSL and the EB). This question reinforces the importance of looking at the bigger picture of ministerial team staffing at NECC, looking closely at our current staff and matching their talents and gifts with program needs and current financial reality.
Do we have an annual budget strong enough to maintain two full-time pastors in 2019 and beyond?
That is a question the Staffing Study Committee is wrestling with as they examine other healthy church staffing structures for similar sized, age and budget congregations. The Executive Board and Board of Spiritual Life will review, discuss and pray over the recommendations coming from the Staffing Study Committee, and the Executive Board will make a recommendation on staffing structure to the Congregation at the May 6, 2018 annual meeting. No major staffing structural changes are anticipated prior to spring/summer 2019.
How can I as one person be involved?
- Pray for clarity as we wrestle with the question “What is God calling NECC to over the next decade?”
- Pray for our pastoral ministry team and our future leaders.
- Pray that NECC leaders and congregation continue to open our hearts and minds to fully discerning God’s desire for future leadership of our family of believers here at NECC.
- Participate in any church surveys, attend small or focus groups scheduled on different strategic issues facing the church and additional congregational discussions and meetings.
- If you have questions or concerns, seek out a member of the Executive Board or one of the pastors and share your ideas, suggestions, concerns or questions. Your staff and elected leaders are committed to listening and learning!
Will NECC host a retirement celebration to honor Pastor Scot’s decade of leadership?
Yes, absolutely. We will be planning a retirement celebration for Pastor Scot in the Spring, 2019. More information will be forthcoming as it draws closer. When Pastor Scot interviewed with the NECC search committee for his current position in 2009, one of his goals was to be able to have the church celebrate his ultimate retirement, as healthy pastoral transition has been a challenge in our church history.
Will Pastor Scot continue to attend NECC after he retires?
Though Scot and Meagan plan to stay in their home in Naperville, out of respect to new leadership and with a desire to give new leaders space to develop their ministries, they will likely step away and find another Chicago area Covenant church where they can worship and serve as volunteers. But, as Scot says, “We can still be friends!”