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!

Download NECC Strategic Plan PDF



Pastoral Transition at Naperville Covenant Church

Members and Friends of NECC,

Several follow-up questions have arisen in relation to the proposed transition process and timeline the Executive Board recommended at the Annual Congregational Meeting on Sunday, May 6, 2018. In an effort to provide everyone with the same information, please see the questions and answers below. As additional questions are raised, we will do our best to update this summary and continue to make it available to you as the process evolves.



What’s the function of the Discernment/Search Committee? What does the Executive Board mean by ‘discernment’?

First of all, let’s define what we mean by discernment. Ruth Haley Barton, in her book “Pursuing God’s Will: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups” says: “Discernment, in the most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God – both in ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives.” Romans 12 speaks of the “renewing of our minds so that we can discern the will of God.” During the discernment process as it applies to consideration of an Associate Pastor who may be called to serve as Lead Pastor at the church at which they are serving, the committee’s job will be to discover whether or not there is clarity to move forward with the issuance of a call to serve as Lead Pastor. Briefly, the committee will worship together, listen deeply to the questions and concerns brought by the Associate Pastor, question him/her in a careful, gentle and open-ended manner, reflect back what has been heard and find clarity on whether the Committee should support the issuance of a call to serve as Lead Pastor. Additional opportunities for congregational input will be available during the committee’s discernment process — surveys, town meeting format and small group discussions are some of the methods for congregational input available to the committee. There are clear guidelines and processes for this; the NECC Discernment/Search Committee will be facilitated by a neutral expert from the ECC whose only goal is to help the Committee and the congregation look and listen for the activity and leading of God. The Executive Board has reached out to the ECC Spiritual Director network to seek advice and counsel about leading this process. The process can be completed in six weeks; thereby allowing the committee to move forward in whatever direction the Holy Spirit is leading at its conclusion.

Who’s going to be serve on the Discernment/Search Committee?

The Executive Board (EB) continues to talk with other Covenant leaders and churches about their latest pastoral search processes to ascertain best practices. We are recommending a discernment/search committee made up of 8 to 10 people (best for group decision making dynamics), with one to two members selected from each of the following four committees: Board of Spiritual Life, Nominating Committee, Staffing Structure Committee and the Executive Board, as well as additional active volunteer Members of the congregation. All of the potential members should be actively engaged in the regular ministry of the church. It will be up to each committee to nominate up to two members to serve on the Discernment/Search Committee. These volunteer leaders must be willing to serve as long as a year or more and be willing to put in the necessary time to discern and do a national open call, whether it’s for the Lead or Associate Pastor. Each committee will forward up to two names to the EB, which will then present them to the congregation for approval at the July congregational meeting. If you are not on one of these committees and are an active Member of NECC and would like to be considered to serve on this discernment/search committee, please let one of the Executive Board members know by July 1st.

Is there any way to avoid the “messiness” and hurt feelings that often accompany leadership transitions in small, family churches with a congregational form of government? 

Our goal as an Executive Board is to lead the church through this transition process in a healthy way. This does not mean that we will always agree, but that we will listen and respect each other’s opinions and be open and transparent with one another. It’s a high bar, but we believe we can do it, if we keep Jesus at the center of our conversations and our desires. The process we’ve outlined represents the Executive Board’s best thinking. We continue to gather more information from other Covenant churches on their processes; multiple Covenant leaders, pastors and church chairs have expressed support for the discernment process we’ve outlined.

Even though we may not always agree, we can remain unified in Christ Jesus by remembering that each one of us is a brother/sister in Christ. We must respectfully listen and try and learn from each other, discerning together the Lord’s calling for our church. It probably will not be without hardship at points along the way, but as we know all too well, we often grow closer to the Lord as a result of hardship. We encourage all to pray fervently for God’s leading and direction and protection over us as a congregation as we try to discern the way God is leading us forward.

Some members of the NECC congregation suggest beginning the search process for a new Lead Pastor with an open call in which Pastor Diana would be a candidate among other external candidates. Why does the Executive Board recommend the discernment process for Pastor Diana’s candidacy instead of beginning with an open search?

When discussing this with other Covenant leaders, pastors and church chairs to date, all acknowledge a growing trend in the Evangelical Covenant Church of viable, quality Associate Pastors who are feeling called to move up to Lead or Senior Pastor positions in churches where they’ve faithfully served. We believe that considering Pastor Diana’s candidacy first is fairest to both the church and to Pastor Diana. No candidate we bring in externally will ever know our congregation in the way Pastor Diana does; and we will never know any external candidate in the way we know Pastor Diana. Therefore, we are recommending that the Discernment/Search Committee consider her candidacy first, led by a neutral, trained ECC discernment facilitator, in an effort to determine together with Pastor Diana whether to extend a “call” as Lead Pastor. If she is not called, or chooses not to pursue a call as a result of this discernment process, the search committee will then revert to its more traditional role and a national “open call” can begin this fall. If she is recommended by the Committee to be called as our next Lead Pastor, the congregation will meet and vote on the call and the committee can then begin a national open call for an Associate Pastor of Family & Youth.

Are we favoring Pastor Diana’s candidacy at the expense of other potentially viable and strong external candidates if we opt to pursue a discernment process with Pastor Diana before considering an open call?

Several of us on the Executive Board have had extensive experience in national searches that include inside candidates. Often times, good external candidates choose not to submit their credentials because of a perception that the “inside candidate” has an “inside track” OR they don’t want to be perceived as “competing” against the inside candidate. The Evangelical Covenant Church is a small denomination, known for its deep relationships. Pastor Diana’s candidacy in an open call will affect the candidate pool. This has been communicated repeatedly by other leaders in the Covenant, pastors and church chairs who have experienced this during previous searches. The Executive Board believes the process we’ve outlined is the fairest to and for our church and for Pastor Diana. We believe that the congregation of NECC knows her well enough to prayerfully discern together with Pastor Diana whether God is calling her as our next Lead Pastor.

As an Executive Board, we are also reminded that if we begin with an open call for the Lead Pastor and call Pastor Diana as our next Lead Pastor, we will then enter into a second open call for the Associate Pastor position for Families/Children and Youth. Both of these searches will take at least a year of volunteer time and have financial costs in the thousands. If we can save time and money with the same results, we would like to honor the Lord through good stewardship of our precious volunteer and financial resources. The congregation should also be aware that moving expenses will need to be provided to support any call for either Lead or Associate Pastor if the congregation selects someone from outside the Chicago area. Again, none of these are reasons in and of themselves for choosing a Pastor or Associate, but nevertheless factors that should be weighed in making decisions on processes.

If Pastor Diana is not called to serve NECC as our next Lead Pastor, will she stay and continue to serve our congregation?

Pastor Diana believes God may be calling her to serve as our next Lead Pastor. Should the discernment process not confirm this, she will continue to serve in her current role until God calls her to another role or purpose. Should this occur, she and we as an Executive Board and congregation will continue to pray and seek the Lord’s counsel and guidance regarding next steps. Pastor Diana has served NECC faithfully for 13 years; she is a daughter of our Lord and a sister in Christ. We are confident, as is Pastor Diana, that the Lord will continue to direct her and our steps, no matter where those steps lead all of us.

How does the congregational part of the call process actually work? Who can vote on extending a call on behalf of the congregation?

The NECC By-Laws state that the “Senior Pastor shall be called at a congregational business meeting. He or she shall be chosen by a ballot with a ⅔ vote required for a call.” “Proposals to hire or dismiss Ministry Staff (meaning all staff OTHER than the senior pastor) shall be brought from the Executive Board to a congregational business meeting. A majority vote of the business meeting is required to hire or dismiss staff.” In other words, the vote to issue a call for Lead/Senior Pastor will be conducted by written ballot of all active members of the congregation at a business meeting, and a minimum of ⅔ vote is required to issue a call. If you have not formally joined NECC as a member and consider NECC your church home, Pastors Scot and Diana will be leading a Membership Inquiry class in August.

I’m almost embarrassed to ask this question in this day and age, but is it biblical for a woman to serve as Lead Pastor?

Please never be embarrassed to ask a question! The short answer is “YES!” Our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, struggled with this question and theologians debated this issue in the early-mid 1970s. In 1976, the Evangelical Covenant Church formally affirmed women in all ministry and leadership positions within the church, both lay and clergy. “We believe that the biblical basis for service in the body of Christ is giftedness, a call from God and godly character — not gender.” (Evangelical Covenant Church position on women in ministry)

What is the biblical basis for the ECC’s position on women in ministry?”

“We believe in the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, as the word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct. Our tradition, therefore has always been to ask, ‘Where is it written?’ on matters of faith, doctrine and conduct. Our position on women in ministry flows from our high view of Scripture and is not derived from cultural or societal trends. We believe that ‘women ought to minister not because society says so but because the Bible leads the Church to such a conclusion.’ “(Called & Gifted, Sharon Cairns Mann, 2004.)

A 16 page pamphlet examining the theology and scriptural issues behind the ECC’s decision to affirm women in ministry can be downloaded free from the ECC’s website at https://covchurch.org/resources/called-and-gifted-material/

Additional resources available from the Evangelical Covenant Church on the issue of women in ministry can be found at https://covchurch.org/vocational-ministry/women/ Many of these resources are available at no cost and can be downloaded.

For additional Scriptural reference on the issue of women in ministry, please review Romans 16.

How many women pastors are serving in ECC churches currently?

According to the ECC’s Credentialing Office in Ordered Ministry, 89 women are currently serving in lead/senior/solo pastorates in ECC churches (approximately 10%), while 199 are serving as associate or in other pastoral roles. (as of May 2018)

Given our new vision of living into becoming a multicultural church, where does the ECC stand in terms of multicultural pastoral staff, whether lead/senior/solo or associate pastors?

Number of African American men in lead/senior/solo pastorate: 35

Number of African American women in lead/senior/solo pastorate: 5

Number of Latino men in lead/senior/solo pastorate: 39

Number of Latina women in lead/senior/solo pastorate: 6

Number of Asian men in lead/senior/solo pastorate: 33

Number of Asian women in lead/senior/solo pastorate: 1


Number of African American men in other pastoral roles: 6

Number of African American women in other pastoral roles: 11

Number of Latino men in other pastoral roles: 5

Number of Latina women in other pastoral roles: 6

Number of Asian men in other pastoral roles: 17

Number of Asian women in other pastoral roles: 6


Number of active credentialed African American men: 63

Number of active credentialed African American women: 29

Number of active credentialed Latino men: 72

Number of active credentialed Latina women: 22

Number of active credentialed Asian men: 92

Number of active credential Asian women:19


Total number of active credentialed men: 1421

Total number of active credentialed women: 460


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?

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!”




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