Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Florence, Alabama, United States

Pastor

  • Address: 2001 Cloyd Blvd, Florence, Alabama 35630-1501
  • Affiliation: LCMC
  • Contact: Matt Wall
  • Phone: 541.359.7805
  • Email: mattrwall@icloud.com
  • Category: Pastoral Ministry
  • Position Title: Pastor
  • Position Type: Full Time
  • Description:

    Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

    2001 Cloyd Boulevard

    Florence, AL 35630-1501

    (256) 766-6952

    CHURCH PROFILE

    and

    Thoughts for A Pastor

    Looking Into Good Shepherd

     

     

     

    Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Profile

    GENERAL INFORMATION

    °  First chartered 1968.

    °  First building dedicated 1970.

    °  Current expansion dedicated 1999.

    °  Pastors since 1999:  Mike Fish, Michael Bonham, Nedra Merriman, Perry Toso.

    °  Highest membership   120±.

    °  Lowest membership      20±.

    °  Current membership     30±.

    °  Average age is approaching 70.

    °  Went from ELCA to LCMC ~2006.

    FACILITY

    °  Sanctuary holds 120-150±. Overflow to Fellowship Hall

    °  Current mortgage <$325,000.

    °  Insured value is    $1,400,000.

    °  Cushioned chairs seating.

    °  Facility is handicapped accessible.

    °  There is no parsonage.

    °  Ransomed Community Church (~125+ members) share leases under a lease that is in renewal negotiations, with “first refusal” if listed for sale.

    FINANCIAL

    °  2016  Budget  $84,000.

    °  2017  Budget $88,000.

    °  2018   Budget  $96,000.

    °  2017 Giving:  $70,000 (Includes $11,000 fund-raising campaign for a re-roof insurance shortfall, as well as several designated gifts.)

    °  Other 2017 Income $37,000.

    °  17 Giving units.

    °  Part-Time Interim Pastor pay:  $575/month.

    °  Parish Secretary pay:   $225/month.

    °  Pianist pay: $50/performance.

    °  Ransomed Community Church pays $32,000 rent + their share of utilities and lawn mowing.

    °  St. David’s Anglican Church pays $6,000.

    °  Benevolence includes Bible-sticks for military, LCMC, and numerous local charities.

    WORSHIP

    °  1-hour modified traditional service. Piano accompaniment.

    °  Music: traditional, gospel, contemporary

    °  4 hymns per service.

    °  Use bulletin & projected music.

    °  Communion served every week.

    °  Wednesday evening Lent service.

    °  Hymns from: Green Hymnal, With One Voice, Celebration.

    °  The Altar, lectern, and baptismal font are mobile and are moved around as needed to accommodate worship styles of different congregations.

    MINISTRY

    °  Currently no Sunday school.

    °  No choir, some soloists.

    °  Two small functioning groups.

    °  Women’s outreach group.

    °  Want to grow, be self-sufficient.

    °  We want, need young families.

    CONSTITUTION, ORGANIZATION

    °  Part-time interim pastor, lay leaders.

    °  Seven-member Church Council.

    °  Open Communion to all baptized who accept Christ as their Savior

    °  Active Worship Committee.

    °  Active Women’s Ministry.

    °  Numerous Congregational Fellowship activities.

    °  Baptized, confirmed members eligible to vote at Congregation Meetings.

    °  Annual Meeting is traditionally held Sunday before second February Thursday, when the Annual Report and proposed budget are approved.

    °  Council normally meets the second Thursday of the month. In February, it holds election of officers, who then assume their duties.

    COMMUNITY

    °  Local region is mostly conservative: Republican-Democrat ~60/40 mix.

    °  GSLC congregation is mixed liberal and conservative, mostly the latter.

    °  76% of ~80 Florence churches are Baptist, Church of Christ or similar.

    °  Three 4-city “Shoals” area Lutheran churches. The other two are LCMS.

    °  Florence boasts the University of North Alabama (~6,000 students).

    °  Florence ethnicity: 78% Caucasian, 19% African-American in 2010.

    °  The 4-city “Shoals” population is ~175,000. Florence is ~45,000.

    °  Church is in a middle-class neighborhood at the intersection of two arterial streets.

    °  Excellent “Shoals” medical care: 2 hospitals (one regional), several medical clinics, 2 nationally ranked medical research centers 2 and 2½ hours away

    °  Area is noted for its golfing opportunities, excellent lake and river fishing, good hunting. The Gulf is a 5 hour drive south, Interstate/divided highway.

    °  Huntsville, an hour drive east, mostly divided highway, offers convenient access to shopping and entertainment, as well as Redstone Arsenal.

    °  Driving times (in hours) to major metropolitan areas:

       Birmingham: 2   Nashville: 2½   Memphis: 3   Atlanta: 5½.

     

    Thoughts for a Pastor

    Considering Good Shepherd

    These are merely personal thoughts as a Lutheran convert going back 70+ years. Have held active leadership positions in five congregations of more than a dozen attended, and have worked closely with several pastors. The goal for this writing is to provide full disclosure, so Good Shepherd won’t be accused of enticing someone to come here under false colors.

    The right pastor for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church will be part of God’s plan to grow this flock. We can’t expect a pastor to grow us without a strenuous effort on our part; meanwhile, we’re striving to grow. We will continue to give generously of our time, energy, and funds to help our pastor lead us.

    Good Shepherd Weaknesses

    Size.     We’re in a chicken-egg situation:  not large enough to hire a full-time pastor, yet we NEED one for sustained growth. Not enough members for many traditional church activities: Not enough children for Sunday School, nor a choir director — though we have a few members with good voices.

    Congregant Profile.     We are an aging congregation, mostly retirees in our 60s, 70s, even 80s, who were Lutherans when we moved here. Given our small size, there is little to attract younger families with children.

    Community Culture.     The “South” is often referred to as the “Bible-belt” for Evangelicals. The two largest church groups are Church of Christ and Baptist. Liturgical denominations are a distinct minority.

    Economy.     “Shoals” economy (Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, Tuscum-bia) has grown slowly with ups and downs. As a result, many young adults seeking meaningful employment have moved out of the area.

    Good Shepherd Strengths

    Community.     University of North Alabama (~6,000 students) with numerous majors is in Florence and hosts the Shoals Symphony. The Shoals has a long and distinguished western music and pop heritage. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is in Tuscumbia, recording studios are in Muscle Shoals. Early December, the Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital will occupy an expanded regional medical facility with numerous medical specialties previously unavailable in the area.

    Facility.     Our primary physical asset is a well-maintained 10,500 sf, $1.4 m facility that is attractive, efficient, and handicapped accessible. Add a Baldwin grand piano with superb sound, and a great audio-visual system. It’s in a good location: the intersection of two arterial streets in a middle-class neighborhood at  Cloyd Boulevard and Darby Drive, close to shopping, not far from downtown.

    The large stained-glass window with a contemporary crucifix motif has become a landmark in the community. Folks who seemingly have never heard of Good Shepherd immediately know at least where we are, when they hear, “The church on Darby Drive with the big stained-glass window.”

    Attitude.     What we lack in numbers, we try to compensate with a caring attitude for each other. Our Worship Committee has been receptive to new worship ideas. This congregation is NOT resistant to change. And from a financial standpoint, this congregation’s giving to income ratio is astounding.

    Ecumenical History.     We have hosted new congregations in our facility for years. It helps financially, but also we strongly feel that our facility is too valuable to be used only the few hours a week Good Shepherd requires.

    The Holy Spirit’s plan seems to be for us to be an incubator for new churches. In 2006, we welcomed start-up Grace Bible Church. Within two years, they built their own facility in north Florence.

    In 2010, we rented to Church of the Shoals. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for a number of reasons, and it folded early 2015.

    In mid-2015, we entered into a 3-year lease with Ransomed Community Church, affiliated with the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. We enjoy a delightful working relationship with this young and vibrant congregation. Currently, we are in friendly lease-renewal negotiations. They intend to start a new “plant congregation” in Sheffield, on the other side of the Tennessee River.

    We also share-lease to St. David Anglican Church, a small group who have left their church over differences regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay pastors and bishops.

    Current Good Shepherd Situation

    In its 50 years of existence, this congregation has varied in size from 20± to 120±. We’re 30± now, growing slowly. The faithful core is sincere, dedicated, hard working. Several drive 25 miles one-way.

    We have a variety of talents, we want our church to grow, we’re working at it, and we’re eager to be led by the right pastor. That right pastor needs to be a good preacher, who does visitations and can grow a congregation by getting out and meeting folks.

    We have a retired Disciples of Christ interim pastor, for twice monthly sermons, periodic Bible-study, visiting the sick, but no evangelizing visits or council meetings, in consideration of his lack of Lutheran seminary training.

    His salary reflects his dedication far more than our largesse. He is a long-time friend of the congregation. He has additional pursuits, and he looks forward to gracefully transitioning out as our new pastor finds his or her sea legs.

    Worship Leader, Don Anderson, President Chuck Bermele (Burr-MEEL) and Council Secretary Matt Wall rotate for delivering messages the other Sundays.

     

     

    Vision for the Future

    Our Vision Statement is short on growth specifics. That’s good, because we’re eager to have our new pastor involved:

    We invite any baptized Christians who come through our doors to join us at the table of Jesus Christ, to share with us the body and blood being served here. We further welcome, openly and warmly, all who enter here in search of God’s word and forgiveness.

    Details the Prospective Pastor Needs to Know

    Church Staff.     The staff is mostly volunteer — plus three part-timers (pastor, church secretary, pianist — classified as “contractors” versus “employees” for IRS purposes). Everyone on staff invests an inordinate amount of time.

    Church Leadership.    The congregation delegates leadership to the council, on which good people are working in Christian harmony and good faith. Given our small congregation’s size, the seven-person council reflects congregational attitudes, if only because a high percentage of our members are on it.

    We consider a pastor to be sort of an ecclesiastical CEO, with the council a board of directors whose historical memory, community knowledge and contacts are there to be drawn on. Active congregation members (including council members) wear two hats: worker-bee and shareholder.

    A pastor’s suggestions will carry great weight, though our constitution gives the congregation final say.  Council and staff execute decisions and run things. This lets the pastor concentrate on (no pun intended) being a “good shepherd.”

    For years, the congregation has approved all council actions, budgets, and the like. From past experience, we are hyper-sensitive regarding pastoral control. A pastor with ideas and suggestions, will be listened to and probably followed, but based on history, a dictatorial, controlling pastor would not work out.

    Per our constitution and by-laws, the council has no succession of chairs. Its members are elected for staggered 3-year terms, with a 2-term limit. A member may serve no more than 3 consecutive years in any position — except the treasurer, who is elected by the congregation. Given our small size, those term and service limits are waived. The council elects its other officers from among its members. Sounds weird, but council members know who among them is best qualified for a given position. It works well!

    Congregational Profile.     We have two problems: (1) small size, and (2) aging. True, age is just a number. However, it reduces one’s energy level. Four council members are in or approaching their 80s. Only one is under 65. Fortunately, we’re in reasonably good health. We are hospitable in welcoming visitors, without pouncing on them. That has helped us grow, ever so slowly, but we need a compassionate, energetic, full-time leader with good preaching skills to accelerate our growth.

    Congregational Politics.     We don’t have serious factions, as any unhappy folks have left. Also we’re so small, no one bothers to be political on church matters. For what it’s worth, most of the congregation is politically conservative.

    Most of the congregation is a close-knit core that hosts numerous social events. Everyone is truly welcome, including friends who attend other churches. There aren’t hard feelings against folks who may be disinterested in social activities.

    Local “Mind-Set.”     The region is not traditionally Lutheran. Most Lutherans here are transplants. That said, Alabamians are friendly, helpful, and warm. The reputed “Southern hospitality” IS for real.

    Uniqueness of the Tennessee Valley.     The Tennessee river runs between the two northern tiers of counties. The area, particularly Florence, differs greatly from the rest of Alabama. This is largely due to the presence of UNA. Also, there’s the space- and defense-oriented Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. Our area’s ambiance reminds one of an outer Nashville suburb.

    There’s a small town feel, with larger cities conveniently accessible. Topography is gently rolling, with an abundance of hardwoods and conifers, interspersed with farm fields on level terrain. Outdoors, there are opportunities for hiking, fishing, and hunting. Sadly, the area isn’t cyclist-friendly, except for a few streets close to UNA.

    The county is the best kept retirement secret ever: low property taxes, low cost of living, benign climate, convenient shopping, good schools, a university, great medical care, and effective police and sheriff departments. Alabama does NOT tax “defined benefit” income, such as Social Security and most pensions.

    Market Opportunities.     The “Shoals” area has 175,000 persons, over half living south of the Tennessee River. Lutheran churches are: Good Shepherd and two LCMS, one on either side of the river. Growth possibilities are obvious.

    This IS the “Bible Belt.” In the 2010 census, 76% of the 80 Florence churches were evangelical: Baptist, Church of Christ, etc.  Liturgical churches are few. The 2010 population of ethnic minorities was just under 20%.

    There are professional opportunities in Florence: University of North Alabama (UNA) and some high-tech firms. Some folks drive to Huntsville. Most manufacturing is south of the river. With three convenient bridges, the river doesn’t present as much of a barrier to crossing as one often finds in river towns.

    Our Sanctuary has excellent acoustics, so it is often used for community events, such as the Camerata and UNA music major performances; also weddings or funerals, with the Fellowship Hall used for refreshments or potlucks afterwards.

    The Florence Mayor has traditionally hosted a quarterly Prayer Breakfast for all pastors and worship staff, at which time information on civic matters is presented, ideas for coordination between the city and religious community are discussed, and concerns can be addressed.

    Our Name.     When the facility more than doubled its size in 1999, Pastor Mike Fish had the name changed from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church to Church of the Good Shepherd.

    There may be valid reasons for that. Unlike our northern states with a high percentage of Scandinavians and Germans, Lutherans are a definite minority here. Numerous folks in the area have no idea what a Lutheran is. They may or may not connect it with Martin Luther, and those who don’t know may consider us a sect.

    News of the ELCA ordaining gay pastors and installing openly gay bishops has reached this region, with a highly negative reaction. The majority of non-Lutherans have no idea that the LCMC is totally different from the ELCA. If we retain “Lutheran” our church name (which I prefer, but won’t fall on my sword over it), we need to let folks know what we stand for.

    A recent survey of millennials found an increasing percentage is attracted to a liturgical worship style, Lutherans are reputed to be liturgical, so keeping “Lutheran” in our name may be advantageous.

    Currently we say the Kyrie, rather than sing it. I’d be the first to fix bayonets and lead the charge for singing the Kyrie — any version!

    Worship Style.     The vast majority of the congregation is averse to loud drums and a drawn-out contemporary song style distinctly different from hymn singing, that some refer to as “wailing.” That said, nearly everyone admits we need a more contemporary style to attract younger folks — it’s absolutely necessary if we are to survive. Loud drums are definitely out.

    There’s a consensus on gradually working in a contemporary style:

    °  Instruments offering the most potential are violins, guitars, and flutes singly, any two, or all three.

    °  We sing four “hymns” a service, many of them Gospel oldies. There won’t be resistance to one with non-piano accompaniment — two hymns later. One member has contacts with musicians who would be glad to perform, but doesn’t want to approach them unless it will be a “go” if they accept.

    Share-Leasing.      This has been key to survival. With share-lease tenants five times our size, it can be the tail wagging the dog, despite how well we mesh with our current tenants. Of necessity and Christian good will, we have bent over backwards to accommodate our tenants, and at least the leadership has no resentment, despite a few grumbles. As we grow under a new pastor, we may reach a point where we would welcome having the church to ourselves.

    Opportunities for Growth.     This congregation was once over 120, so it isn’t unreasonable to assume that under a good leader, we can get there again. For our pastor to succeed, we have to offer something to attract individuals and make them want to keep coming. “Come worship with us ...” isn’t as effective as, “Come, worship, participate in family activities, bring the little ones ..."

    Any salary offer will represent a leap of faith — for both parties. Our members can increase contributions some — but right now there’s not enough income for a full-time pastor. Initial salary will likely be at the “part time” level, until we experience growth. A semi-retired pastor or one with outside income can do well. Until growth happens, it is comforting that rental rates are low here.

    Pastor Carl has said he looks forward to meeting our new pastor to answer any questions, without telling him or her what to do. He intends to step aside quickly, to pursue other interests. He and our current lay preachers will gladly fill in for preaching, so “time off” should not be a problem.

    The new pastor needs confidence in being able to grow the congregation. With success, salary will rise as well. No growth, no raise, but that’s still far better than contending with fires of discord and dissent found in some places.

    Folks in the area could be attracted to Good Shepherd by a well-planned and executed evangelism drive. Just a few more families will improve our income.

    How would this happen? Advertising and hosting a few meaningful events can attract the public. An outgoing pastor who circulates in the area should do the rest. The Shoals is growing, and it has several positive demographics.

    Other Thoughts

    If someone feels led by the Holy Spirit, this IS the place to be — particularly if that someone has confidence in his or her ability to grow Good Shepherd through preaching, visitation, and counseling. Our Pastor will have a definite say in an evangelism and membership campaign.

    There is a cadre of conscientious hard workers willing to assist. We’ll give our pastor prayerful support, strenuous membership effort, and a salary increase to a respectable level, commensurate with growth and giving, soon as possible.

    Pray earnestly and whole-heartedly that you are being led by the Holy Spirit and that God grants you discernment to follow His plan for your career, regardless of where that leads.

    Pray also for His plan for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church to be implemented — with you as a part of it, if indeed, it is HIS will, and for all of us, if it is not.

    Yours in Christ,

    Matthias R. Wall

    Matthias (Matt) R. Wall,  Council Secretary

    MWall@CalPoly.edu             541-359-7805