Due to the failing economy and a decline in attendance numbers, The Chapel in Akron, Ohio needed to make budget cuts. They had to trim $760,000 from their staff budget … which meant laying off people that they loved. Below is a letter that explained all the staff changes that would take place.
In the 1980’s, The Chapel had a little over 3,000 adults in worship each week. The staff photo shows thirteen pastors on staff back then. To name a few, Knute is there, looking as chipper as ever. Bob Schneider had a full head of curly hair. Wes Hartzfeld looks the same today as then! Paul is wearing “shades” and looking really hip (that is David talking). Eloy is as tan as ever!
The point of the photo is that God worked through only thirteen pastors back then. That staff accomplished great things and saw tremendous ministry. Hold onto the thought that God did great things through that staff …
A Cruise Ship or a Battleship?
While you are thinking about those thirteen pastors in 1988, let us introduce another thought. Sometimes we may think about the church as if it is a cruise ship:
- Do I like the music?
- Do I like the captain?
- Do I want to cruise on this liner again?
Though we mean well, it becomes easy to think about what I can get out of “church.” While church is certainly a place where I get encouraged and blessed, if I’m not careful, it can become a place to only get my needs met and be comfortable.
Another way of thinking about the church is as a battleship:
- Is the ship on a clear and noble mission?
- Does the captain submit to a higher authority?
- Are the members equipped to succeed?
Now this is just a metaphor, so don’t take the points too far, but it does change the perception of the church. Are we more interested in our comfort? Or are we more interested in the spiritual battle around us? By the way, you can see a video of this battleship concept here. David’s friends at Watermark Church created this concept ten years ago and it helps us get a “call to arms.” Now is a time for action!
There are several points to these two illustrations. First is that God can work through a smaller staff. He did in the past and He will in the future. Second is that the size of our staff is not the determining factor to great ministry at The Chapel. Great ministry is meant to be done by the entire congregation! We all need to decide to be on the battleship. Now, let’s talk about the implications of these things.
Prayer as a Base
Throughout the month of February, many have prayed and talked together about our finances and staff restructuring. We prayed with the pastoral leadership team for hours on a Saturday a few weeks ago. We prayed as a Trustee Board in a specially-called meeting. We called the congregation and the staff to prayer. We communicated to the staff and congregation from the pulpit on two occasions, in several emails, with the trustees in Adult Bible Fellowships, the bulletin and many other ways. Thank you very much for praying about wisdom for the decisions and for how to lead this church. We have felt the strength of your prayers.
The need for the restructuring is due to a decline in attendance. Five years ago, we had 6,000 adults in worship. Today we have 4,500 adults in worship and 1,500 children and youth every Sunday. There are many causes for the attendance decline—and The Chapel is addressing each of them. Our pastoral staff grew to almost 30 pastors, making a total of 154 full and part-time staff. We were fully staffed, perhaps even overstaffed, for a church of 6,000. Now with a vibrant church of 4,500, we are overstaffed. From the chart, you can see that attendance for the fall has stabilized.
Though not easy, we have sought God’s wisdom in a challenging situation. In close discussion with our Trustees, we are trimming more than $760,000 from our staff budget. This is painful because we love each member of this staff. Yet we must balance our budget. We must be good and careful stewards of the resources and offerings The Chapel is given. We solicited ideas from all staff and held many meetings. We looked at many options of how to do this.
We had to restructure and make many hard decisions. We had to realign people and positions. We asked for sacrifice from every department and every position was examined (even Paul’s and David’s). We did a challenging analysis of great people that we love, within the context of a limited budget. We took into account many factors.
Public and Private Issues
We want to share appropriate information with our congregation. We are not going to share confidential information about any individual. We love Christ and our staff, and so won’t do that. Yet, in a desire for you to know about this church that you love, we want to tell you about this restructuring.
Another reason for sharing is that we want to prevent gossip. “Did you hear about so and so?” “Well I heard that …” The reason that the Bible talks so much about gossip is that everyone is prone to do it. We think that gossip is unfair to our staff and to the congregation. We are asking that you not attribute motive or read more into what we will say. Gossip, especially at this critical time, would be very damaging to our church.
Overview of Changes
Let’s begin by sharing an overview of the changes. We are downsizing sixteen positions and not going to fill another six vacant positions. We had three people voluntarily retire and others voluntarily ask for a reduction in pay. We are restructuring departments and realigning fifteen people.
We solicited ideas from many people about how to do this restructuring. We looked at many options and considered every suggestion given to us. In this process, we had to make extremely hard decisions. We had to realign people and positions. We asked for sacrifice from every department and every position was examined. We did a challenging analysis of great people that we love, while realizing that we have a limited budget. We took into account many factors in the decision for each person.
On Tuesday, March 1, we had confidential discussions with the four pastors who lost their positions. On Wednesday, March 2, we had discussions with all other staff members. Later that afternoon, we had a staff meeting and explained all the changes. On Thursday, March 3, this note is being published for the congregation. On Sunday, March 6, Paul will share a few things from this note before the messages on each campus.
We are sorry for the pain that these changes will bring to our displaced staff members. There will be challenging times ahead for them and their families. Yet, a big challenge can be met by a big God! We have tried to be very generous with severance, for our administrative staff and especially for our pastors. Also, we are praying for their next steps. We have lined up an Akron firm to lead a seminar on outplacement issues for all affected staff. For the full-time pastors, we also enlisted a national leader in staffing and giftedness to help them determine their next steps.
Renewed Emphasis on the Spiritual Life
Our guiding principle for the restructuring was “Let us renew our focus on the spiritual life. Let us reemphasize our spiritual DNA of worship, community and mission.” In other words, this means:
- Exhilarating Worship
- Discipleship by all members
- Connection in Community
- Mobilizing for Missions
Ephesians 4:11-15 talks about the role of church leaders:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.
We want the entire congregation to be “equipped for works of service.” One beginning example is that we want our Sunday bulletin to be more focused on the core of spiritual life. We want the bulletin to have:
- Weekly information about ABF’s, discipleship groups, home groups and how to grow as a Christian.
- Pictures of our children’s and youth ministry, so that all of us can see the next generation growing in Christ.
- More stories and pictures of missions, so that we can fully participate in what God is doing in Akron and around the globe.
- Longer features about Camp Carl.
All of us need to help by sharing the stories of what God is doing in and through us. We need to share our ministry photos with the communications folks, so that they can share them with the rest of the congregation. You see, this kind of change is not about “them doing more work.” It is about “us helping one another.”
Changes in the Senior Team Office and Campus Management
Sacrifice begins at home. Paul and David began in their own office. We decided to not have two administrative assistants, but to share one. We will sadly say goodbye to one of our campus managers, ___________. Four other part-time people were downsized, ____________ and three other vacant positions. The new organizational chart for our campuses will look like this:
Rhonda will be in Green, Anita in Wadsworth, Shannon in Akron. Amy will be the senior campus manager, working with all the campuses.
We want to see one worship leader as the pastor in Green. To accomplish this, we made several changes. We downsized two people: ______________. In addition, we will not fill an open position for a tech person. One person asked for a voluntary reduction in pay. We consolidated positions into a new worship pastor role that will be hired to lead both 9:00 and 10:40 services in Green.
It is difficult to lose a pastor and this decision was challenging for us. Yet, we saw that by the consolidation of positions, we could best serve the Green congregation.
We continue to move forward with Janice Kelley, our decisive and insightful Kid’s Ministry leader. She has created a department that kids love. Many kids have brought their non-Christian parents back to church because of our children’s ministry. Yet, we asked for sacrifice from every department and so we are letting one worker go, ______________. Also, two people voluntarily reduced their salary.
There has been great growth in the Kids Ministry. Janice reformatted the summer day camp (not to be confused with Camp Carl). It used to be called Camp Straight Street and now will be called Camp Kafi (kafi means fun). They are sending out 30,000 invitations to this. The Stow-Munroe Falls school district is going to email the invitation to all parents on their list. For the first time in five years, the Green School District is going to allow us to give the invitation to all kids. It will also go to kids in the following districts or schools:
- Akron Public Schools
- Norton Schools
- Chapel Hill Christian North and South
- Field Schools
- Coventry Schools
And, how about this: Fox’s Pizza is going to allow the flyers to go on their pizza boxes! What a great effort by the Kid’s Ministry Team for a fantastic summer for kids!
In our Youth Ministry, we have asked Greg Grimwood (from our Wadsworth campus) to be the leader of this area. He will refocus our strategy to go and reach students through the vehicle of dynamic incarnational communities. He will also work on new ways to minister to parents. ____________ is going back to school and will be on our staff until December. So a search for a new Youth Pastor for Green is underway. We want to see an outstanding youth program!
Also, we are not replacing one intern who left in January and have repositioned Julie Davis into the Community Department. The Youth Ministry now reports to Brian Kunkler. This change was done in January. Brian is a member of the Pastoral Leadership Team. He is the dynamic leader of our college ministry (more about that later).
College and Young Adults
In this area, we will not replace one intern who is moving away. As mentioned above, Brian Kunkler is the Pastor for this area. The Thursday night college ministry is a strong missional community where evangelism and discipleship are very alive. This spring has seen the largest semester meetings ever!
Care and Seniors
We merged our Care Department and Seniors Department. We downsized three part-time pastors, _______________. We also let go of an administrative assistant, ______________. _______________is retiring for the second time, the first one was from his business life. Yet, ___________ has agreed to volunteer time at least until December in this vital ministry. ______________, our leader in Women’s Ministries, is also retiring and we are working on how to fill this position.
We asked Kevin Seager (from the Wadsworth campus) to take the lead in this area. Lynn Warner from the Seniors Department joins this new area, and Marsha Warren will be the administrative assistant.
This area is receiving some major changes. We are giving a new emphasis to this department: A passion to be spiritually connected and discipled.
This area will contain our Campus ABFs and Home Groups, Wednesday Night, Equipping, Mens and Womens. We merged the Sports Department with Community and asked Dale Saylor to lead the new area.
We want tables each week in every foyer, making it easy for members and newcomers alike to get connected in spiritual growth. We want new guests and seekers to be able to discover how to get involved and grow. We want information about neighborhood Bible studies to be easily accessible. Look for lots more information in the bulletin about spiritual growth!
To achieve this, we are repositioning several staff in a “task force” array. This means that we will have several senior leaders in this area, under Dale’s direction. The Pastoral Leadership Team will even give the vision and strategy for this area, asking Dale to carry it out.
The following people have been repositioned to this area:
- Julie Davis—all of Julie’s time will be in this area as a coordinator of ministry
- Rhonda Messner—two-thirds of her time will be as an administrative assistant.
The challenge of restructuring is that we had to let go of staff. We have downsized ________________ and one vacant intern position. We love these people and will miss them.
Missions and Camp Carl
We have merged Local Missions and Benevolence. We asked Colleen Koladzinski to lead this new area. We asked Jay Halley to lead our Fresh Passions area of Missions.
The challenge was that we downsized ______________ and reduced the hours of Joey Martin. ______________ is retiring.
Two people voluntarily reduced their hours. We also trimmed the hours of _____________.
Facilities and Hospitality
We downsized one facilities worker, _______________. We also want a renewed emphasis on excellence on Sundays for food, rooms and assistance. During the week, groups may need to get their own coffee and bagels. Groups will need to sacrifice by asking a member to stop by a donut or bagel shop and buy their own refreshments. You may be asked to make your own coffee too. We are asking everybody to pitch in!
Some groups will be asked to help set up their rooms. For example, we may ask a Men’s Study to have two people come a few minutes early and set up the chairs. Then, when the group is over, clean up the room and take out the trash. Again, we are asking everybody to pitch in!
Also, some non-church groups might not have an event here. This May