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Church Vision 2013-2014:  St. Stephen’s Mission Plan, Annual Congregational Meeting, The New Year, The Parish Paper, Thanks, Cemetery Plots Available, Conference on Congregational Ministries


Church Vision 2013-2014: St. Stephen’s Mission Plan


The Christian Education Committee, in order to better, “Oversee the conduct and promotion of the schools and activities of all organizations within the congregation,”[1] is experimenting with an electronic version of its Sunday School curriculum and resources. Additionally confirmation classes have started up again after a hiatus.

Additionally, they will continue to hold a Vacation Bible School in the summer and encourage new and supplemental leadership in this area of ministry. Also three Bible Studies occur year round.


The Evangelism Committee, in order to “reach others, who are as yet unwon,” and “study the congregation in the context of its surrounding community,”[2] will, in this coming year, pass out packages filled with road salt and a flashlight and a letter stating, “On behalf of St. Stephen’s Lutheran I wish to offer you Salt and Light, Jesus uses these common elements to describe the faithful—preserving, flavoring, and lighting the way. I hope that St. Stephen can be such a community to you and for you” to neighbors of council members. Likewise the Evangelism Committee is renewing it’s practice of sending letters to new home buyers in the area.

Additionally, they will continue to pass out information about our church to visitors and make them feel welcome, and in order to “reawaken the spiritually indifferent” call “members who are delinquent in regular attendance,”[3] to check up on them.


The Social Ministry Committee, in order to “extend Christian compassion and helpfulness to the ill, the aged, the orphaned, the underprivileged, the imprisoned, and in general to persons of all ages in need of aid in body or soul,” as well as hold “events during the year to benefit certain charitable organizations… some of the events are strictly social in nature to bring the congregation of St. Stephen’s (sic) together.”[4] will continue their relatively new program of sending care packages to members of St. Stephen in college and in the military, as well as Pub Theology and Faith in Film.

Additional outings under the auspices of Social Ministry include, but are not limited to: the Annual Patriots Baseball Outing, a Christmas party at the South Plainfield Senior Affordable Housing Complex (a ministry of LSM-NJ) where our members mingle with the guests and our organist plays for the sing-a-long. Several times a year foodstuff is collected and taken to the local Social Services.


“The Stewardship Committee sees its purpose as helping the congregation to focus on our roles as disciples of Christ and stewards of the part of creation that God has placed in our hands.  In an effort to accomplish this we have:

  • Placed stewardship-oriented articles in the newsletter.
  • Conducted an annual pledge drive to encourage members to increased participation in the faith life of the congregation through the use of our time, talents, and treasure.  This included a congregation-wide mailing of a self-inventory as well as time and talent and monetary pledge forms.
  • Initiated a series of talks” called the Blessing Blurb “by members of the congregation on their personal experiences of gifts given and received.

Plans for the future include:

  • A fellowship gathering to emphasize our abundance of gifts in contrast to the scarcity experienced by so many in the world today.
  • An Advent “Good Gifts” campaign of some sort.
  • A Lenten World Hunger campaign of some sort.”[5]


The Worship and Music Committee in order to see “that the service of God’s house” is “conducted regularly and in accordance with the liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America”[6] and in order to ensure worship is “both global and local, structured and flexible, ancient and new,”[7] is trying new setting from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (including setting 10) and has used Marty Haugen’s Holden Evening Prayer during Advent. Additionally, a guitarist joins our organist/pianist on occasion. Also, as a new part of worship, and backdoor evangelism, Saints days celebrated by the ELCA which are connected to particular professions (for example the Festival of St. Luke’s is connected to healthcare professionals) are being used as an opportunity to bless people practicing those vocations/professions both in the congregation and in the community, during worship.

Additionally they continue to equip, assist for ministry: Deacons, Greeters, Lectors, Ushers, and the Altar Guild, and in general ensure worship goes off with as few hitches as possible.


The Finance Committee in order to ensure the financial affairs of the congregation “are being conducted efficiently”[8] is investigating the Health Care Tax Credits available to clergy resulting from the Affordable Care Act as described by Portico Benefit Services.[9]

Additionally they will continue drafting budgets and audit the treasurer and financial secretary.

The Property Committee in order to:

  • “Present a safe, clean, presentable building
  • Reach out to the community to people who may want to use our building for meetings and/or appropriate functions
  • Assist other St. Stephen committees and groups with their functions by helping to set up tables and chairs and any other assistance they need.
  • Keep the church property neat and clean of debris and accessible to all parishioners.


Plans to:

  • Clean up back of parking lot to make it safer and more presentable
  • Reline the parking lot
  • Assist the Building Committee in whatever capacity they need
  • When new building is complete, more community outreach could be planned.”[10]



The Building Committee and Building Finance Committee are two ad hoc committees. The first will continue to guide our remodeling/updating of the education wing, building of a roof that will not leak, and plan for two or even three more stages of building in the future. The second will find financial means to pay for said remodeling/roofing and advise the Building Committee on the feasibility of further building stages.

The Youth Group is currently in the process of passing the baton of leadership from its founder, who is now in college, onto a new generation of young folk. Additionally, the latest batch of confirmation students have been invited to participate in this group.


Church Relations. In addition to continued participation in the South Plainfield Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches, we intend to forge closer ties with St. Mark’s Episcopal in Plainfield. Some of their members came to our Lenten Soup Suppers and we attended some of their Lenten Lecture and Eucharist services. In a similar way, we hope to forge closer ties with Our Saviors Lutheran in Edison, which also joined us in our Lenten Soup Suppers.


Relationship with Synod and the larger church. We have pledged to increasing our giving to Synod in our latest budget. We also intend to host another Seminary Sunday this year.

[1] By-laws of St. Stephen Lutheran Section 6, Item 4

[2] Ibid. 6:6

[3] Ibid. 6:6

[4] Ibid. 6:8

[5] Document created by Stewardship Committee.

[6] By-laws of St. Stephen Lutheran 6:10

[7] From a 2010 St. Stephen Document entitled “Worship at St. Stephen Lutheran Church.”

[8] By-laws of St. Stephen Lutheran 6:7

[10] Document created by Property Committee.


Annual Congregational Meeting

On Sunday, January 27, 2013 following the worship service,

St. Stephen Lutheran Church will be having the Annual Congregational Meeting to go over the year end reports for 2012.

Be a true member of the church and be there to vote.  We look forward to seeing you all there.


The New Year

As a teenager (a long, long time ago), I ran across this quote and have loved it ever since.

    I said to a man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

    And he replied,  “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.  That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.”  M.L. Haskins

I think this is a good thought for us as we stand at the gate of a new year.  What better way to enter a new year (or any new experience, for that matter) than holding the hand of God?

In the book of Romans Paul uses different terminology, but basically expresses the same idea.  “For all those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”  And then,”when we cry Abba(Daddy)!  Father!”  Do you remember when you were a child how it felt when you were holding your Daddy’s hand?  You were safe, and would follow him anywhere no matter where he led.  Now close your eyes and picture yourself “holding God’s hand”.  But Paul also speaks of “walking in the Spirit”, of “living according to the Spirit.”  So, while we are dependent, submissive children of God, there is also an active side.  We must walk where he leads.  We must follow.

I think it is not an accident that the first major feast of the New Year is Epiphany where we celebrate the wise men who followed the star to find Jesus.  But think how much more blessed are we who don’t need to look outside ourselves to an external star that can be obscured by clouds or dimmed by the ambient lights of the world.  Our light shines within us, in our hearts!  To quote Paul again, “since the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  and “Christ is in you”!!!

So we can step with confidence into 2013.  Nothing we may encounter in the darkness of the future could ever separate us from our Lord.  We all will face individual milestones, some planned and others will be surprises God will have for us.  Likewise, as a church, as the Body of Christ, we will have many new opportunities to follow our Lord in the next year.  Let’s all resolve to do so with joy to the glory of God. ( Recommended New Year’s reading – Romans chapter 8)


Coeditors: Herb Miller, Lyle E. Schaller, Cynthia Woolever –
January 2013 – Volume 21, Number 1
Copyright © 2013 by Cynthia Woolever
How to Avoid Pastor Burnout
Francis, a nurse, works in a neonatal intensive care unit. Caring for high-risk infants and dealing with their concerned parents makes her job extremely stressful. Yet she loves it and cannot imagine doing anything else. Although she is exhausted when her shift ends, she is also happy because she knows that she has made a difference for her patients and their families. How can she handle the high stress and experience high job satisfaction—at the same time?
What Causes Pastor Burnout?
Many people believe that experiencing high stress levels causes burnout and drives pastors away from ministry. In fact, most pastors can—and do—deal with high levels of stress. Unfortunately, a few pas-tors fail in their efforts. One in ten pastors considers leaving their church each year. But what about the other nine pastors? If pastors love what they do and experience high levels of satisfaction with ministry, then they can deal with a great amount of stress.
What can pastors do to increase their ministry satisfaction and reduce stress? What can church members do to help?
Ways to Increase Ministry Satisfaction
New research findings show how pastors can in-vest in their ministry to experience a higher level of satisfaction in their calling and vocation.1
1. Spend a larger share of time in ministry tasks that match ministry strengths. For some pastors, time spent in sermon preparation, preaching, and worship leadership is highly rewarding. For others it might be visiting with prospective members or pastoral care for current members. Finding ways to spend more time on the joy-filled items is key to greater satisfaction in ministry.
2. Achieve a sense of accomplishment in ministry goals. Pastors want to feel like they are accomplishing important goals for the congregation and its ministries. Experiencing frustration and walls of resistance from
members stand between a pastor and the sense of a job well done. Pastors who feel like failures eventually look for something else to do where they can make a difference. It’s important for pastors to set personal goals and to share these with their members so that successes can be seen, and celebrated, by all.
3. Nurture a spiritual life. In the midst of taking care of members and church responsibilities, pastors can neglect their own spiritual growth. Drawing from the spiritual well without replenishing leads to faith stagnation. The most satisfied pastors are also highly satisfied with their growth in faith.
4. Seek quality relationships with lay leaders and members. Pastors who invest in developing deep and trusting relationships with members also find higher satisfaction in ministry.
5. Find support and resources from other clergy and the denomination. Pastors with high levels of ministry satisfaction reach out to other clergy for new ideas, sermon and teaching resources, and support. Many highly satisfied pastors also cite their denomination as a criti-cal partner in their long-term ministry effectiveness.
6. Pursue continuing education. Effective clergy are life-long learners. New ideas for education, worship, ministry, and evangelism come from opportunities beyond the congregation. These include personal study of new books and materials, attending conferences and talks, and staying engaged with local educa-tional institutions.
Churches that provide for their pastor are demonstrating care and respect for them and their ministry. Pastors who express high satisfaction with ministry also report that they receive adequate salaries, housing allowances, healthcare benefits, and pensions to sustain them and their families.
Ways to Reduce Ministry Stress
Reducing stress is the other half of the equation for maximizing long-term health and well-being in ministry. Pastors can reduce stress if they:
1. Participate in a clergy peer group. A national study of participation in these groups reveals that pastors benefit in multiple ways. They gain from a community that engages in self-directed learning—a level of support and accountability not found elsewhere. Pastors who participate are more likely to promote a church “culture of involvement” that actively assimi-lates newcomers and promotes member leadership.2
2. Spend time with family and friends. Many pastors feel that people in the congregation make too many demands, leaving them little time for a private life. Pastors who are committed to finding support from family and friends, creating good memories, and engaging in nonmember friendships reduce stress.
3. Get regular physical exercise. Good physical health and strong emotional health go hand-in-hand. Pastors can combine activities with family/friend time.
4. Establish boundaries between ministry and personal time. Set aside specific periods each week to unplug electronically (emails and phone use) and spend this time with family or doing non-work-related activities.
5. Take a day off each week. Job stress is lower for pastors who regularly take a day off each week.
6. Pursue a relaxing hobby or interest. The options are infinite, but leisure interests such as fishing, painting, or cooking keep pastors from becoming one-dimensional and offer another way to relate to members.
Congregations can assist in stress reduction by offering a pastoral Sabbath for sustained rest, renewal, or extended study. The average Sabbath period is three months. Members should also understand how allowing for the above stress-reducing activities will enable their pastor to become more engaged with the congregation.
Who Is Responsible for Clergy Care?
When the minister experiences constant negativity from a small group of members, the pastor feels psy-chologically pressured to leave the ministry position. About one in four pastors will experience this type of forced termination from their congregation at some point during their ministry service.3 Those who have been terminated are more likely to experience burn-out, depression, and physical health problems.
Consider involving the pastor and congregation in a discussion based on the following group exercise.
 Ask the pastor to look through the two lists above. First, ask the pastor to circle the number of each item that he or she believes they can control (the pastor exercises maximum responsibility and control over the outcome). Second, have the pastor underline words or phrases in the descriptions where the pastor believes he or she can influence the outcome.
 Ask the church board or a small group of mem-bers to review the two lists in the same way—circling the number of each item that they believe members’ can control and underlining words or phrases in the descriptions where members’ believe they can influence the outcome.
 Ask the pastor and members to compare their responses. Which factors are the pastor’s responsibility, the congregation’s responsibility, or the responsibility of both? How can the pastor and members be more proactive in taking responsibility for the long-term ministry effectiveness of pastoral leadership?
The Bottom Line
Pastors need ongoing support from the congregation, their peers, their denomination, and seminaries. Congregations that adequately support clergy receive far more in return. Reasonable expectations from members assist pastors in time management and appropriate self-care. How pastors spend their time reflects their priorities. If good communication and a common vision exist, the pastor’s time in-vestments will mirror the church’s priorities.
1. Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Leadership That Fits Your Church: What Kind of Pastor for What Kind of Congregation (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2012).
2. “A Study of the Effects of Participation in Pastoral Leader Peer Groups,” Austin Presbyterian Seminary, 2010,
3. M. N. Tanner, A.M. Zvonkovic, and C. Adams, “Forced Ter-mination of American Clergy: Its Effects and Connection to Neg-ative Well-Being,” Review of Religion Research (2012) 54:1–17.
Copyright © 2013 by Cynthia Woolever


Thanks –

Bob Newman and his crew for mowing the lawn, removing the debris, and keeping the outside of the Church looking so nice.

Vera Millet for planting the flowers and enhancing the appearance of the entryways on both sides of the Church in season.

Agnes Czarnecki and her helpers for not only readying and providing refreshments following the services but also for cleaning up afterward.

Peggy Flannary and others who check and neaten the nave before services.

John Cortese for taking the church’s paper and cardboard to the town recycling center.


Cemetery Plots Available


The church has deeds for several cemetery plots at Graceland Memorial Park in Kenilworth.

They are available to any member for just a transfer fee.  See Orvie Hoffman if interested.


Conference on Congregational Ministries 2013
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Steinert High School, Hamilton Twp, NJ

Keynote Speaker:  The Rev. E. Roy Riley, Bishop