Share Life With Our Shepherd

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We recently received a report from our Feasibility Study based on member interviews conducted by Walsh and Associates. Our Feasibility Study demonstrated widespread support among our membership sample for a capital campaign to address the needs of our growing church and school ministries. Five different ways to invest in our ministry were vetted. All but one received widespread support. Based upon the study findings, we will consider pros/cons of each of the following ministry investments at the Congregational Summit. The goal of our summit is to identify the priorities of a campaign and build consensus. The campaign could possibly be launched in the fall of this year.

To gauge approval of the following projects we categorized the top three levels of responses (“Very Important,” “Important,” and “Nice to do”) as approval for the proposed project. Participants were given the option of “Not Important” as well.

Permanent Contemporary Worship Space-100% of Feasibility Study participants were in favor of making room for a permanent home for contemporary worship.

Over the past few years we have seen significant growth in worship. According to synodical stats, average attendance in 2013 was 414. In 2017, average attendance was 578. Attendance growth led us to add the third Sunday worship service in 2015, but Sunday School quickly evaporated to about 50 people per week in Sunday morning discipleship.

In order to get Sunday school back (which it is with SS attendance now nearly 250 per week, or nearly 50% of our worship attendance!), we invested about $129,000 in equipment for portable contemporary worship. This provides a much enhanced contemporary worship environment and allows contemporary worship every Sunday morning. However, every week, one of four teams of ten volunteers each and staff (approx. 40 people) spend 2-3 hours setting-up and tearing down. This places an unsustainable burden on ministry staff and volunteers who need to set-up at 4 o’clock Saturday afternoon and stay until after 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon to tear-down.

In order to alleviate the volunteer burden and provide a permanent home for contemporary worship, we propose to add an extension to the gym with an elevated platform. This would allow our musicians to practice where we worship and leave equipment setup through the week. A retractable protective barrier would protect our equipment when the space is used for school activities. Were we to expand the space, we could furnish it so that it is multi-use. On the weekends, it would be a truly reverent environment conducive for worship, yet have the capability to be transformed during the week for athletic activities.

Expanded Drive/Parking-97% of Feasibility Study participants were in favor of adding a drive with expanded parking.

Insufficient handicapped parking spaces, an often cramped parking lot on Sunday mornings, and congestion during school drop-off and pick-up times have been identified as current issues with our parking lot. In response, Elders place cones marking temporary handicapped spaces each week to ensure there are enough spaces for those who need them. Additionally, many members began parking on the gravel drive to open-up more parking for visitors. Before this practice, there were routinely less than ten empty spaces during our 10:30/10:45 a.m. worship services. Moreover, the school car line often exceeds our driving lane space and results in cars waiting in the turn lanes on 100 N. This creates an unsafe situation for our parents and students.

We continue to count cars on Sunday mornings and have discovered that there are already routine Sundays where more cars are parked on campus than there are parking spaces. We would like to add to our current 192 parking spaces so that everyone has a place to park. If visitors and members can’t find parking, they can’t worship or come to Sunday School.

Our proposal is to add a drive around the building with parking spaces around the drive and add to the side lot. This would nearly double the parking capabilities. This new drive will also add plenty of space for parents and grandparents to pick-up their children without obstructing traffic.

A Larger Gym and Expanded Early Childhood Programing-94% of Feasibility Study participants were in favor of both of these two separate projects.

Early Childhood and Infant Care (94% approval)-

Nearly every week we are turning away families because our Early Childhood Program is currently over desired capacity. Of the twelve tours we conducted for prospective students November-January, ten were for early childhood, one was for kindergarten, the other for first grade. This demonstrates the need for early childhood care in our community and ministry opportunities that we are currently forfeiting.

Mrs. Tracie Douglas recently applied for a $15,000 grant to furnish the nursery as an additional PS/PK classroom to add ten students. We are also exploring conversion of the nursery, another classroom, and the Luther Room into three more early childhood classes, which would increase capacity up to 36 more students. The Luther Room would move to the computer lab and double meeting/multi-use space. These expansions would serve as a pilot for a larger program.

If warranted, additional expansion phases could occur in phases as the demand increases. If the demand is substantiated and a financial blessing to us, then the prospect of a school expansion could be discussed. This would allow us to share Christ with the youngest in our community, whether or not they continued in the school or joined the church. What a wonderful service for us to provide for our young, growing families! A potential school expansion would also provide space for youth programming on a second floor, spectator space for the gym, storage and other benefits.

Gym Expansion (94% approval)-

The gym is often our only space for indoor athletics, fellowship, and is the home for our contemporary worship. There are logistical hoops that need to be jumped through regularly to accommodate the wide range of activities happening in this shared space. We routinely deny requests to rent our gym because it’s already scheduled. Because there’s only one gym, there are times that three or four teams must practice on the same court to accommodate school needs and family time constraints.

We’ve restricted use of the gym for athletics from 3:30 p.m. Saturday until Sunday afternoon because contemporary worship is set up. We also prioritize requests for gym use according to ministry priorities. Our Athletics Department and school, particularly middle-school students, often help to set-up the gym for dinners and other activities to ease the transition from church to school use of the gym.

If the gym were expanded with a dividable, truly multi-use space, we could accommodate double the number of athletic events. We’d also be able to partition the multi-use portion of the space for worship for most of the year so that chairs, equipment, sound and lighting could remain out, easing most of the volunteer burden of preparing the space for worship. This would also provide a reverential space for worship.

Traditional Worship Campus

Worship attendance has grown at about 8.7% per year over the past four years. While our growth is split between traditional and contemporary worship, there is more room in the current contemporary worship venue for growth than in the traditional sanctuary. While our traditional space may still seem roomy at many services, we are already tight at special services such as holidays and confirmation. If we continue to grow at the observed average rate for ten years, this what our average weekly attendance would be going forward:
























We already have Sunday morning and Saturday evening worship services. We may soon consider having a Saturday evening traditional service if we continue to see growth. After that, we run out of time on the weekend to add services and would need to consider building a larger traditional worship space. Thus far, there has been much concern about this because many feel we’d lose the close personal relationships we enjoy with other worshippers and are very concerned about the cost of adding this space.

A solution, which is relatively new to our congregation could be to start a traditional campus somewhere else. Think of it as a daughter church, but one that is an extension of our ministry here. Not a separate church, but Our Shepherd worshipping in a second, or third, or fourth location. There could be an Our Shepherd in Speedway or West Indianapolis, Avon South or Danville, towards Camby or Plainfield. We already have members living in all of these communities and a closer campus may restore much of what many fear could be lost in an ever growing church.

This would restore the “small church” feel, while retaining some of the benefits of the larger church ministry such as additional staff and savings through shared resources. This was not a subject of the Feasibility Study, but concern over the $5-7 million price tag of building an expansive traditional space here was the least desirable aspect of the study (43% thought it was important, 31% nice to do and 26% not important)

What next? We don’t know yet. God knows. He’s giving us a chance to pray, talk and explore our options.

Any combination of these five proposals could be funded by a capital campaign. What are the costs? What are the benefits? These will be topics of an article next week.

Posted by Daniel Lepley with


"Growing as a community in Christ as we SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD"


“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2


Have you ever wondered why this familiar Bible passage, once made a pop-music hit by the Byrds, is more often associated with funerals than it is with births and baptisms?


Maybe it’s because people don’t like change. We fear change. We often associate change with things getting worse, not better. One could make the case that human beings are implicitly biased against change.


Many people mistakenly think that when it comes to change, we can choose to change or not to change. This is a false belief based upon a mistaken view of the universe. If we lived in a steady-state universe or if the world was static, “not to change” would be a viable option. We do not.


We need look no further than our community (with four subdivisions being built across the road all at once) or even within ourselves (most of us have matured at least a little since sixth grade) to see nothing stays the same. Things are getting better or worse. Most of the time, some things improve while others deteriorate. Because the world around us is always changing, our church vision changes, and the governing documents of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church require the Board to look at and revise those vision and mission statements.


"Growing as a community in Christ as we SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD," is a proposed revision to our vision statement. It is short and concise enough to be remembered, and therefore meaningful. It also reflects the growing nature of our community and opportunities for growth God has given our church and school ministry.


Our current vision statement is, “To thrive as one Christ-centered family, welcoming individuals from all walks of life, nurtured by God through faithful worship, education, and excellent ministries as we gladly sacrifice for God’s kingdom.” This statement has served us well as we have worked diligently towards excellence in worship, discipleship and fellowship. However, it is not particularly concise or meaningful to our membership. Therefore, it is time to change our vision.


Our new vision statement reflects our desire to embrace the ever changing community we are blessed to live in. It fosters a plan for future growth. The statement is intentional and relevant to where we are in this time and place. Our Shepherd Lutheran Church is growing. Our Shepherd Lutheran School is growing. We are growing individually in our faith as we worship, grow spiritually and share life with the Shepherd of our souls.


As we, the current members of the Our Shepherd church and school community, SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD (present tense) we want others to also SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD (an invitation to worship and grow spiritually with us). We hope this new statement will direct our work in God’s kingdom.


Recent growth in worship attendance and Sunday School have pushed our campus to its capacity. One Sunday in August, there were as many cars parked at Our Shepherd as we have parking spots. There would not have been any empty spaces, had not some of our leaders and staff parked behind the building.


Our School has added a preschool class since school began because, at one point this fall, we had 15 families on a waiting list for preschool. With only one room left for school expansion (if the youth room is moved) and talk of using the Luther Room for early childhood care, our school ministry is limited by space constraints. We can’t predict what God has planned for Our Shepherd, but we know He wants us to SHARE LIFE. But we are currently limited by our space.


Even though it appears that God intends us to grow with our community, we don’t want to grow without a plan for growth. Before blindly leaping into a capital campaign for facility expansion or launching a satellite campus/daughter church equipped with childcare facilities, we desire to explore how we could best grow together. We wish to explore the potential costs and benefits of growing in different ways.


Additional worship space or multi-site? Add to the existing school or open a new infant and early childhood care center? How much money should be set aside to devote to staff our growing church and school ministries?


In order to find the pulse and passion of the Our Shepherd community before we plan our growth, we are launching a feasibility study. This will allow us to bring in an outside firm to host focus groups and interview families to discern areas of passion for ministry. Our goal with this project is to quantify sentiments, attitudes and dreams in the hopes that we could distill our study into actionable goals for our future. It is so hard to quantify “soft” feelings, etc., so we have sought a consultant with a proven track record of helping congregations get a pulse on the congregation before jumping into big projects.


In November, Our Shepherd was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Center for Congregations to hire Walsh and Associates to facilitate a feasibility study to gather member data and interests. Additionally, we are in conversations with an architect to explore facility needs and costs of prospective ministries. Once the study is completed and costs are ascertained a leadership summit will share a plan for growth with the congregation.  


Our prayer is that through this process, we move from speculating and talking about ways to grow to an actionable plan that meets the needs of our community. By measuring member interest and readiness to invest in the Kingdom, we want to match our passion with community needs. We expect more involvement over the next few months in the decision making process to translate into a greater impact in our community.


Following the feasibility study, we need to decide whether or not to proceed with a capital campaign to fund key ministry initiatives. If the congregation makes that step in faith, we will know that the faith has grown with our vision. Even if we decide not to grow physically, our prayer is that this process creates cohesion around a shared vision for ministry.


With or without a capital campaign, being able to take a step forward would mark the first significant change in ministry direction since adopting a new governance structure three years ago. Were we to begin a capital campaign, we’d begin first significant over-and-above financial investment since the campaign to build this facility a decade ago. It is exciting to see where the Lord leads!


"Growing as a community in Christ as we SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD"


Change is inevitable, but if we can get in front of the change, we can direct the change. Throughout the scriptures, God uses change to bring His people to an ever deeper and more meaningful relationship with Himself. God uses even the “bad” stuff to accomplish His will. As His people, we want to offer Him the “good” stuff, knowing that God will use us and bless our sacrifices made for Him and His Kingdom for the eternal welfare of others. How awesome it is to SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD!

Posted by Daniel Lepley with