St. Mark’s strategic plan in focus at leadership retreat, adult forum

Jim LaDoux of Vibrant Faith

More than two dozen people in leadership roles at St. Mark’s attended a half-day retreat on Saturday, April 13 to discuss the congregation’s strategic plan, now under construction. The plan also was the focus of the Adult Forum gathering on Palm Sunday, April 14.

Leading both meetings was Jim LaDoux, who works with congregations around the nation as a coach/consultant for Minneapolis-based Vibrant Faith. LaDoux has counseled the new St. Mark’s Compass Team, tasked with developing the plan, which will then be presented to the St. Mark’s Leadership Council for review and consideration.

Three congregational forums also are planned in May (see schedule at the end of the article), during which all are welcome to ask questions and share ideas with the Compass Team.

Participants at the Saturday retreat included Council members, committee chairs and ministry leaders. They heard more details from the congregational survey that was done earlier this year. Nancy Wilkerson, convener of the Compass Team, sketched out demographic data and summarized perceptions and priorities listed by the 70 people who responded to the survey. And they heard key insights from LaDoux about what makes for an effective plan.

Nichole Bishop
Compass Team member Nichole Bishop discusses a map showing where members of the St. Mark’s family live.

LaDoux said the strategic plan aims to help the congregation “create a culture of spiritual vitality” in a way that honors our calling and mission and helps us to bring our best to one another and to our community. That requires inspection and reflection, he said, and an embrace of adaptive change. What should we hold onto? What has been meaningful? We don’t want to lose that. What should we reconsider—perhaps celebrate its value in the past and let it go as something that accomplished its mission? Adaptive change can help to make room for new growth.

“If you want a deeper connection to the community, what does that look like?” LaDoux asked. “Maybe it is three signature programs. You can’t manage 15. To do your best might mean you do less.”

LaDoux said he sees great strengths at St. Mark’s—especially its caring and service-oriented atmosphere. He agreed with all who expressed desire for better communication and said he also sees an immediate need to better define and sharpen the church governance structure. He sees that as necessary before any expansion or new programs or ministries might be considered. He is collating material gathered in the discussion groups, will summarize that information and work with the Compass Team to bring further clarity to near- and longer-term goals.

“There’s a lot to celebrate here,” he said. “Every church has challenges. Sometimes we get so caught up in the challenges that we don’t see the strengths.”

Telling the stories of God’s work in our lives is a powerful way to develop the faith community, he said.

Coming soon:

• Three discussion sessions have been scheduled to give opportunity for all in the congregation to meet with members of the Compass Team, ask questions and share ideas. The schedule is as follows:
Sunday, May 5, 10 a.m. in the Seminary Room
Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. in the Seminary Room
Sunday, May 19, noon in the Seminary Room

The Compass Team includes Pastor Scott Maxwell, Nancy Wilkerson (convener), Nichole Bishop, Peg Bradley, Beth Miller, Dwight Novotny and Mike Patterson.

Vibrant Faith Goals

Jim LaDoux

Join us for a conversation with Jim LaDoux, executive staff with Vibrant Faith.

You may recognize Jim’s name, as he has been working with the Compass Team as a consultant on the strategic plan that team is working to develop. He is visiting St. Mark’s this weekend as part of a leadership retreat focusing on the work and communication that plan requires.

Today in our Adult Forum, Jim will talk about Vibrant Faith goals, including:

* Identifying your strengths and bright spots. Find ways to build on your strengths and use them to transform people’s lives and your community.
* Gain clarity about who you are, what you do best and where God is leading you.
* Create a plan. Develop a road map for moving forward that builds on your strengths and focuses your assets, actions and energies on the things that matter most in life and faith.
* Develop adaptive skills and strategies. Learn new strategies and approaches to address adaptive challenges facing the congregation.

Survey says: Growth is top priority

Stylized compass

The St. Mark’s Compass Team, tasked with developing a strategic plan for the church, continues to study the data gathered in the recent congregational survey.

Analysis of the data continues—moving toward a full and more formal report that will summarize findings in five areas: fellowship and caring, faith and faith development, outreach, flexibility and atmosphere. Many challenges and aspirations have been identified.

The top priority identified by the 70 respondents, according to Compass Team convener Nancy Wilkerson, was to “develop and implement a strategy to attract new members and incorporate them into the life of the church.”

Many suggestions were shared on the “other priorities” page. Here are a few samples:

* Do more to meet the needs of young families
* Establish prayer circles, praying for members who have difficult situations arise
* Help us connect with each other across boundaries (service times/styles, age, marital status, etc.)
* Develop a program of service projects serving our neighborhood community
* Improve our website (Editor’s note: We’re already working on that! Keep the suggestions coming!)

Much more information is coming, so please stay tuned.

Coming soon:

* Discussion sessions will be scheduled to address questions, seek more information and further explain the goals of this process.
* Congregational leaders (Council members, committee chairs, ministry leaders) will gather with Jim LaDoux of Vibrant Faith at a retreat in mid-April to review the reports, discuss priorities and begin to shape St. Mark’s strategy.
* A full and formal report will be prepared and provided to the congregation.

Compass Team analyzing survey data, preparing formal reports

Stylized compass

The St. Mark’s Compass Team, tasked with developing a strategic plan for the church, has a lot of information in hand now, thanks to the 69 people who completed the recent congregational survey by the deadline. A total of 130 surveys were distributed. If you did not receive a survey, please call the church office at (302) 764-7488 to request one. We want everyone’s ideas on how to shape a great future for St. Mark’s.

As those of you who responded to the survey know, there is much to review and a careful analysis is underway.

Nancy Wilkerson, convener of the team, invested many hours assembling the responses, sorting them by relevant categories, attaching numeric scores to priorities and perceptions within the congregation and typing out individual comments.

“We’ll be working on this for a number of weeks,” she said.

Respondents’ statements about the church are divided into seven themes including: fellowship, faith, faith formation and education, outreach, flexibility, leadership, and overall satisfaction.

“We’re evaluating responses in a respectful, positive way,” said Mike Patterson, another Compass Team member. “They’re valuable and we appreciate everyone doing it.”

Surveys of area community groups and leaders are continuing and smaller focus groups will be convened for further discussion to help us clarify our mission.

“How do our greatest gifts help to meet the greatest needs?” Pastor Scott Maxwell said.

Here are a few bits of information about those who responded to the report:

    * 62 percent of respondents have attended St. Mark’s for more than 20 years, 16 percent for 11-20 years, 12 percent for 6-10 years, 10 percent for 1-5 years.
    * 68 percent of respondents are married.
    * 36 percent are between 65-75 years old, 28 percent between 41-64, 26 percent over 75.
    * 52 percent of respondents attend the 9 a.m. service, 23 percent the 11 a.m., 22 percent attend both.

Next steps:

    * Results of the congregational survey will be distributed when the reports and analysis are complete.
    * After release of the results, discussion sessions will be scheduled to address questions, seek more information and further explain the goals of this process.
    * Congregational leaders (Council members, committee chairs, ministry leaders) will gather at a retreat in April to review the reports, discuss priorities and begin to shape the St. Mark’s strategy.

Please continue to pray for this team as this work continues, asking God for wisdom, discernment and strength for the task.

In addition to Pastor Scott, Nancy and Mike, team members include Nichole Bishop, Peg Bradley, Beth Miller and Dwight Novotny.

Compass Team gathering information for strategic plan

Stylized compass

The St. Mark’s Compass Team, which is working to develop a strategic plan to guide our ministry and life together, wants to send a big “thank you” to all who have participated in the Compass Team Survey.

The deadline to complete the survey is Sunday, Feb. 3, so — depending on when you read this — you may still have time to submit your survey if you haven’t done that yet. Please weigh in! The survey will give the team essential information about the St. Mark’s family and provide a profile that we have not had in this amount of detail.

Why does it matter? We’re called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us — the human resources, the financial resources, the time and talents and all of the goodness He has given us. That doesn’t happen by default. Good stewardship requires careful thought and a good plan.

To expedite our work, the team is working with Vibrant Faith Coach Jim LaDoux, who has worked with many other congregations in similar efforts. He will visit St. Mark’s on Sunday, April 14, speaking in both worship services and also during the Adult Forum at 10 a.m. Jim LaDoux

In addition to analyzing responses to the survey, the team is in an information-gathering phase now — collecting data about our community, drawing from Census reports and other research and official government planning documents. This is the first of four phases of the team’s work and will include meetings with church committees and interviews with many in the St. Mark’s family and the greater community to expand our understanding of the needs and goals we have.

The second phase is a period of discernment, which includes a leadership retreat, planned during the weekend of April 13-14. In the third phase, the team will design a strategic plan, with tasks, timelines and accountability measures for key objectives. During this time the plan will be submitted to Council for review and approval. The fourth phase is used to develop systems that will support the plan and ensure that its objectives are reflected in staff and ministry goals and are informing our decisions and actions.

Our website — — and newsletter (The Lion) will carry periodic updates on our process and progress. We plan to share the results of the survey with you and also will post other data to let you know what we’re learning. We would love it if you would follow these reports and keep in touch with us throughout this process, which we believe will continue at a formal level through December. Going forward, the plan will be a living document, with continuing growth and refinement.

We need and welcome your prayers for this effort. We believe this work will provide healthy interaction, new insights and a clear, responsible roadmap for our future.

Please contact any team member if you have questions or wish to offer suggestions or email us at The better our information and collaboration, the better our plan.

The Compass Team includes: Nancy Wilkerson (convener), Nichole Bishop, Peg Bradley, Pastor Scott Maxwell, Beth Miller, Dwight Novotny and Mike Patterson.

We meet monthly, with our next meeting on Feb. 17. Much more to come!

‘Compass Team’ starts work on strategic plan


A new team at St. Mark’s has started work on a strategic plan for our congregation, which has served the north Wilmington area for more than 75 years.

The team is working with Pastor Scott Maxwell and Jim LaDoux of the Vibrant Faith initiative to evaluate the church’s mission and provide detailed information to church leaders as we all plan for our future and our impact in the community.

The work starts with a fact-finding phase, an assessment of the church and its community context. Your voice and views will be essential and valuable during this process. Much more information on this fact-finding effort will be coming soon.

The team chose “Compass Team” as its name, reflecting the desire to pursue our True North – Jesus.

“The goal of the Compass Team is to work with the people of St Mark’s to discern God’s plan for our future and reflect it in strategic goals and actions that we hope the entire congregation can get excited about,” said Nancy Wilkerson, team convener. “Obviously, we can’t be successful without you. Over the coming weeks we will be reaching out to everyone at St Mark’s through surveys, focus groups and other activities to help us in the data-gathering phase of the process. Look for more information on this phase of the process in mid-January.”

The team chose Isaiah 6:8 as a guiding Scripture: “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’”

Also on the team are Nichole Bishop, Peg Bradley, Dwight Novotny, Mike Patterson and Beth Miller.