Council Happenings

January 2023 report

Over the past several months, Congregation Council has been hard at work to help St. Mark’s start 2023 in a positive way, with hope and anticipation for what the new year may bring. The transition from one year to the next requires a great deal of deliberative work, intense discussion and informed decision making as we prepare for the Annual Meeting in January. Some highlights of Council’s actions include:

  • Developing the 2023 budget using sound financial data to project revenue, and anticipating the continued impact of historically high inflation to estimate costs
  • Conducting three Budget Forum sessions to allow members an opportunity to learn and ask questions about the budget that would be presented at the Annual Meeting
  • Including expenses related to a part-time pastor (Interim or Called) in the budget model
  • Decision to fund Synod benevolence from church reserve funds at a more modest rate rather than add to a likely budget deficit
  • Development of internal budget guidelines to limit operational budget deficits over time
  • Planning the agenda for the Annual Meeting and communicating details to members
  • Taking initial steps in preparation for the Call process for a Senior Pastor, including the collection and preliminary review of nominations for the Call Committee

Congregational Committees have also been busy preparing and implementing new and revised initiatives for 2023. 

  • Education Hour has returned on Sundays at 9:00 with a new curriculum, Animate, by Augsburg Fortress, that inspires thoughtful dialogue around weekly topics. Members are welcome to attend Education Hour for a single session or the entire series. Please check the Friday email or contact Lynnette Brent for more information.
  • The Stewardship Committee has made a commitment to be more active and visible in 2023 by engaging the Congregation in discussion around the topics of stewardship and benevolence, creating a “Stewardship Calendar,” and doing a better job or tracking and recording all of the fundraising activity, special collections and volunteer hours served throughout the year to provide members with a more complete picture of our collective acts of benevolence.
  • The ESSE Team continues to promote ESSE’s services at St. Mark’s to local stakeholders to help grow that ministry through client referrals.

We celebrate the addition of Mary Mandel to Congregation Council, and we know she will immediately contribute new energy to the work in front of us. We are also grateful for the continued service of Lynnette Brent, Rob Creaney, Matt Greising, and Randy Steinheimer, who were elected to another two-year term at the Annual Meeting.

Thank you to all those members who attended the Annual Meeting on January 29, asked questions, and participated in our leadership election process. Your thoughtful questions and comments help inform our work as a Council, and to better respond to members. We hope you continue to engage in Chat with Council opportunities in the coming weeks. Please feel free to continue to speak with any Council member attending the Welcome Desk, before or after service or at any other church function.  

Council Happenings

December 2022 report

The Council meeting on Sunday, November 20, opened with prayer at 11:45 a.m.. Highlights from committee reports:;

Finance: October income was very strong; the year-to-date deficit is the lowest it has been. Outside of the finance report was a discussion concerning the meaning of benevolence. Council members were asked to reflect upon their definition of benevolence and how it relates to supporting our Synod, as well as our other outreach ministries. The proposed 2023 Budget was reviewed category—or “bucket”—line by line, and there was an opportunity for discussion. Council members were asked to study the budget more closely and to report their ideas/suggestions for revisions to President, Randy Steinheimer, who will compile and share the ideas with the Council members in preparation for finalizing/approving the budget at the December 18 meeting.

Property: The Property Team posed a question whether St. Mark’s should continue to offer the dumpsters for recycling in our church parking lot. St. Mark’s began to offer this service to our members/the community long before recycling became commonplace, and in addition, we received a small monetary commission. It was decided to no longer offer the recycling dumpsters due to the fact that recycling is now available at our homes and a commission is no longer offered. Council approved the removal of the recycling dumpster in early 2023, along with an announcement to our members of this action.

Outreach: ESSE opened December 1, 2022! St. Mark’s hosted The Dominican Literacy Center (DLC) training event for their tutors in November. The Aurora Lion’s held their Pancake breakfast at St. Mark’s.

Stewardship: The Stewardship Committee reported having received 123 pledges totaling $582,924. Approximately 20% of the pledges reflect a 9% increase over the amount pledged last year. The financial thermometer in the narthex continues to rise!

Youth & Family: A successful fire drill was conducted during FDL in November. Children’s Christmas Program is Saturday, December 10, with a potluck to follow. Students from FDL are conducting a holiday food drive.

Worship & Music Ministry: The worship service on Sunday, December 18, will include an Advent Music Presentation: "O Antiphons." A Music Ministry Holiday Luncheon will follow the service. Work is under way to once again offer Prayer Partners during worship.

Response Advisory Team (RAT): The RAT Team will meet on December 6 to review COVID community levels and to make recommendations to ensure a safe, in-person gathering on Christmas Eve. Members will be updated via the Friday emails.

Endowment: The Endowment Team reported that it will have three vacancies in the coming year.

Pastor’s Report: Pastor reviewed the strategic eight-week rollout plan for Shelby; a summary of a day-long staff retreat that included team-building, visioning, and 2023 church planning; and an update on Deacons. Deacon training is in progress, and we now have ten Deacons to provide pastoral care to members. Pastor also reported that ten students affirmed their baptismal promises at worship on October 30.

President’s Report:

  • A Communications Team has been created to consider how best to relate the monthly Council info, monthly budget, and Council contact info to members.
  • The Council unanimously approved moving forward with beginning the Call process in early 2023. Per St. Mark’s Constitution, a Call Committee will be formed and its members approved at the Annual Congregational Meeting set for Sunday, January 29, 2023. Randy has been in ongoing contact with Pastor Sunita Mortha, Assistant to the Bishop for the Metro Chicago ELCA Synod, and will continue to seek Synod’s guidance for a projected timeline. (The .5 pastor position in the 2023 budget is for an anticipated Interim Pastor.)
  • Current Council members whose terms are ending have expressed a desire to remain on the Council. This leaves one Council member vacancy, and Mary Mandel has agreed to serve. Her name will be offered on the ballot at the January Congregational Meeting.
  • Council members agreed to continue to hold Council meetings after worship on the third Sunday of each month in 2023.

The meeting was closed with The Lord’s Prayer and adjourned at 2:00 PM.

—Randy Steinheimer, Council President


Council Happenings

November 2022 report

Gratitude is the hallmark for the month of November. Council appreciates the support you have shown us throughout 2022 as we have tried to help lead St. Mark’s forward with transparency and purpose. Thank you for your words of encouragement, as well as your questions and comments.

The next “Chat With Council” will take place on Sunday, November 20. Please stop by before service to ask questions, share ideas and learn the latest about the progress of our stewardship campaign, Coming Together in Joyful Giving. Council’s November meeting will follow service on the same day, and we routinely discuss the questions and suggestions that members raise in our chat sessions. With the current fiscal year drawing to a close and 2023 budget discussions set to begin, your questions and feedback are particularly important to Council’s work.

Council has met twice since Council news was last shared in the August/September Vineyard. Here are some highlights from our recent Council meetings.

Finance and Stewardship

In collaboration with the Coming Together in Joyful Giving stewardship campaign, Council conducted a 2023 “Pre-Budget” meeting following services on October 15 and 16. Members received up-to-date budget information for 2022 and got a glimpse of the preliminary 2023 budget. Council answered questions about revenue and expenses needed to support current operations, as well as costs associated with returning to a two-pastor leadership model. Copies of the pre-budget presentation are available at the Welcome Desk if you were not able to attend.

Council Visibility

Earlier this fall, Council began delivering pre-worship service announcements at both Saturday and Sunday services. Our goal is to better acquaint the Congregation with the names and faces of Council members to make us more accessible to the Congregation for questions and comments between formal “Chat with Council” sessions. Council members wear name tags during worship, and you are always welcome to approach us with a suggestion or a concern before or after service.

Beginning in October, Council took on the role of serving as Worship Assistants for Saturday evening worship. This is part of our overall effort to serve St. Mark’s through worship, ministry and outreach, and provides members with an additional opportunity to speak with a Council member after service.


Council has been trained in the fundamentals of the Shelby system, and Council members are available to take your questions about the ways Shelby can serve as our church directory and manage our many ministry groups. We encourage members to update their contact information in Shelby and participate in the Shelby roll-out process.

Committee News

  • Property:

The Property Team completed routine maintenance on the boilers and related equipment as the church moved from cooling to heating systems. Facility preparations for ESSE continue as furniture and equipment ESSE provides for its use are delivered to the church. Members who participated in the building tours on Sunday, October 16, were able to see the spaces ESSE will be using in the Education Wing.

  • Outreach:

Our tradition of Salvation Army Bell Ringing will return again this year. Look for promotional information on the outreach display wall, as well as an opportunity to sign up for a day, time, and location that work for you. This is a great opportunity to spread holiday cheer for an important cause. The Outreach Committee will continue to use the display wall to communicate the important outreach work being done, so please take a moment to look for new information.

In-Person Worship Study

At its October meeting, Council reviewed in-person worship data between 2017-2022. This information will be useful for planning and budget development as we move forward. Council also hopes to study remote worship data from 2020 to present as part of an effort to track the Congregation’s participation in worship over time.

Council’s Final Quarter of 2022

Council has identified its primary goals for the final three months of 2022 in alignment with the church’s larger milestone events.

  • Support the Coming Together in Joyful Giving stewardship campaign, including the goal of 100% of Council members pledging their support to St. Mark’s
  • Analyze data for planning and budget development for 2023
  • Provide support for the Shelby system rollout to the Congregation
  • Plan the agenda for the 2023 Annual Meeting and Budget Forum

—Jon Miller, Council Secretary