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Pastor's Letter

I want to thank Lynn, Darlene, and Pat for all the hard work they’ve been doing to shed light on the congregation’s financial position and current needs. As a result of the Congregation Meeting they called in December and the various budget discussions they hosted, giving to the General Fund has increased significantly. The monthly expense of the General Fund is just over $8,000. In December, we contributed just over $13,000, compared to the average monthly contributions of about $7,000 in the previous eleven months. Finding ways to communicate more openly about our finances has been very helpful.


The report of the financial review conducted in November affirms the positive impact of financial transparency and congregational involvement. We have over-burdened our Treasurer with sole responsibility for managing Bethlehem’s finances. This is not only emotionally taxing for them but “presents a dilemma for the church treasurer” … “(who) then must do a balancing act, watching each week to see what bills must be paid, and which can be postponed, and when dedicated funds can be transferred to their appropriate account.” The report recommends the following:

Another area of concern is the separation of duties, and checks and balances regarding the depositing and dispersing of funds. In an organization this small, there must be a certain degree of trust, balanced with reasonable checks and balances. On the income side, it appears that there are a few different people that count money, which provides some degree of assurance that not just one person controls the counting, recording and depositing of funds. However, on the disbursement side, it appears that one person pays all the bills, signs the checks, balances the bank statements and prepares the financial statements. As mentioned before, our testing indicated that disbursements have been appropriately recorded and have the proper documentation. Yet there does not appear to be any specific oversight of the entire disbursement process. One option for adding some checks and balances here would be to have another council member review (or prepare) the reconciliation of the bank statement(s) each month. Alternatively, someone other than the treasurer could mark each bill as approved to pay, with the date and their initials, before the bills are paid. Other organizations require the signing of checks by someone other than the treasurer, reviewing the proper documentation before signing. Any of these suggestions, or a combination of a couple, would add another set of eyes to the accounting process and provide some checks and balance. Requiring the Council President to sign checks as well as review the monthly bank reconciliation would, in my opinion, provide more checks and balances.

 

Additionally, a resource the ELCA offers has this advice:

Daniel Kasle, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the Church Pension Group (CPG), says there are three cardinal rules of cash management:
1. Proper segregation of duties
“The person who collects the money should not be the same person who banks the money,” Dan says. There should always be “at least two people” who know how much money was collected, so no disagreements arise about the amount collected versus the amount deposited.
2. Always require two approvals or signatures for all disbursements.
Board members often have fiduciary responsibilities under state law. Dan suggests that a paid administrator should be one of the signatories, and a vestry council member should be the other. If the parish has no paid administrator, then two vestry members should act as signatories. 

3. Any questions?
“If you have any doubt, refer back to rules one and two,” Dan says.

 

In addition to increasing our contributions to the General Fund, individual members of the congregation have volunteered their time and talents to help us create this segregation of duties. Currently, we have three counters who are not members of the council. With one or two more volunteers, we can ensure that no one person is counting the offering every week. This helps to protect privileged information about individual giving, and also helps to relieve volunteer burn-out.
I opened by thanking Lynn, Darlene and Pat for all their hard work. This gratitude comes not only from me but from the whole congregation.
I also want to recognize how hard the work has been. I think it has been emotionally draining for everyone. Anxiety around money is a pretty common human trait. We all experience it; just think of the last time someone crowded you at the check-out. When our anxieties are triggered, we humans have trouble responding with the best we have to offer. The hardest part of this budgeting work is the damage it has inflicted on relationships between council members. (Our constitution states the pastor is to be a member of the council, so I include myself here.) I think the biggest challenge for all of us on council in the coming year will be learning to work together. We might consider ways to rest, restore, and re-create.

Gratitudes

Recent Apperciations

Contact: Pastor.Jean

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ELCA Global Church Sponsorship Thank you for supporting Missionary Gustavo Driau with your (through WELCA) contribution of $1,000.

 

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Minsitries

Correspondence Received February 16, 2019

Contact: Pastor.Jean

Memorial in Honor of Marjorie Engum

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Utilities (NorthWestern Energy: Church Bldg) The charge for February is $180.00. This is on a budget billing plan.

Insurance Expense (GuideOne Insurance) Current Balance Due: $1,398.00.

 

Sign-Up Sheets

Contact: Pr Jean

Worship Leader sign-up sheets are available for the 8:30am and 10:30am services February 24th through March 17th.

 

Correspondence Received February 13, 2019

Contact: Pr Jean

Memorial Fund Balance $4,205.00 as of Feb. 8, 2019
Utilities (Gas: Church Bldg.) Charge for 1/10/19 through 2/6/19 $321.68; our usage was lower than the same period last year, even though the avg. temp was lower. Yay!
Utilities (Gas: Parsonage) Charge for 1/10/19 through 2/6/19 $107.44; similarly, our usage was lower than the same period last year, even though the avg. temp was lower. Yay!
Northern Rockies Institute of Theology Theology of the Land, March 21 in Kalispell, March 22 in Shelby
Freedom in Christ Prison Ministry Contribution report for 2018, we gave $175.00

 

Weekly and Monthly Newsletters

Contact: Pr Jean

Do we need both? Can we integrate them?
Here it is the second week of February and you may be wondering where the newsletter is. Did you miss the print out at church? Did the email go directly to your junk mail folder? No, neither of these is true. I just got hung up on the pastor's letter.
I'd like to think that someday I'll be so organized that two funerals bracketing an annual meeting won't cause a ripple in my schedule. It is not so much a question of time management as it is a question of self-care. All three events had an emotional impact on me — that's good news. The difficult part for me is feeling all the feels, accepting them, etc. etc. I've spent the last twenty years working to undo the "good soldier" mindset that I spent my first thirty-five years cultivating.
What does that have to do with the newsletter? Well, I think the theme of the letter I didn't write would have been about bearing one another's burdens in love. We all have emotional baggage, some more than others. Building relationships, building community isn't so much about finding people without baggage. More so, it's about deciding if you can find ways to make your kind of weird clash less with other people's kind of weird.
I'm sharing my kind of weird (ignoring my feelings sometimes, then experiencing emotional flooding) as a way of inviting you to share your kind of weird with me and with each other. We are all of us dealing with our own stuff. Sometimes we think it makes us unlovable. On the contrary, it makes us who we are. And who we are is beloved children of God.

Do we need both? Can we integrate them?
Here it is the second week of February and you may be wondering where the newsletter is. Did you miss the print out at church? Did the email go directly to your junk mail folder? No, neither of these is true. I just got hung up on the pastor's letter.
I'd like to think that someday I'll be so organized that two funerals bracketing an annual meeting won't cause a ripple in my schedule. It is not so much a question of time management as it is a question of self-care. All three events had an emotional impact on me — that's good news. The difficult part for me is feeling all the feels, accepting them, etc. etc. I've spent the last twenty years working to undo the "good soldier" mindset that I spent my first thirty-five years cultivating.
What does that have to do with the newsletter? Well, I think the theme of the letter I didn't write would have been about bearing one another's burdens in love. We all have emotional baggage, some more than others. Building relationships, building community isn't so much about finding people without baggage. More so, it's about deciding if you can find ways to make your kind of weird clash less with other people's kind of weird.
I'm sharing my kind of weird (ignoring my feelings sometimes, then experiencing emotional flooding) as a way of inviting you to share your kind of weird with me and with each other. We are all of us dealing with our own stuff. Sometimes we think it makes us unlovable. On the contrary, it makes us who we are. And who we are is beloved children of God.

2019 Church Council

Contact: Pr Jean

Led by Ret. Pastor Jim Darchuck, the council walked through Leadership Orientation Information. This included a brief overview of the constitution and where to find answers in it; the public nature of the church; helpful meeting practices; the role of church leaders and the problem of secrets in church. A copy of Pr. Jim's presentation is available in the narthex and online if you'd like to see it. The council also elected officers. I'm pleased to present the 2019 Church Council

  • Margie Shea - Council President
  • Casey Anguiano - Council Vice President
  • Johnna Voto - Secretary
  • Darlene Fernelius - Treasurer
  • Jerry Bauck - Council Member
  • Gayle Breding - Council Member
  • Dave Brockman - Council Member
  • Dennis McCave - Council Member
  • Barb Bohle - Alternate
  • Jessie Hanna - Alternate
  • and of course me - Pastor Jean

Led by Ret. Pastor Jim Darchuck, the council walked through Leadership Orientation Information. This included a brief overview of the constitution and where to find answers in it; the public nature of the church; helpful meeting practices; the role of church leaders and the problem of secrets in church. A copy of Pr. Jim's presentation is available in the narthex and online if you'd like to see it. The council also elected officers. I'm pleased to present the 2019 Church Council

  • Margie Shea - Council President
  • Casey Anguiano - Council Vice President
  • Johnna Voto - Secretary
  • Darlene Fernelius - Treasurer
  • Jerry Bauck - Council Member
  • Gayle Breding - Council Member
  • Dave Brockman - Council Member
  • Dennis McCave - Council Member
  • Barb Bohle - Alternate
  • Jessie Hanna - Alternate
  • and of course me - Pastor Jean

St. John’s is looking for Volunteers

Contact: Pastor.Jean

Volunteer Driver at Wyndstone
A volunteer is needed to drive the activity bus to events evenings and on weekends. Training is provided; no CDL required. Volunteers will receive a complimentary ticket to the performance or event.

Vigil Coordinator
Vigil Coordinators assist the pastoral care staff by emailing and volunteers to set up a vigil. This can be done from home or in our office on as needed basis. Must be able to use a computer; sitting vigil is not required.

volunter at sjlm.org or call 655-7727

 

Luther's Lodge

Contact: Jeanne W.

LutherLodge  

Luther’s Lodge offers A warm welcoming guest home for patients and their families who are in Billings for medical treatment. Luther’s Lodge operates primarily on the donations of individuals and local churches.  Room rentals covers only a small portion of the operating income. 

Bethlehem helps keep the room rental rates reasonable for patients and their families by providing cleaning service once a week during the month of March each year. To pitch in, contact Jeanne Weber, or sign-up on the sheet on the “Ways to Get Involved” board in the narthex.

LutherLodge  

Luther’s Lodge offers A warm welcoming guest home for patients and their families who are in Billings for medical treatment. Luther’s Lodge operates primarily on the donations of individuals and local churches.  Room rentals covers only a small portion of the operating income. 

Bethlehem helps keep the room rental rates reasonable for patients and their families by providing cleaning service once a week during the month of March each year. To pitch in, contact Jeanne Weber, or sign-up on the sheet on the “Ways to Get Involved” board in the narthex.

Montana Synod Vision Questionnaire - Please respond

Contact: Pr Jean

The paper copy of the Synod Vision Questionnaire is here. It would be ideal to have everyone take a survey and turn it in on the same visit to church. I understand people sometimes like to take more time to reflect on their answers. Sunday, February 24th will be the final day to return your survey. I plan to mail the completed surveys to the synod office on Tuesday, February 26th. In some respects, the survey is similar to the Congregational Vitality survey we just completed for the annual report to churchwide. Some of the questions focus on Bethlehem, and some focus on the synod.

This questionnaire has been developed by the Task Force appointed by the Synod Council, in conjunction with Planning, Research and Evaluation, part of the ELCA's Office of the Presiding Bishop. The Task Force believes this questionnaire will be very important in informing the election process and in allowing nominees, voting members, and everyone in the synod to reflect prayerfully on priorities and leadership needs of the synod. Like your Task Force, we understand that the election of a synod bishop is also a call process!

Every attendee of every congregation is invited to complete this survey. You can also do so online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/1FSBEmail.

The paper copy of the Synod Vision Questionnaire is here. It would be ideal to have everyone take a survey and turn it in on the same visit to church. I understand people sometimes like to take more time to reflect on their answers. Sunday, February 24th will be the final day to return your survey. I plan to mail the completed surveys to the synod office on Tuesday, February 26th. In some respects, the survey is similar to the Congregational Vitality survey we just completed for the annual report to churchwide. Some of the questions focus on Bethlehem, and some focus on the synod.

This questionnaire has been developed by the Task Force appointed by the Synod Council, in conjunction with Planning, Research and Evaluation, part of the ELCA's Office of the Presiding Bishop. The Task Force believes this questionnaire will be very important in informing the election process and in allowing nominees, voting members, and everyone in the synod to reflect prayerfully on priorities and leadership needs of the synod. Like your Task Force, we understand that the election of a synod bishop is also a call process!

Every attendee of every congregation is invited to complete this survey. You can also do so online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/1FSBEmail.

FIVE GIFTS OF DISCIPLESHIP … during Epiphany

Contact: Pr Jean

Epiphany is an ideal season of the church year to emphasize LIVING OUR BAPTISM and discover the five gifts of discipleship. Affirming the gifts of discipleship in Baptism during the season of Epiphany could become a significant New Year’s tradition. Commitments are made in New Year’s resolutions, often relating to health and well-being. But what about our spiritual health and well-being? What commitments do we make to claim the gifts of discipleship?

 

 

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Bethlehem's Core Identity

Our Mission

Welcome everyone to the love of God.

Our Vision

  • Recognize and embrace our strengths as a Christ-centered community while seeking to meet our financial obligations, understanding that we are in the world but not of it. 
  • Seek to maintain our positive culture while also growing in cultural diversity, and broadening our reach to members of all ages. 
  • Increase transparency regarding the business side of being a church, increase communication, community ties and benevolence within and outside the congregation. 

All Are Welcome

Christ has welcomed us, whoever we are. Because of this, we at Bethlehem Lutheran Church are glad to welcome you. None of the distinctions that divide our world apply here!

  • young, old or in between;
  • white, black, native, Hispanic, whatever your ancestry;
  • married, single, divorced, a single parent, whatever your family of choice;
  • rich, poor, middle class, employed or unemployed;
  • a lifelong Christian, just now seeking faith, or not really sure;
  • straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, questioning, however you identify;
  • healthy of mind and body, living with mental illness, disabled or sick;
  • struggling with addiction, in recovery, or if you love those who are;
  • liberal, conservative, or ambivalent;
  • homeless, a former convict, or in any way longing for acceptance. 


At Bethlehem, we offer safety, love and the ministry of Word and Sacrament to everyone who seeks it.  Come and be part of this welcome, as equal, as free, as a beloved child of God!  All ARE welcome!  

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