Profile of an Equipping Church: Cross Lutheran Church, Yorkville, Illinois

Cross Lutheran equips saints for service by providing many avenues to connect people to serving opportunities, and by emphasizing discipleship-faith in action-rather than membership.

Connecting opportunities are coordinated by: Mary Pat Bretthauer, Director of Connect Ministries; mbretthauer@hiscross.org

Her responsibilities:

  • The Connect process can cover “outreach to guest to friend to disciple. What that will look like, we’re designing as we go.” Her role in outreach is mainly in what she calls “first impressions.” She oversees website and print communications, facility appearance, and greeter coordination, in order to build a welcoming atmosphere.
  • Mary Pat meets with one on one with individuals interested in their church, connecting them to small groups, service opportunities, the New Disciple Orientation class, etc., depending on where the individual is in their faith walk.
  • She is a resource to staff and lay leaders, giving them names of people whose gifts and interests match ministry needs. “I ask them to have one key person within their ministry, not necessarily themselves, with whom I can work, to help be a resource.”

Her journey: She became a Lutheran 7 years ago and was first hired by Cross as Director of Operations (facilities, etc.). “Three years ago, our church went through the Purpose-Driven Life campaign process, and I began to feel God moving me in this direction [assimilation/connection].” As the pastors worked on the church’s overall mission and vision, she was able to gradually move into her current responsibilities. She is currently in the Lay Ministry program of Concordia University Wisconsin.

Classes offered at Cross:

  1. All About Cross – a 3-hour overview, held quarterly and led by the Discipleship/Outreach pastor, on the church’s mission and vision, and what it means to be a disciple at Cross. Discipleship is described as “faith in action.”
  2. New Disciple Orientation (previously called Faith Foundations) – an 8 week community group experience for all who want to commit as disciples of Jesus Christ at Cross, including transfers. Includes the basics of the Christian faith, but intentionally leaves the people wanting more. The goal is to have the participants experience authentic community and be a safe place to address hard questions with the truth of scripture and the support of one another
  3. Cross Connect event – a 3-hour event offered quarterly that gets people in community groups (small groups). It’s open to anyone not in a group, or to anyone in a group who feels it’s time to birth a new group. People can be matched with others who have similar interests.
  4. The 6-hour Network classes are offered periodically (the goal is at least twice a year). It used to be a mandatory class but is so no longer. Network materials from Willow Creek are used, with teachings and assessments for spiritual gifts, passion, personal style, etc. Includes a meeting with a ‘Network consultant’ who makes suggestions regarding ministries that might be a good fit for the individual. The individual is encouraged to try it to see if it ‘fits.’ They are also encourage to say ‘no’ when appropriate to their place in life — over-committed, burned out, or when family needs are paramount.
See also
comments from participants.

Also available: Their website includes encouragement and explanations on using your gifts in service, a spiritual gifts inventory, brief descriptions of volunteer opportunities, and the “Top 10 Needs.”

Mary Pat’s comments:

On the church’s move from ‘membership’ to ‘discipleship.’

  • “Discipleship is a whole different mindset than membership. Membership brings the idea of entitlement, and that ‘I’m done.’ We want it to be about discipleship. Discipleship is an ongoing process of learning and growing all the time. Discipleship is faith in action. What used to be New Member Receiving weekend is now called Discipleship Commitment weekend.”
  • “We’re trying to get people to understand that it’s really about bringing people to Christ. It’s not about our comfort level, but our guest’s comfort level, and what they need, not about what we like. It’s not about us; it’s about them and bringing people to Christ.”

On expectations:

  • “In All About Cross, the pastor stresses to the participants that we will be calling them to serve, because we stress faith in action. ‘Expect us to contact you,’ he says. His planting of that seed makes my role a lot easier. The people are expecting me to call and they’re glad I call. It’s beginning to help them see that membership is not entitlement. You are here because God has called you here and God has a purpose for you here. He plans to use you. At first, they’re like, ‘Use me?’ And we say, ‘Yes, use you! Expect that we will be explore with you how He plans to use you, because you are part of our family now.’ That’s been an exciting change. Because we have a school here at Cross, often we will have folks wishing to join just for the tuition break. But as we stress ‘faith in action’ up front, they sit back and think, ‘Whoa. I need to be thinking about it. There’s going to be an expectation.’ It definitely helps, putting it up front.

On serving:

  • “Once you can get a person to serve, to put their faith into action, that’s when the light bulb finally goes off. Sometimes it’s hard to get them to that point. Often we have head knowledge, but we don’t have that heart connection yet. I personally feel that it’s only gotten through putting faith into action. It’s a challenge; it’s an ongoing challenge.”
  • “Periodically, people from Cross travel to Peru to work in a mission we support there. When they return, it’s phenomenal to hear their stories, how their lives were changed by doing the mission trip. They thought they were going to help the people in Peru, but the trip became a blessing to them. It’s the same thing with all service. For some people, I think, mission trips are a little glitzier, more ‘wow’ and ‘out-there’ than the behind-the-scenes daily needs of a church. But I know people can get that same experience by doing the behind-the-scenes things as well. They can get that same joy and satisfaction and can impact lives. But often it’s harder to convince them until they experience it.”

On the ways they encourage serving:

  • “The whole goal of the Network course is to put the right people in the right places for the right reason. And for some, it’s permission to say no because they’ve overextended themselves in previous church life and may be experiencing burn out. So through the class, we help them set those boundaries. Through life, God has different times where different things are important. Honoring those boundaries is important, too.”
  • “We started the Network class here at Cross in 2001. We tended to offer it more for people who felt God nudging them. Two years ago, Hybels rolled out Volunteer Revolution and Living Beyond Myself. We wanted to offer other opportunities for people new to their faith, which are called ‘first serve opportunities.’ We’re trying to do a combination of the two approaches, to provide different on-ramps for people to get connected, no matter where they are at. We developed the volunteer opportunities page on our website to develop first-time events so you could feel a part of Cross, without all this class training and experience.”

On her relationship to other ministries:

  • “Connect Ministries is really an overlay to all ministries. It’s a conduit and a connector. I am not isolated. I need a working relationship and open communication with every ministry area to be effective.”
  • “I want to make sure that this position doesn’t become that of Volunteer Coordinator. That would take away ownership within that ministry area, that they are really there to help people grow spiritually through their service as well. If I’m the only one with responsibility to plug people into ministry, they miss that piece.”

Overall:

  • “Relationships are key. Relationships are the needed glue for the new Christian and for our existing members, to feel they belong, that they have a sense of community, a place they can go to. The bigger we get, the smaller we have to stay. I’m really excited about having launched Cross Connections. An automatic part of that relationship piece is service, so they can feel part of a group and serve as a group.”

Profile, part 2: Comments from participants

Church info:
Mary Pat Bretthauer www.hiscross.org;
Cross Lutheran Church
8609 Route 47
Yorkville, Illinois 60560
(630) 553-7335
Average weekly worship attendance: 790
Includes day school, preschool to grade 8; 321 students

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