Pastoral Call Process

Transition Team

  • Launched in April 2022
  • The Transition Team was created by the Bethlehem Council.
  • The Transition Team will create the Ministry Site Profile with input from listening sessions and a ministry assessment survey.

These Transition Team members were commissioned on June 5 (MPLS) and June 12 (MTKA):

  • Andy Kroll, Naomi Staruch, Scott Elton, Nels Thompson, Jennifer Vickerman, Gary Schmidt, Linh Stoebner, Katie Klos, Brian Swanson, Randy Thatcher, Melissa Steen, Katie Anthony, Regina Johnson, and Pastor Vern

Call Committee

  • Launched in March 2023
  • Call Committee is appointed by the Bethlehem Council
  • The Call Committee will lead the congregation in the search for a new Lead Pastor. They will gather the names of potential candidates, read through personal profiles, and decide which candidates to invite for an interview.
  • The Call Committee will be commissioned at the Mpls campus on March 12 and at the Mtka campus on March 19.

Call Committee: Andy Kroll, Alexandra Renslo, Bekah Engstrand, Brian Swanson, Bruce MacKenzie, Gail Conroy, Lynn Henry, Tom Houle, Sandra Anderson, Tim Johnson 


For more information on the process of calling a new pastor, visit the Minneapolis Area Synod’s resources for congregations on their website.

Call Committee Nomination Form

Communication Updates

March 3, 2023 – Call Committee Update

Dear People of Bethlehem,

If you missed the announcement at the annual meeting, we have formed a Call Committee. A number of names were lifted up by the Church Council. Persons were contacted and asked to prayerfully consider the role. Many said yes. Some did not. And in the matter of a week, we had ten names for the team.

Their names are: Andy Kroll, Alexandra Renslo, Bekah Engstrand, Brian Swanson, Bruce MacKenzie, Gail Conroy, Lynn Henry, Nancy McRae, Sandra Anderson, Tim Johnson

The goal of the Call Committee is to lead the congregation in the search for a new Lead Pastor. They will gather the names of potential candidates, read through personal profiles, and decide which candidates to invite for an interview. No doubt this will be a time-consuming process, involving lots of conversation, prayer, and more than a little discernment. Through it all, the Call Committee will be the face of Bethlehem for a variety of candidates in the weeks and months to come.

A few details to keep in mind as this process gets started:

  • The Call Committee will be commissioned at the Mpls campus on March 12 and at the Mtka campus on March 19.
  • Names of the committee members are available on the Call Process page of the  Bethlehem website.
  • Periodic updates will be sent via email, and the Call Process page will be kept up to date on all of the communications from the Call Committee.
  • The names of potential candidates will be gathered from a variety of sources, including from members of the congregation. Watch for information coming soon on how to submit the name of a candidate. The important thing, according to Bishop Ann, is to not contact that candidate directly, but to allow those contacts to be made through the proper channels.

As you might imagine, a good deal of confidentiality and discretion will be needed on the part of the Call Committee. While it’s not out of bounds to be in contact with them, don’t expect them to be able to answer your questions or respond to your suggestions. More than anything, they need time and space and your prayerful support to be able to lead this important search process.

Pastor Vern

February 16, 2023 – BLCTC Transition Team & Call Process Update: Ministry Site Profile

Good People of BLCTC:

Bishop Ann Svennungsen of the Minneapolis Area Synod will be at our Minneapolis campus on Monday, February 20 at 7:00pm. She’s coming to give us an overview of our Ministry Site Profile (MSP), a key component of our call process. The event will be in-person in the sanctuary, and it will be livestreamed as well.

By way of reminder, the Ministry Site Profile started with lots of careful listening and survey work on the part of the Transition Team. A draft was written describing both our congregational life and what sort of pastoral leadership we are seeking. From there the MSP went to the Bethlehem Church Council for their input. And now we are sharing it with the entire congregation.

Again, a main purpose of the MSP is to provide a snapshot of our ministry site for candidates who might be interested in interviewing for the Lead Pastor position at Bethlehem. In case you’re wondering, the Church Council has decided to look for one candidate for the position and to not return to the co-lead model.

As we take this next step, the council has lifted up a number of potential members for the Call Committee. Even now they are being asked to prayerfully consider serving in this capacity. Join the council in praying for those involved, and for the important work of beginning the call process.

Grateful for your patience and progress,

Pastor Vern

December 16, 2022 – Call Process Update

People of Bethlehem,

The Transition Team is busy finishing up the Ministry Site Profile. The profile includes lots of information on Bethlehem for prospective pastoral candidates. There’s everything in it from our ministry context, to a description of our congregations, to the primary skills we’re looking for in a new lead pastor.

Just so you know, much of the material in the profile comes from information gathered in Listening Sessions and the Ministry Area Survey. A warm thank you to all who took the time to give us feedback along the way.

The goal is the get the profile to the Church Council for review at their January 3 meeting. Assuming a few edits, the Transition Team will aim to get it back to the council on January 31 for final approval. From there the profile will be sent to the ELCA, and then eventually it will get returned to the Mpls Area Synod.

Bishop Ann Svennungsen plans to present the Ministry Site Profile to us. We’re still working out the details, but we’re hoping – depending on her schedule – that she can come to both Mpls and Mtka. Whenever she is able to join us, her presentation will be streamed.

Even as this is happening, the Church Council will be forming a Call Committee. And once that begins, we’ll gather names and the interview process will begin.

Thanks to the Transition Team for all their good work. And thanks as well to all from Bethlehem who provided input for the team to consider.

Say a prayer for the process. These are exciting times!

Pastor Vern

October 13, 2022 – Council President Congregation Update

Dear Siblings in Christ,

As another transition into Fall presents itself, I am reminded of our own season of transition at Bethlehem. I write to update you on our work and with a spirit of deep gratitude, a sense of excitement, and tremendous confidence in your commitment to partner in the work of this congregation.

Bethlehem has been a busy place this year, with mission trips, increasing numbers of youth and families, incredible music, several different engagements with our community, and a tremendous amount of time listening. I’m deeply grateful to the hard work of our staff, the dedication of our Transition Team, and your engagement and support. THANK YOU!

In my report to you all at the annual meeting, I invited us to double down on each other, demonstrating our support for the work we are called to with our time and our dollars. It is no surprise that so many of you have stepped forward to do so; AND, there is so much more to do!

Your Council has had several conversations this year on how we wish to welcome visitors, new members, and our community more broadly. In late 2021/early 2022, Bethlehem committed to continuing this conversation, and your Council is fully supportive of God’s call to do so. The opportunity in this conversation is core to our mission as the Church – Jesus’ great commission serves as a challenge for the Church, echoing across time. We are not a social club, a fraternity dedicated to cultural heritage, or a political entity focused advancing our own world view. We are the body of Christ, built by Jesus; nourished and supported by the power and real presence of the Holy Spirit. We have so much more to do! Your Council has been deeply supportive of the work of this congregation in our outreach initiatives, our work with John Noltner in sharing your hopes and dreams in June, and in the work of the Transition team, who carry a focus on welcoming as part of their work. Lastly, your Council is working on a new Welcome Statement for our website – one that serves as an aspirational challenge to each of us.

The Transition Team has been very busy, meeting with hundreds of us, gathering feedback, documenting our strengths, and identifying new opportunities. This is integral to our continuing growth as a congregation. This work lays the foundation necessary as we look to call a new Lead Pastor. Thank you for your engagement!  If you have not had a chance to be heard and to share your perspectives, please do – including completing an online Ministry Assessment survey by the 16th of October.  Your voice and perspectives matter.

Our congregational staff and youth ministries have focused on increasing engagement and programing this year. It’s been terrific to see new faces, feel new energy, and to hear the sounds of a growing church. Please let us know if there are areas of interest we can connect you to – we’ve much to do!

At the annual meeting, the congregation voted to sell our current month-to-month cell tower lease of our roof for an upfront payment of $250,000, on a perpetual lease, with revenue-sharing of 60% on future new lease opportunities. Since then, members of Council have worked with the staff to negotiate even more favorable terms – increasing the payment to over $305,000, shortening the term of the lease to 50 years, and increasing future revenue-sharing to 75% on new leases. Approximately half of this sale was designated to foundation repairs, with the remainder held for future needs. We hope to finalize this sale in the coming weeks.

This exciting work takes commitment, both in terms of volunteers and the generosity of our members. Pastor Vern recently shared a financial update with you all, indicating our opportunity to close the current fiscal gap of roughly $397,000. Your Council has been engaged in these conversations throughout the year and is committed to Bethlehem being good stewards of the generosity of this congregation. We’ve had some large expenses this year with fixing a foundation leak in Minneapolis, and repairs to elevators, appliances, and HVAC units.  Additionally, the cost of heating and cooling our buildings has risen, just as it has for each of us at home. In spite of this, our staff has managed expenses and will continue to do so. As of the end of August, Bethlehem’s total expenses are running approximately $100,000 below what was budgeted to have been spent. I invite us to prayerfully consider supporting, or further supporting, our Congregation’s work in response to God’s invitation.

As we continue our walk together, growing our impact, sharing in God’s work, and preparing for a new Lead Pastor, I am confident we will do so from a place of strength and abundance. I am confident in Bethlehem – because I am confident in our continued response to become together – sharing in the work of God’s vision for a healed world.

Think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 1 Corinthians 4:1

Grace and Peace,

John Helberg

Council President

September 22, 2022 – Ministry Assessment Survey

People of Bethlehem –

The Transition Team is continuing to seek your input on our ministry at Bethlehem. In addition to our Listening Sessions, what follows is an online survey adapted from one regularly used by the Minneapolis Area Synod. It’s intended for congregations in a call process, to get a broad snapshot on how things seem to be going in that ministry setting. The rating scale we are using is from 1 to 4, but explanatory comments are always helpful. The survey can be anonymous, but names are certainly encouraged, especially if you would like to have further conversation about a particular area of ministry.

If you have not been able to attend one of our Listening Sessions, there is also an optional section at the end to provide input on some of the questions that we discuss in the Listening Sessions:

  • What is especially meaningful to you about worship? Is there something you might like us to do differently?
  • Racial issues impact us in a variety of ways. What role do you see for BLCTC in addressing matters of social justice?
  • Are you anxious about anything at Bethlehem?  If so, what?
  • What do you think is a main priority (or two) for our new lead pastor in the first year with us?

Please complete this online survey by October 16.

On behalf of the Transition Team, thanks so much for your help with this. Your feedback will be very valuable in putting together our Ministry Site Profile.

Pastor Vern

September 20, 2022 – Transition Team is Still Listening

We’re seven months into our pastoral interim. Interims can take time, often more time than we’re expecting. And when they follow a pastor who has died while serving as senior pastor, and then the unexpected departure of co-lead pastors a few years later, the adjustment period might feel even longer. Add in a full-scale pandemic and you can probably see why some interims are called intentional interims.  There’s often a need for careful reflection and conversation before a Call Committee is formed and a new lead pastor is brought on board.

During this time, Bethlehem’s Transition Team has helped guide the process. They’ve been busy listening to a variety of groups, asking strategic questions, and keeping careful notes on what people have been sharing with them. Our Transition Team is hoping to finish up its Listening Sessions by mid-October.  If you want to join a session, there’s still time. In fact, there are two sessions this week. An online session scheduled for tonight at 7:00 pm, and an in person session for parents tomorrow night at 6:30 pm. Please register in advance for these sessions. If those don’t work for you, watch the website for further opportunities. 

There is an additional way to provide feedback as well. A Ministry Assessment Survey will be sent via email this coming Thursday. On a scale of 1–4, you’ll be able to rate how we’re doing in various areas of ministry. We’re also asking for comments to further elaborate one’s perspective. The survey should be able to be completed in approximately 15 minutes.

Once the Listening Sessions and Ministry Assessment Surveys are done, the Transition Team will spend time collating and evaluating what people have been telling them. If there are areas of special concern, they will be discussed with the Church Council.

Finally, when the evaluations are completed, the Transition Team will get busy writing up a Ministry Site Profile. The task is a bit daunting, especially trying to speak for the congregation as a whole. Hopefully the team can get it finished by the end of the year.

What comes next? The information will be shared with the Church Council and the congregation. It will also be shared with the Minneapolis Area Synod. Soon afterward, the council will begin forming a Call Committee. Following that, a list of pastoral candidates will be gathered and interviews will begin.

Your prayers throughout the entire process are greatly appreciated.

Pastor Vern

September 1, 2022

As of September, half a dozen of Transition Team Listening sessions have taken place and more are on the way. Check our weekly communications for upcoming opportunities for conversations. We will also be rolling out a Ministry Evaluation form this month. We want to hear from you!

Here are some of the things that have stood out for me:

Introductory responses:

  • We came to Bethlehem because of life events, and then returned because we were inspired by the experience.
  • We felt people were genuine and caring. Some even remembered our names.
  • Covid has greatly diminished the feeling of community.
  • We like familiar music, but it doesn’t always need to be out of the red book.
  • We want sermons that connect the events of the Bible will real-life events today.

 Some surprises:

  • We have trouble hearing worship at the Minneapolis campus; it makes it tempting to watch it on TV and turn up the volume.
  • The 2-Minute connection is a great opportunity to connect with people – to be reunited with old friends and make some new ones.
  • Immersion into the community surrounding the church is incredibly important. This is the mission field in which God has placed us.
  • We like to hear our own voices and the voices of those around us when we sing. It boosts our confidence to have a strong vocal presence during worship.
  • We need to continue communicating with parents, children, and young adults about what is working for them in living out their faith in daily life.
  • We strive to explore ways to speak to the issues we are facing without being strident. As much as possible, we need Jesus to be our filter.
  • We hope our new lead pastor will be able to able to work with staff and council to make plans around our vision, but then be able to adapt the plan when necessary.
  • A healthy congregational culture at both campuses is pivotal in finding our way forward in today’s world.

 Challenges and Opportunities:

  • In a polarized world, we are convicted by Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • It’s important to be guided by the past, but not constrained by it.
  • We are compelled to have honest conversations about the fact that all religious institutions are declining in membership.
  • We look for creative ways to build bridges between Minnetonka and Minneapolis.
  • We need to be transparent about whatever financial challenges we are facing.
  • As much as we appreciate streaming, we continue to need ways to build in-person connections.
  • We commit ourselves to being inclusive. There are all sorts of people out there that need to know they are welcome at BLCTC.

July 7, 2022

Hi People of Bethlehem,

We have an engaging video to share with you today. As we move further along in the call process, the Transition Team has been asking Bethlehem members a question: “What are your hopes and dreams for what Bethlehem can create together?” We enlisted photographer John Noltner to help us in our storytelling. Fifty people volunteered to jot down twenty-five words or less in answer to that question. You’ll likely recognize several of the names and faces.

Find a comfortable chair, an extra nine minutes, and you can watch the video below.  The result is a wonderful testimony to the power of community – with a great variety of thoughts and feelings shared about what we might be and do together.

And just a reminder, starting this Sunday, July 10 at our Minnetonka campus at 10:45 am, the Transition Team will begin the first of several Listening Sessions aimed at exploring our hopes and dreams for Bethlehem, and a whole lot more. We’ll be having these sessions throughout the summer and into the fall. Join us when you can. We want to hear from you!

Pastor Vern

May 26, 2022 – Call Process Update from Pastor Vern

People of Bethlehem,

I write to you with an update on the call process. In today’s busy, complicated world, call processes normally take several months or more. Gone are the days when the synod would send along a few names, a call committee would take a look at a couple of promising candidates, and a leader would quickly emerge.

 The process often looks more like this:

  1. A Transition Team is formed by the Church Council. Its focus includes:
  • Spending lots of time listening to the hopes and dreams of parishioners.
  • Encouraging others to fill out ministry assessments of existing programs.
  • Inviting folks to join 10-15 others to discuss concerns and ask questions,
  • Updating and sharing findings along the way.
  • Discerning what the congregation wants and needs in a new leader.
  1. The Transition Team writes a Ministry Site Profile that is used by the synod and leaders at Bethlehem to share with prospective candidates.
  2. The Church Council forms a Call Committee, interviews are scheduled, and the discernment process continues.

As we come to the end of May, we have just about finished forming our Transition Team. Great care has gone into making the team representative of Bethlehem as a whole. We hope to commission the team on Pentecost Sunday, June 5 at the 10:15 am service in Minneapolis, and then follow this up with a commissioning at Minnetonka on June 12.

Please surround this team with your support, encouragement, and prayers. Names, pictures, and more information will be coming soon.

Grateful for your partnership in the process,

Pastor Vern

March 17, 2022 – Update from Congregation President

Dear Siblings in Christ,

As we enter Lent this year, in a season of transition, I’m challenging myself to try listening a bit differently. In these 40 days, I’m focusing on the renewal and rousing that this time of preparation brings.  This year, Lent feels like a well-timed gift for Bethlehem.  Lent is a season of transition, bridging the anticipation and joy of Advent and Christmas to the pain of Good Friday, and ultimately, the hope of Easter.  Bethlehem is in a time of listening and of transitioning to where the Hold Spirit is calling us.  In this time, I encourage us to be intentional in listening – to God, to our neighbors, and to each other.   As you reflect, think about what has kept you connected and engaged with this particular community of faith?  What opportunities do you see Bethlehem, and you, uniquely able to deliver?  How can you strengthen and grow this community – as one community?

Your Council moved its meeting up to the first week this month, and under the leadership of Pastor Vern, began conversation on a transition plan. Additionally, we initiated the work of forming a Transition Team and will have updates located on the BLCTC website. When complete, this transition team will consist of representatives from across Bethlehem and will serve to lead and facilitate conversation and listening sessions to help put our collective hopes and dreams to paper. The Transition Team will likely do some work around capturing demographics and data points in the form of a Congregational profile. Lastly, their work will prepare and inform the Call Committee when it is appointed by the Council in several months. I encourage you to visit the site now and watch part of my message from a few weeks ago at the annual meeting.

As we begin this work together, please hear the invitation of your Pastors, Staff, and Council to join in the work ahead. If you are considering returning to our campuses (or waiting for an invitation), to engage in person, please do! You’re welcome and we look forward to seeing you. If you prefer to be online and are unable (or still uncomfortable) to join us in person, you too are welcome – and are fully members of this community and body. In-person or remote, I look forward to your engagement and how we continue to be knit together to execute on the amazing work that God’s Spirit is leading us to. As Christ is the head of this church across time and space, we remain one community across campuses, zip codes, and pews; with as yet unknown members and communities waiting to join us in God’s work!

With Gratitude,

John Helberg
Council President

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16

February 27, 2002 – Congregation President Annual Meeting Update

“How will we, as God’s church, respond to the challenges of this time? Will we lead or will we lay low? Will we confess or will we concede to the crowd? Will Bethlehem stand up and model a different way for a culture that has made being right sacred?”