Latest Update From the Pre-School Team

imagesGreetings, People of Luther Memorial,

As you know, LMC’s Preschool Team has been exploring the possibility of a joint mission venture at Luther Memorial with Pilgrim Lutheran Church.  As part of this venture, we’ve been floating feelers throughout the congregation at various times, including a summer 2014 survey and some intentional conversation at the autumn 2014 cottage meetings.

In addition to this, the Preschool Team set out a schedule of planned steps to be taken in early 2015 to see if a preschool is, in fact, feasible at Luther Memorial.  These steps included continued conversation with Pilgrim over covenant terms, city and state inspections of our facilities and proposed upgrades, and internal discussion reflecting on the feedback we heard at the cottage meetings, congregational meeting, and through the summer survey.

Conversation, while mostly positive, has revealed that LMC is not of one mind on the idea of a preschool at this time.  This is expected.  A venture of this nature and of this scope will require long conversations and clarity to make happen. Even then we expect that not everyone will be on the same page.

Our goal as a team has been to investigate the possibility with an open mind and heart, allowing the Spirit to move freely even as we listen carefully to one another.

Here are the things that we do know:

– From our internal survey in the summer of 2014, the majority of respondents would be interested in having a preschool at LMC, and would refer a friend.

– With the closing of Waters and Coonley preschools, even with the new opening of private preschools in the Ravenswood/Lincoln Square neighborhood, there is a need for affordable options for preschool aged children in our mission area.

– While LMC’s facilities do not currently meet all of the needs to immediately open a preschool, upgrades would neither be vast nor totally cost-prohibitive, especially if folded into a capital campaign.

– While some within LMC are concerned about space allocation for a preschool, the proposed spaces to be used are mostly unoccupied during school hours, and with the renovation of some other spaces within the church, could be made free.

– LMC passed all city and state inspections with a few, mostly minor, recommendations for improvement.

Here are a few things that are still unclear:

– Even with proposed full enrollment (for full-day schooling), could the increased operational costs be handled by LMC?

– What exactly would LMC receive from tuition for this venture?

And finally,

– Could the community get behind a mission/vision strategy, a capital campaign, and a campaign to start a preschool?

This last unknown is the sticking point for those of us on the Preschool Team.  Because we feel that proposing a preschool at LMC at this particular time will be a stumbling block for the upcoming capital campaign, we are recommending that the preschool discussions between LMC and Pilgrim be suspended for now.

We, as a team, feel it is important to remain in partnership with Pilgrim (and to increase our ministry collaboration with them).  We feel that we should remain open to this possibility for sometime in the future.  We also recognize that a campaign to start this venture is unwise with all that is currently happening at LMC.  It would distract rather than reinforce.

We feel confident that none of our work has gone to waste!  With the inspections from the city we received many good suggested upgrades to our current space.  Through our prayer and conversation we’ve seen new ways that we can partner with Pilgrim to do ministry in Chicago.  Through our dreaming as a team, we’ve gained a good sense of our space usage and areas that we are currently under utilizing.

This sort of ministry venture at Luther Memorial is new territory for our faith community. God calls us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending.  Though conversations are suspended at this time, the team does not feel this is the end of them, nor the end of dreaming how LMC can better serve God’s purpose for the city of Chicago.

Indeed, this is only the beginning as we discern how God is calling us to Rejoice, Reform, Renew, and Respond as a community!

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Preschool Questions: Answered (Part Three)

colour-pencils-450621_640For additional information, you can read our previous posts on this topic here and here.

Question – Is there going to be a preschool at Luther Memorial Church (LMC)?

Answer – The answer is “Undecided”.  A team has been working to discern if a faith-based preschool can become part of the LMC mission.  The team believes having a preschool at LMC would be a natural extension of our mission to the congregation and to our surrounding community.  However, the team is critically examining if a preschool is a worthwhile use of our congregational resources of space and money.

Question – If a team is acting doesn’t that mean a decision has already been made?

Answer –  No.  The team is assessing the costs and resources that would be needed to offer a preschool program resident at LMC.  If the team can put together a workable model, it will then be presented to the Church Council for review.  If it meets the Council’s approval, the model would then be presented to the congregation for its ultimate approval.

Question – What expertise does LMC have to develop a preschool as part of our programs?

Answer – The team is discussing with Pilgrim Lutheran (Pilgrim) about forming a partnership to open a new preschool location in our community.  In its simplest form,  Pilgrim would provide its administrative experience including staffing while LMC would provide the location.  LMC avoids the risks and pitfalls of starting up such a school by partnering with Pilgrim.  The discussions include how to allocate operating costs, capital costs and financial risks in establishing a preschool.  The target date for our model is Fall 2016.

Question – Can you share any details of what the preschool may be like?

Answer – Certainly.  The model the team is working on looks like this – the Beginners Room would be the classroom site.  Enrollment would be no more than 20  students with a teacher and an aide.  The projected enrollment is determined by our available space and minimum staffing requirements. Full or half-day slots would be available for students.  Activities now scheduled in the Beginners Room would be moved to the Nursery space or elsewhere in the building.

Question – What structural changes would need to be made to our building?

Answer –  Many of the contemplated uprades to modernize our current office configuration and capabilities would dovetail with the potential needs of a preschool. Other minor rennovations to the Beginners Room would be part of any other proposed building plans.  So far, the one stand-alone structural addition is the need for an outdoor play area.  The team is assessing both the physical possibility and capital costs of putting a playground on the roof of the boiler room.  The potential costs for this and any other changes are major considerations in determining if any preschool model is right for LMC.

Question – What operating costs would be required for a preschool? Who will pay them?

Answer – The team has identified several costs that would be part of a preschool model.  First, the salaries of the teacher and the aide are the obvious expenses.  There would also be additional custodial expenses.  The Pilgrim model relies on tuition to cover salaries, educatonal, and custodial expenses.  The Pilgrim model also assumes the host provides the physical plant and pays any increased utility expenses.  Allocation of other costs, insurance for example, are a significant part of our negotiations with Pilgrim.  The assumption of potential economic risks associated with enrollment and tuition collected is another negotiating point.

Question – Would LMC need to be licensed to operate a preschool? Other City regulations?

Answer – LMC can either apply for a state license or seek an exemption to operate a preschool.  We would strive to meet the Illinois DCFS standards because they are meaningful benchmarks for our preparedness to operate a preschool. The team has reviewed the DCFS licensing requirements and believes a license could be readily obtained. We already meet nearly all of the Illinois standards affecting square footage and other physical parameters.

We also have to meet City fire and building codes.  We have confirmed with the City and our alderman that a preschool is compatible with our current zoning. We requested informal inspections by the City departments to determine our current compliance with their standards and what changes, if any, would be needed. Those inspections were completed last week and we are just beginning to evaluate their suggestions.

Question – What is the timeline for a decision?

Answer – If the preschool is to open in a partnership with Pilgrim Lutheran for Fall of 2016, the congregation would have to vote in a special meeting during the early fall  2015.  The team continues to assess our physical plant and the monetary costs; evaluate the potential partnership arrangement with Pilgrim Lutheran; and discern the place, if any, of a preschool as part of Luther Memorial’s mission. The team will share its work with the Council and congregation if a successful model can be fashioned.

This post was guest written by Preschool Team member Jerry Giese. The Council thanks Jerry for all of his hard work and dedication as we work to determine feasibility and next steps on this project. His experience and attention to detail have been vital throughout the process.

Preschool Questions: Answered (Part Two)

2414277632_9d4cec0315_bIn Preschool Questions: Answered (Part One) we addressed some concerns that came up during the cottage meetings regarding the proposed Luther/Pilgrim early childhood center. We also mentioned an action plan for moving forward in 2015. Here, we will outline that action plan and the timeline that we are proposing as the next steps in this process.

JANUARY 2015 

The Pilgrim/Luther Joint Task Force will mobilize someone from the city to do a feasibility study on LMC as a possible hosting site for a preschool, noting all necessary upgrades.

Pilgrim (with help from LMC) will apply for a Joshua Grant at Wheatridge.

The Joint Task Force will analyze the city recommendations and decide whether or not this is still possible. If yes, the conversation goes to a vote for continuance at the LMC congregational meeting on January 25th. If no, the conversation is suspended.

FEBRUARY AND MARCH 2015

The Joint Task Force will hammer out a formal list of shared and separate responsibilities, including how things will be paid for.  If this can be worked out, the conversation continues.  If not, the conversation is suspended.

APRIL 2015

The Joint Task Force will craft a covenant for ministry, to be approved by both councils and the Pilgrim school board.  If this can be worked out, conversation goes to a final vote.  If not, the conversation is suspended.

MAY AND JUNE 2015

The covenant is presented for a vote at Pilgrim’s Annual Meeting.  If approved, LMC calls a special congregational meeting to vote on the covenant. If both congregations approve it, the formal agreement is adopted and work toward a September 2016 opening officially continues.

JULY 2015

LMC will apply for Synod grant (15k-20k) to be used toward this endeavor.

We would like to see this project work. We learned in the cottage meetings that most of you do, too. We can see the benefits. That’s the easy part. Now comes the part where we work through all of the concerns and the questions and see if this is a viable project. It won’t be beneficial to anyone for us to force it if it’s just not going to work. We believe this action plan and timeline will help us work through the more difficult areas and let us know if this is not the time to move forward after all.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome. Contact Pastor Tim (pastortimbrown@gmail.com) or Angie Cooper (adcooper13@gmail.com).

Preschool Questions: Answered (Part One)

imagesOne of the growth opportunities we talked about in the recent cottage meetings was the possibility of a Luther/Pilgrim early childhood center housed at LMC. Several strengths came out of those meetings. A preschool here would benefit our congregation and meet a need in our community. It would mean increased community outreach, involvement and service. It could become something that draws people to our community and congregation. There were also a handful of concerns that came up at almost every meeting. These concerns could be seen as possible barriers to a hosting a preschool and raise questions regarding its viability. We would like to address those concerns here in the hopes that we can answer your questions and clarify a few points as we head into 2015.

Please note: nothing below is finalized. Everything is in the conceptual phase.

COST (staffing, upgrades, maintenance, insurance, etc.)

Pilgrim will cover some

  • Professional staff (teachers and aides)
  • Necessary equipment and supplies for the room

LMC will cover some

  • Necessary building upgrades
    • New flooring
    • Short toilets
    • Outdoor play space
    • Door access (keypad entry or doorperson)
  • Custodial staff
  • Office staff

We are looking into insurance costs.

It is expected that we would net zero at the end of the year. This would not be a         moneymaking venture. We do, however, think that the sum of benefit to our community, to our ministry outreach and to being a place where Christ is seen through our service will be incalculable.

LEGAL (permits, permissions, regulations, zoning, liability)

There are two members of Pilgrim’s team with experience in starting preschools in Chicago. They don’t foresee any problems in this area. According to them we need to have a specific plan for the relationship between our churches and for the building upgrades before we take it to the city. We are still working on determining if we even want to do this. One of the first physical steps in 2015 is finding out what specifically the city would desire/require for a preschool to be held here. Before that we must take the missional step of identifying the nature of this relationship.

SPACE (facilities, playground, infrastructure, what happens to things that are in this space now?)

All of the upgrades necessary to hosting an early childhood center would also benefit our own children. The preschool room would be used as the nursery during normal nursery hours. The basement of LMC is currently empty on weekdays. The only thing that would be displaced would be the Wednesday morning playgroup. We are looking into alternatives for this group.

RELATIONSHIP (How will the arrangement with Pilgrim work? How do we deal with potential conflicts?)

We are working on getting everything in writing. We have discussed a covenant that would be reviewed and approved by both councils and ultimately voted on by both congregations. Even though this is a relationship between two churches with similar missions, it is also a business relationship. We have discussed some sort of trial period with an evaluation at the end. We have also discussed having a standing steering team made up of members from both c, which would tend to the relationship between our churches. LMC would also likely have a rep on the Pilgrim school board.

MISSION & VISION (Is this where LMC is headed?)

This is an excellent question. We will be working on our mission and vision in the New Year. If, at some point, it is determined that an early childhood center does not align with our new mission and vision, our “Should we do this?” question has an answer. There is a concern that this will overtake our other efforts at LMC. It is not meant to redefine our church, but to be one of the many things we do to benefit our members and our community. LMC will never be a “school with a church.” If we host an early childhood center here, it will be because we feel God is calling us to provide this for the city.

COST/BENEFIT (Is this going to be worth all the money, effort, etc.?)

As mentioned above, we don’t anticipate making money on this effort. We do, however, feel that the intangibles would be well worth the cost, both financial and otherwise.

During the last couple of meetings of the joint task force we have decided to slow down the original proposed timeline and delay a vote on the project until we can get a clearer picture and better answer some of these questions. At the January congregational meeting we will be voting instead on an action plan. We will go into more detail on this plan and its steps in Part Two. We would begin with Step One at the beginning of the year and we wouldn’t move forward from one step to the next until we were satisfied that we were still on target. We have a lot of information to gather and details to be worked out. What we’re looking for now and what we’ll be looking for at the meeting is your blessing to continue looking into this project and working through those details. Nothing is decided. Nothing is set in stone. Nothing will go forward without a majority vote from the congregation. This is not a relationship or a project that we take lightly. We want all our ducks in a row before moving forward. There just happen to be a lot of ducks.

Please continue to pray about this possible ministry area!

Contact Pastor Tim (pastortimbrown@gmail.com) or Angie Cooper (adcooper13@gmail.com) with any questions.