FAQ’s about Changes in Worship & Structure for our Fall 2021 Relaunch
April 29, 2021
Covenant Family, for your reference below are additional Frequently Asked Questions about the changes that will becoming over the next several months as we prepare to relaunch for the Fall Semester. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with additional questions at my cell phone – 941-961-0121. If you’d like to read the congregational letter that gives you the “big picture” of these changes please check out the link here:
When will my new rehearsal time be and who will be leading it?
If you are a member of the handbells or the praise band, your rehearsals will continue as scheduled with Russ or Matt through the end of May. During this time, Allison Hendrix may contact you about your availability and interest. Over the summer she will be working to put together a simple music program as well as making preparations for a fall blended service. Decisions about rehearsal times and leadership will be made by Allison as she evaluates our resources and as she crafts our worship strategy alongside pastors and other leaders.
What will happen to online worship?
Online worship will continue as a live-broadcast only, beginning on Sunday, May 30th. We will no longer have full pre-recorded after that date, however, we may have some pre-recorded segments for you to enjoy at your convenience depending on our ability to provide this content for you. Our emphasis will shift to the live broadcast over the summer and we will continue to work to improve this experience for you. Please do continue to provide us feedback and comments so that we can make this a reverent experience for all who join us for worship outside of the church walls.
Why are we changing our music staffing arrangement?
There are a number of reasons why it is time to change our music staffing. For the last twelve months of the pandemic, we have operated under the possibility of reopening with two services. This was re-evaluated each month as a possibility. However, beginning in August of 2020, the elders and trustees began contemplating if it would perhaps better serve our strategy to be at one service for a season. The main reason we are staying at one service for a period of time has to do with our mission to make disciples. We have been declining in worship attendance for the better part of a decade. Our hope and prayer is that we can reverse this trend and begin sharing Christ with a larger number of newcomers as our city grows. However, our current and past systems are not designed to accommodate more than two or three new guests each week. In an effort to better welcome new people into our church family, it became clear that we needed a dedicated time of hospitality and fellowship following worship. We also need to simplify the process for discipleship on Sunday mornings. This is why the elders decided to simplify our Sunday morning timing for a season. We will have one hour of discipleship, followed by one hour of worship, followed by one hour of hospitality. Once this decision was made to continue with one service through the rest of 2021, we then had to address the administrative needs that one worship service will require. The job of coordinating two different styles of music into one cohesive and reverent worship experience will be challenging and time consuming. The live broadcast of the worship service online also requires additional teams be brought in to the planning process which increases the administrative need. All of this requires an increased administrative load. This led to the possibility of needing a new music director, who could blend our styles while also taking on more administrative roles, and hopefully engaging new generations in our church in youth and children. This idea was discussed with all existing music staff, Matt, Betty and Russ, beginning in December of 2020. This month (April 2021) we had follow-up conversations after the session made the final decision to continue with one worship service. We are thankful for Matt and Russ’s contributions and simply have a different strategy for the rest of the year.
What will Matt’s new role look like?
As “Artist in Residence”, the session will be negotiating with Matt a role that fits into Covenant’s financial and strategic needs that matches his gifts and time availability. Matt has a demanding job as the Professor of Choral Music at UAH and has expressed his enthusiasm to continue participating in worship as fits with his schedule, as well as serving as a valuable mentor and resource to the new director of Music to ensure that she is successful. This role continues Matt’s vocation of training the next generation of sacred music conductors.
What will happen to Betty’s role?
Betty’s role will continue unchanged. She will continue to play harp, organ and piano for us during worship and rehearse with our different ensembles. She has known the new Music Director Allison Hendrix since Allison’s childhood at Trinity Methodist, and is delighted to be working with her now as a colleague.
What will happen to Russ and the praise band?
The church owes a debt of gratitude to Russ Ivey and his whole family. Not only Russ, but his children, Christine and Brandon, have also provided wonderful music for us. During the pandemic, Russ has worked tirelessly to record the band and then to remix the recordings twice so that the audio would have excellent quality in both sanctuary and the online worship. Going even further back, Russ took leadership of the band during a time of crisis in the church when the founding band leader of the Grace Through Faith Band, Stan Hisaw passed away unexpectedly in 2012. Russ has done a tremendous job and we owe him and his family our thanks. Following this change and the hiring of the new Director of Music, Russ will no longer be a paid member of staff, but will continue serving as a volunteer musician as his time and availability allows. This was a difficult decision particularly considering Russ’s long and faithful service and we appreciate his grace and flexibility in navigating this transition. I have spoken at length with all of the praise band members, communicating our love for them and our thankfulness for giving their gifts in worship. Our new Music Director is excited to engage with each of them and she will determine how these music participants will collaborate going forward. The Grace Through Faith Praise Band has been providing worship leadership for our church since 1997, almost a quarter of a century. Hundreds of people have been nourished in their faith by their ministry. Beginning on May 30th and continuing through the end of 2021, the band will no longer have responsibility for a set number of songs each Sunday. Instead, the band members will continue to participate in worship and will collaborate with other music staff and volunteers in our new blended style through the rest of 2021 and we will continue to evaluate what that looks like.
What is Allison Hendrix’s background and what are her qualifications?
Allison Hendrix has been attending Covenant since 2019 and joined in 2020 alongside her husband, Thomas, and her parents Mark and Theresa Hill. She has two preschool-age children who are enrolled at Covenant’s Weekday Preschool. During her two years at Covenant, Allison has served as a volunteer musician by providing music and instrumentation on video for Storytime with Ms. Allison, our online Vacation Bible School, special solos for online worship, outdoor Easter worship on her guitar, and recently has joined Matt Carey to lead hymns during our in-person services. She is currently teaching several preschool music classes with curriculum that she developed and organized. Allison has a Master’s in Music Education and a Bachelor’s in Music. She has professional experience as an elementary school music teacher and a college music appreciation instructor. In a church setting she has experience in conducting a 50-person adult choir as well as in praise band leadership. She has qualifications and skills in world percussion, dance, ukulele, guitar, piano, bell choir and drama. Allison grew up in Huntsville at Trinity United Methodist where she shared worship with Betty Augsburger. Matt Carey is excited to be Allison’s mentor as part of the next generation of sacred music conductors. Both Betty and Russ are also supportive of Allison’s transition.
What was the search process for Allison Hendrix like?
After several months of dialogue and input from Matt, Russ, Betty, the Worship Team, the Trustees and the Elders, a small task force from the Trustees and Elders led by the Senior Pastor developed a new job description for the Director for Music. This included an emphasis on communication and administration due to the heightened complexity of a blended worship service with a larger group of volunteers. It also included the hope for additional programming for youth and children. A conversation was opened with both Russ and Matt about these new needs. Both Russ and Matt have full time jobs and their specialties naturally align with a particular emphasis on contemporary or traditional music, respectively. As a result of these conversations, Matt cautioned that finding an appropriate candidate would be challenging. It would require someone with a broad skillset, deep training and adequate flexibility and time during the business day while still being a part-time employee. He recommended that we speak with Allison Hendrix as the person he most highly recommended to fit these criteria. As a result of several conversations with Allison Hendrix to assess her qualifications and interest, the Trustees and the Elders voted unanimously to hire Allison as the new Director of Music. We believe she is called by God to serve among us. In the words of one Trustee, “we could not have designed someone better for this blended role.” She is an extremely organized administrator and a gifted artist and we look forward to introducing you to her with more detail in future communications.
What will the new services look like?
The new service will reflect elements of both of our previous services. You’ll hear a variety of music and the goal will be arrange the elements together into a cohesive reverent experience that connects our church family into God’s presence. You will likely continue to hear beautiful singing, guitars, harp organ and more. At first (particularly over the summer as we ramp up) the service may be very simple. The new Music Director will need time to assess our current capabilities. We may have different small ensembles that we try to combine. It’s also possible that you’ll see some new faces as well as the New Director works with youth and children. These are all possibilities, but the goal will be to find a way to match the gifts of our congregation to a worship style that allows multiple generations to worship together in the same pew.
What Other Changes are Happening to Covenant’s Organizational Structure?
There are other significant changes to Covenant’s Organizational structure to support the strategic objectives set by session. The big picture is that every team and volunteer in the church will now report to either a pastor or a director-level staff position. The primary teams impacted by this decision are Technology, Hospitality, and Worship. We have had many conversations with key members of these teams and have developed a strategy with each of them to transition into this new structure.
How will the role of a staff “director” change?
A director will be a paid staff member who is responsible for the communication and administration of all of the ministries under their care. They will attend weekly staff meetings and engage regularly with our staff wide project management software “Asana.” This new pattern of communication is extremely effective and agile and is one of the most positive things to emerge out of the pandemic. This new communication rhythm allows us to connect our primarily part-time staff at both in-person and remote work locations. This is a very effective tool for the church, but means that we need to make sure that all ministries have access to this communication pattern to ensure that we are all working together towards the same goals. A good example of this change is the role of the Director of Finance and Administration. The Hospitality Leaders will now report to the Director of Finance and Administration, Susan Pendergrass. Susan has changed her hours and will now be working on Sundays as well to guide the work of this team, make decisions on behalf of this ministry, and communicate their needs vertically to the Trustees and horizontally to other members of staff. A director will consult with the leaders they are supervising and will have decision-making authority in the ministries that they are coordinating. They will then be held accountable for their decisions by the Senior Pastor, the Trustees and the Elders.
How will the roles for layperson “leaders” and “volunteers” change?
We are currently in the process of building on the work begun by the Special Ops team from several years ago by making an accurate job description for all the critical layperson “leader” and “volunteer” roles. We will be contacting our current leaders and volunteers to see if they would like to serve for another 12 months under the revised job description. Going forward, leaders and volunteers will be asked annually if they would like to renew their commitment for another 12 months or if they would like to try something different. Our goal is to involve more and more people in serving Covenant with their gifts. “Leaders” will be responsible for leading teams of volunteers and coordinating their work with a staff director. “Volunteers” will be responsible for implementing a particular job or task for Covenant’s mission and coordinating their work with a lay leader. Once again, the Hospitality Team is a good example. We are currently recruiting 4 lay “Leaders” who will each be responsible for leading and communicating with 12 Hospitality “Volunteers.” Each Leader and their Volunteer Team will be responsible for serving on one of the four Sundays of the month. The Four Hospitality Leaders will gather regularly with Susan Pendergrass as their Staff Director to make plans and preparations for their shared Hospitality ministry.
What are the changes for the Hospitality Team?
As discussed in some of the above questions, the Hospitality team will now have four Leaders, each of whom has 12 volunteers. These four teams will serve one Sunday each month and swap around for the fifth Sunday. Their work will be guided by Susan Pendergrass as the Director of Finance and Administration. Susan is changing her hours to cover Sunday mornings as well so that she can oversee this transition. The Hospitality team will be responsible for ushers, greeters, coffee, and making sure that visitors have a great experience.
What are the changes for the Technology Team?
The Technology Team will be moved under the leadership of Katherine Bennett as the Director of Operations. Each of our Technology Team members will be helping draft job descriptions for their current tasks and making a commitment to serve Covenant for another year. This will greatly assist our long-term strategy by also highlighting areas where we need additional support because this team has carried an enormous amount of responsibility with extraordinary dedication for many years. So part of this team’s task will be to identify jobs that can be shared or cross-trained so that our critical technical systems will flourish for years to come. Over time, the Director of Operations will develop an understanding of all of our technology and hold the “big picture” of our technical health.
What are the changes for the Worship Team?
The Worship Team will be reinvented and it’s responsibilities will be divided into three parts to support our new strategic goals. (1) The planning needs for designing a single service that will blend our different musical styles into a cohesive whole will be a big challenge. This means that the conversations around this are going to be by necessity long and technical. The Music Staff will take on this challenge alongside the pastors to make sure that we continue to have appropriate music each week in worship. (2) The very practical tasks that the Worship Team used to supervise, such as the hanging of banners and preparing of communion, will now be delegated to volunteers who make a 12-month commitment to a job description. Their work will be coordinated by the Director of Operations. (3) The most important role that the Worship Team has historically provided has been to provide feedback and guidance to the Senior Pastor about “how things are going.” This job will become the new focus of a new team called “The Pastor’s Cabinet.” The Pastors Cabinet will work to provide direct feedback to the Senior Pastor about worship, our mission, and all areas of congregational life. This team will be expanded, and new participants are welcome to serve a twelve-month commitment to this feedback team. Our hope is to invite representation from all ages in the church so that a wide array of perspectives are represented and regularly listened to by church leadership. As an aside, please do feel free to contact me directly with your feedback and ideas, my cell is 941-961-0121 or you can call the office to make an appointment.
How will we go about recruiting the volunteers needed to relaunch our full programming in the Fall?
Dr. Hunsicker will be leading an initiative that we have learned as a best practice from other healthy churches. It is similar to the work of our nominating team, but on a very large scale. We’re comparing it to a “football draft.” All the core ministries that we need for the Fall relaunch are putting lists and job descriptions for their volunteer needs. We will then be working through a team of folks to contact hundreds of people on our church rolls to include as many people as possible into a volunteer role. Our goal is that this will begin with the core ministries needed for relaunch, and eventually become the way we recruit all volunteers. Part of the beauty of this system is that the recruiter will be asking for a well-defined, time-bound commitment. You will have a job description and a 12-month window to do the assignment. This means you will not need to worry about if you are “getting in over your head” or “making a long-term commitment.” Each year you’ll receive another phone call to thank you for the previous year’s work and to ask if you’re interested in serving again or moving in a different direction.