Zion-Akron Cooperation

Frequently Asked Questions

What is currently being considered?

Currently our congregations have entered into a phase of intentional cooperation.  Pastor Matt Lenahan has begun serving on St. Paul staff (part-time!); the members of St. Paul help regularly with Peter’s Porch ministry at Zion, Akron; Pastor Rob and Pastor Matt fill in for each other.

In 2020 the focus will be developing relationships and increasing cooperation.

However, one long-range possibility and hope is that the congregation of Zion Akron would effectively merge with St. Paul.  Under this circumstance

  • The people who attend Sunday morning worship at Zion Akron would attend our 8:15 to 10:45 service. (Ideally getting involved and serving as acolytes, sound techs and assisting ministers, e.g.!)
  • The people who attend Dinner Church on Sunday night will continue meeting. This will happen at various places, including St. Paul, and may likely move to a weekly worship service.
  • The Zion Akron homebound members would be added to St. Paul’s homebound member list.
  • Pastor Matt Lenahan would continue serving as a Pastor for Mission and Outreach; however he would be called to the merged entity.
What will the role of Pastor Rob and Pastor Matt be in a combined entity?
  • Pastor Matt will focus on ministries that take place outside of the walls at St. Paul. He will be the primary preacher and leader for Dinner Church, although Pastor Rob will also preach and lead at this service from time to time. Pastor Matt will lead efforts to use the green space in our backyard for ministry; Pastor Matt will also begin planting house churches that will be connected to St. Paul. He will interact with various social ministries and agencies in the community to deepen partnerships. He will also serve as staff liaison to Mission and Outreach Committee. Pastor Matt will continue to serve as director of the Wittel Growing Project.
Why is this beneficial for both congregations?
  • St. Paul is a thriving congregation, but the current staff lacks the bandwidth to engage Mission and Outreach at the level at which we feel that God is calling us. Furthermore, we realize that while we do a more traditional model of church excellently, we do not necessarily attract people with little church background. We need to get out of our walls to do this. Bringing Pastor Matt Lehanan on-board helps us move outside of our walls and hopefully into meaningful witness and engagement with people on the outside of the church. First, he has a track record of starting innovative and relational outreaches: Wittel Farm, Peter’s Porch, Dinner Church, Good Friday Prison Walk, for example. Second, he gets along well with the current staff. Third, his congregation was and still is looking to share staff resources. The members of Zion Akron have a big heart. We believe that its members would fit well at St. Paul, even helping us serve more deeply beyond our walls. For the past few years, they have been working on many projects that have moved them outside of their walls and into the community.
  • Zion Akron has vitality, but its long-term viability is in question. The Sunday morning worship attendance is around 35 people (so about 50-60 people who attend with regularity); Dinner Church ranges in attendance; a group of about 30-40 people engage in this way. That size of group has difficulty sustain a building and a pastor. By partnering with us, they can continue to worship as a group, maintain their connection with Pastor Matt and ensure the servant ministries continue and grow.
  • People are hungry for a church that helps them in their daily life (through worship, small groups and faith formation) and that makes an impact in the community (through outreach programs, sharing of building and support of mission work). We believe that God is calling us to be a church that does all of this!

● Ideally we could serve as a model of how two churches that are both vital spiritually (but have different gifts) could come together to ensure that the people and ministries of both congregations (now one!) remain viable financially.

What is the timing and next steps?
  • In fall 2019 two groups were formed with members of both churches. One started addressed the integration of people and ministries; the other addressed finances and administration of a merged church.  These are being presented to both councils over the winter.
  • Zion Akron will continue having conversations about the merger, including the possibility of relocating worship to St. Paul and assessing the future of its building.
  • If things continue developing, St. Paul will begin to have some more question and answer sessions, especially as proposals grow more concrete. Ultimately, St. Paul would need to have a call vote on calling Pastor Matt and would need to receive Zion Akron members into our church.
  • The focus in 2020 will be identifying ways to do ministry together, learn about and from each other and build relationships.