President's Post

President's Post

Occasional updates from our Church Council President. Tony Szczepaniak began his term as president in February 2020.


Focus Groups: Five Pillars

September 20, 2021

This spring we communicated a general plan and timeline regarding our efforts to develop a long-term plan that will guide Immanuel over the next 3-5 years. 

In September we released a summary of Council’s work thus far. We have received feedback that affirms the Five Pillars, or areas of ministry focus, that we have identified; however, it is important to give you an opportunity to provide feedback and input before we start the work of developing specific plans for each of the five pillars.

You are invited to attend one of two Focus Group sessions

We will provide an overview of the five pillars and ask for specific feedback and input. We will also solicit volunteers to participate in the next step which is to develop the specific plans. The dates and times of the two sessions are:

Please confirm your attendance by registering online.

For clarity, neither of the sessions will be hybrid. This is to ensure we can focus on either the in-person or virtual audience, rather than both simultaneously. Note that should the pandemic numbers dictate that the October 10th session needs to become a virtual session, we will adjust accordingly.

For the in-person session on Sunday, October 10th, we do ask for a confirmation of attendance so that we can plan to provide food for those in attendance and minimize waste. Again, please confirm your attendance by registering online.

Thank you for your consideration in attending.


Tony Szczepaniak, President (

Pastor Paul Nelson, Senior Pastor (

September, 2021

As the summer heat begins to give way to cool, crisp fall days, the activity at Immanuel begins to heat up as preparations are in full swing for our September kick off! Your Council was busy this summer reviewing our Vision, Mission, and Values and developing several strategic pillars or priorities for us to consider embracing over the next 5-years or so. 


After reviewing these, Council agreed that these remained relevant and resulted in a few updates to language, but largely intact.

Our Vision: God is calling us to reach deeper into our congregation and further out into our community to better know and care for one another.

Our Mission Statement: CELEBRATE that God is with us!  GROW as Christ lives in us!  SERVE as the Spirit loves through us!

Our Values


In addition to the review of the Vision, Mission, and Values, we began the process of looking forward asking the important question – “What does our community of faith look like in 5-years? 10-years?" After much discussion, drafting, discerning, and praying, we present the following pillars. As you review, please consider that you are reading these statements 5-years in the future, not today. Therefore, these pillars are aspirational and may not demonstrate completely who we are as a community and what we look like.

1) We know who is at the center of all we do – Christ. We remind ourselves continually that we are together in the name of Jesus Christ and seek to follow Him and become a reflection of His love in everything we do. We focus on maintaining and deepening a relationship with Him and sharing the Gospel as He calls us to.

2) We welcome, affirm, and celebrate diversity in all contexts as we work toward a fuller understanding of God’s call to justice. We believe that all people are created in God’s image and that God’s imagination for diversity and justice is limitless. We listen to and learn from diverse voices resulting in deeper relationships with individuals within and outside of Immanuel, and with partner ministries. We participate in God’s continuing work of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption for all creation.

3) We have strong engagement within our community. The engagement of members and faith partners is high and broad. We do this by encouraging each member to maintain a personal ministry to help meet the needs within our church and surrounding community. We are demonstrating a love and faith in Jesus Christ through the programs we offer to our members. These programs support our faith and encourage members to seek Christ in all circumstances and situations.

4) We are a growing congregation. We strive to welcome people of all generations, to understand their needs and perspectives, and help them grow in their relationships with Jesus Christ. Our activities and plans reflect a lively, rich, inclusive congregation with a deep and sincere passion for worshipping, learning, and serving God together with people of all ages.

5) We are transitioning staff effectively. Through open, honest dialogue, we are executing against plans to transition a long-term, seasoned team and leadership. The new faces and perspectives are bringing forward new ideas and perspectives that build upon and acknowledge the foundations that have been built. Our systems and processes help attract and retain a strong staff team.


It is our intent to engage the congregation in small, working group discussions groups to strengthen our collective understanding of the pillars and to develop 3-5 plans to pursue them.  As part of our September kick off, we will be inviting the Congregation to select one of the pillars and commit to participating in the working groups In September – December.

This is an exciting time for our community of faith. Please prayerfully consider how God is calling you to help us continue to keep our eyes on Him and spreading the Gospel within our community.


Tony Szczepaniak, President

Paul Nelson, Senior Pastor


March '21 - Update

Greetings!  March has been a busy month for your Council!

First, Council completed one action item from the 2021 Annual Meeting.  During the January 2021 Annual Meeting, it was clarified that the Bylaws prohibits individuals from service on the Nominating Committee for more than one year.  Therefore, the plans to move the 2020 Nominating Committee forward required a revisit.  To simplify forward movement, Council was given the authority to fill the committee for 2021.  This occurred with a vote to approve the new committee who includes – Jeannie DeReemer, Jody Ebert, Jerry Martin, and Scott Anderson,

Second, as part of the Annual Meeting, we conducted Zoom breakouts to receive feedback about how the church is meeting your spiritual needs and how it can continue to support you in a post-pandemic environment.  This was the first step of a year long journey to develop a 3-year plan that is focused on 3-5 key pillars that support our vision and mission while amplifying our values.  At this time, the effort to identify the pillars is strategic, not operational, and will not seek to address matters such as the number or times of services, the themes of upcoming church seasons, or which service partners to continue to support.

Council met on Saturday, March 13th to review the Zoom breakout discussions and discuss the vision, mission, and values, which are nearly 20-years old.  An April meeting is scheduled to create a list of potential pillars that could become part of our 3-year plan.  The list will then be reduced to a manageable number before giving the congregation an opportunity to provide feedback and help shape the work in a special mid-year meeting.  The timing of all of this remains fluid but here is an outline of the general plan, which is subject to change.






Council Retreat Part 1

Understanding of Annual Meeting breakout feedback and deepened awareness of vision, mission, values



Council Retreat Part 2

Long list of potential strategic pillars



Strategic Pillar Meeting 1

Short list of strategic pillars and general sense of timing for each one

Council Small Group


Council Meeting

Council discusses and affirms strategic pillars



Mid-year Meeting

Congregation provides input into the strategic pillars


July – September

Small Group Meetings

Prepare 3-year action plans

Council and At large volunteers from Congregation


Council Meeting

Review 3-year action plans

Council and small group chairs


Council Meeting

Approve 3-year action plans


January 2022

Annual Meeting

Review and vote on 3-year strategic plan



We welcome feedback you have on the above plan or interest in being a part of this plan.  Feel free to reach out to me at if the Spirit drives you to do either or both!

Thank you!


Annual Meeting

Sunday, January 31, Noon

Please join your sisters and brothers in Christ as we gather for our annual congregational meeting. We come together to review this past year of ministry, affirm plans for the coming year, recognize and thank outgoing council members and install new leaders, and share hopes and expectations for where God is leading us. Learn more about our past and future ministry through the Annual Congregational Report.


Zoom Meeting Detail

Our Annual Meeting will take place on Zoom, a familiar platform for many people these days.

Virtual Annual Meeting Protocol and Etiquette

As we will have a large group of people joining in this meeting, and will need to hold votes on Council members, budget, and a few other procedural matters, here are protocols and etiquette guidelines that should serve to facilitate an effective meeting for all.

Voting Procedures:

Zoom Breakout Discussion Groups Following the Meeting

The business portion of our Annual Meeting will be followed by a short strategic planning session, inviting congregation members to share responses to the following three questions:

  1. How is Immanuel meeting your needs and growing your relationship with God?
  2. How are we caring for your needs as a member of the body of Christ, what are we doing and not doing?
  3. As we move out of the pandemic how should Immanuel move forward to best support you and your community?

Pastor Paul Nelson and Tony Szczepaniak (President)


God is with us!

November 30, 2020

As we step into Advent and another set of coronavirus restrictions, it may be challenging to consider what we are thankful for. This may be voted as the year to forget with all the civil land political unrest, natural disasters, economic uncertainty, and, of course, COVID-19. The current environment has led to polarity and confusion about what is going on, who to trust, and maybe even what to be thankful for. As for me, I am thankful for the Holy Spirit and how it has nudged my head up, not to see what is front of me, rather what is above me – Jesus! 

This year, your Executive Committee and Council Leadership has had plenty of discussion about our programs and finances. Some have been difficult as we wrestled with making the best financial and operational decisions at a time when things have been fluid and very uncertain. While difficult, there is no doubt that God is with us, carrying us and giving us the courage and strength to press ahead even when some of us felt like hibernating through the pandemic. Through it all, I am thankful for two groups of people – our congregation and our staff. 

As a congregation, you have consistently responded to our needs as well as those in our community. Our financial situation is strong and generally on budget. While spending is down, revenues are in line with our plans because of your generous and consistent giving. Beyond the finances, you show up! For the PROP Food Drive in October, which replaced the September Bingo event, you helped us deliver one of the highest weights of food from the participating churches. Well done! And how about the fall cleanup? You showed up again to take care of our grounds including the pond area which has been driving Tammy crazy for some time. 

We are blessed with a wonderful staff as well. Pastors Paul and Angela have tirelessly worked to keep us together, in community, as we maneuver through the pandemic. Despite the difficulty of worshipping to much smaller crowds, they have remained positive. You two rock! Martin and Paul have essentially rewritten our Confirmation and Stepping Stones programs to provide our youth with effective ways of continuing their faith journeys.  Ask them about the Confirmation retreat if you have not – it was amazing! Innovative! Martin has wrestled numerous technical challenges as he has worked to bring us our online worship experience. Watch out WWF! Clark has worked diligently to provide innovative musical experiences during worship. Haven’t you enjoyed some of those music video mashups? Creative!

Kim continues her outreach efforts even though many of our social ministry partners have been required to put us on hold with our face-to-face outreach. Working with a strong member committee, she has also been instrumental in moving our racial justice efforts forward. If you want to see the Holy Spirit at work, get involved in some of the outreach efforts!! Nicely done Kim! While bringing us VBS and Sunday school “in a box”, Cindy has managed to extend these programs outside of our regular community to some long-distance participants! Well done! Kari continues to nurture our community through the Caring Ministry she leads. Tireless and dedicated! Tammy, despite being thrown roofing, computer software, and many other challenges, keeps things moving along with our operations. Outstanding! 

Mary Kay tirelessly supports our Pastors and is involved in many of our programs from the “back office”. Impactful! Darrell has been busy with many projects to freshen up our facilities. Fantastic! Terrie keeps her smile on and positive spirit going as she works to handle so many of the administrative tasks that are necessary but often not seen. Trustworthy!

We have many people to be thankful for this year. If I could ask you to do consider reaching out to one of our staff members to share a moment of gratitude for them and how they are positively impacting the lives of the people in our community despite all the challenges out there. Raise them in your prayers as well! 

Praise God in being with us through this difficult period and providing us with the blessings of abundance through our generous congregation and dedicated, talented staff!

May you and yours have a blessed, safe holiday season!

James 1:2-3
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing or your faith produces perseverance.”

Philippians 4:6
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Tony Szczepaniak, Church Council President



Community, Communication & Commission

May 11, 2020

Shortly after I took over the role of President, attention was shifted to the impact of COVID-19 on members, staff, and church operations so I deferred my initial President communication. While we will continue to feel the impact, it is time to share. While these thoughts are mine, they are ultimately shaped by your acceptance and engagement. We at Immanuel Lutheran are blessed with an engaged congregation and committed staff. We need only look to the calendar of events to understand what is going on inside and outside of our walls. This would suggest that nothing much is needed. While potentially true, we do need to consider the long term and what church and our community looks like 10-15 years from now. We have a solid mission and values so rather than start there, I’d like focus on three themes over the next two years – community, communication, and commission. These themes are areas to begin to look forward and channel efforts to ensure that we continue our strong traditions of connectivity and engagement amongst ourselves and the extended community.


We have a great community and so why focus on this? Indeed, we do much with our internal and external community, so the focus is not about changing something that is in need of repair, rather continue to remind us of the need to be ready to respond, as Christ calls us, to the needs our community – both internal and external. Worship habits are shifting and COVID-19 may have accelerated this, thus we need to be thinking ahead about how the community may change. Beyond the needs we should be discussing who is not represented within our community that should be.


Here again, we have a great staff and receive communications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our digital focus has enabled us to deliver regular communications and even engagement. Still, we need to look forward to how we ensure that the digital approach keeps things open in both directions. How can we continue to open dialogue to ensure that we are understanding how people connect in our community? How can we continue to understand the needs of our community? While surveys are good, are there other ways we can connect personally to better understand the evolving needs of various groups?


It is tempting to think that spreading the gospel is someone else’s role, maybe the pastors and other ministerial roles. In Matthew 28:16-20, we are given the great commission to go out and bring forward the gospel and Christ’s teachings. As such, we need to challenge ourselves to be in the word so we are prepared when God sends an opportunity to witness and offer testimony of His greatness. This is not about standing on the street corner, rather being prepared to communicate what we believe as followers of Christ. Over the coming months, I will be working with Pastors Paul and Angela, the Executive Committee, the Council, and anyone else in the congregation who is willing to engage in a dialogue about the future. To achieve this, we will be conducting a strategic planning retreat sometime this year (via Zoom if needed) and I will be seeking ways to connect with small groups that are willing to have me join one of their meetings or gatherings. If you have a small group and are open to a visit, please let me know! I would enjoy hearing from you so feel free to drop me a line at Thank you. In Christ’s Love, Tony Szczepaniak

March 31, 2020

Dear members and friends of the Immanuel Lutheran family:

In recent weeks our community, in fact our world, has been wrestling with the COVID-19 virus and experienced its impact in extreme ways barely imaginable 30-days ago. We have been asked to shelter in place, seen store shelves depleted, and witnessed a stock market plunge. Congregations across our synod have experienced dramatic changes in how we worship, support one another, and serve our communities. Across our synod, some congregations are wrestling with very difficult decisions that include staff reductions, adjustments, and furloughs, benevolence cuts, and program eliminations. Now more than ever, we need our community of faith for strength and comfort.

We cling to this community during this time of uncertainty and have an even deeper need to remind each other that God is with us and will guide us through this crisis. We can and should draw on our Lord for guidance, and the direction given in his commands, during these challenging times. With this in mind, I am writing to provide you with information about the conversations and decisions being made by Council at a special meeting on March 30th. The Immanuel Church Council, in consultation with staff, has reviewed our financial situation which includes quarter 1 results and quarter 2 forecasts through June 30th. Our March giving was higher than our forecast and solidifies a strong quarter of giving. Thank you to those who have given online or mailed in offering. If this trend continues drastic expense cuts will not be necessary through at least April 30th. However, as we are not gathering for worship for the foreseeable future, it is more difficult for people to contribute their offering. We will be monitoring giving and should our income be reduced in the weeks ahead we will be taking another look at responsible cutbacks in spending. Still, we have taken or will be taking the following actions:

Thank you for your continued support of Immanuel Lutheran’s community and ministry. We are the body of Christ inside and outside our building and we look forward to the next time we can be together enjoying the loving embraces that are a part of our community. Peace today to you and your family. Stay safe and God bless. In Christ’s Love, Tony Szczepaniak Council President – or 952-250-6937

December 2019

Immanuel's Council and Executive Committee held their final meeting of the year on Tuesday, January 14th. Our agenda was consumed with finalization of the church's 2019 year-end financial statement and its 2020 budget. It was a long meeting, but extremely fruitful. This work was made easier with the benefit of having December giving and expense totals available. Thankfully, annual giving in 2019 exceeded budget by 3%! Finance and attendance through year-end is posted here. With almost all members in attendance, we were able to reach a consensus regarding the 2020 budget after considering many different viewpoints regarding both income and expenditures. The budget that Council approved will be presented to the congregation for approval at the annual meeting on January 26th. I hope to see you there! Council's next session will start in February after new members are voted in at the annual meeting. I'm thankful for both the Council members who have served over the past several years, as well as those who have stepped up to serve starting in February. My tenure as President ends after the annual meeting as well. It has been a privilege to serve in this capacity for the last 4 years and I will miss it. I will miss working with caring members of our staff and congregation - members I might not otherwise have known. I will miss first-hand accounts of the many amazing things that are happening at Immanuel. I will even miss discussing issues and concerns, because problem-solving is actually rewarding when done respectfully with caring people of a shared faith. Thanks to those of you who have offered me so much encouragement and support over these last 4 years. It has truly been a blessing. Notes:

Beth Hansen

November 2019

At Immanuel’s Council and Executive Committee meetings this month our agendas were largely consumed with the exciting process of BUDGETING! I don't know anyone who enjoys preparing a budget. I'm not much of a planner on any given week, so the task of projecting expenses and income over 12-months that don't even start for another 2 months is particularly exhausting to me. Nevertheless, Council is charged with signing off on the budget to be presented to the congregation. We’re responsible for planning and spending within our means, even when our "means" are a large unknown part of this equation each year. Immanuel typically receives almost 20% of its annual income from offerings during the last month of the year. How does a group come together to budget for expenses and project income when we don't even know what this year's income will be? Thankfully, we’ve received almost 75% of our 2019 budgeted income through October, which is on track with recent years’ progress (see updated income and attendance summaries). Still, each year we go through the same stress: we need to finish the year strong! Furthermore, if we somehow exceed expectations for the year, there will be an opportunity to increase benevolence allocated from the general offering/envelope account to be above the budgeted 17%. Let’s do it! At the November meeting, each committee chair provided their usual update, but then also went over their proposed plans for 2020. Thankfully, our work of haggling over each committee's needs and wants for next year, and account of 2019 expenditures, is made easier by the work we've been doing all year. This Council is now seasoned: we're used to each other's challenges and successes. As a result, instead of each member trying to cling to a piece of the pie, the room is filled with support for each other and advocacy of the greater mission. Furthermore, it's exciting to hear how each area approaches their outlook for 2020. I'm so thankful for our leaders, their committees and their abundance of great ideas! In addition to committee expenses, Council is also charged with recommending adjustments to salaries and benefits, staffing, or other churchwide needs. These discussions are important, and each Council member takes ownership of understanding Immanuel’s financial picture throughout the budgeting process. The culmination of this hard work will be presented to the congregation at our annual meeting on January 26th. At that time, we will present the budget for approval and also provide the 2019 financial summary and report. Your prayers and input are always appreciated! Finally, if this sounds like a process you’d like to be involved in on a personal level, watch your Gold Grow insert for any Council positions that will open in January as a few terms are due to expire. Feel free to contact me with any questions at Beth Hansen Notes:

September 2019

Immanuel's Council and Executive Committee held their monthly meetings on Tuesday, September 10th. Our agenda was light, following the busy weekend that included the Bingo for PROP event and our opening weekend service under the tent. Council expressed its appreciation for the organizers and the many volunteers that participated in the weekend events. Attendance was high for both events, despite the weather being slightly cold and rainy. Funds raised for PROP were consistent with last year, although the final tally was not available yet at the meeting. Some council members gave brief updates on programming that will resume in September. The Sunday School rooms are ready for the start of classes with fresh paint and flooring. The remaining list of projects on our Building Up campaign were discussed and should be finished within the next few weeks. Full reports from all committees will be given in October. Minutes from the August meeting were approved and are now posted on-line. Finances and attendance through August month-end were also reviewed and are posted here. Consistent with last month, our year-to-date income is on track, but attendance is lagging behind the prior two years. Beth Hansen

August 2019

Council had a productive meeting on August 13th! We do not meet in July, so there were several committee updates that covered summer activities (such as mission trips and VBS) and plans for fall programming (such as Confirmation, Tables of Eight, adult faith formation, etc.). Immanuel sure is a busy place! We reviewed the Building Up campaign project list, including budget adjustments and also progress made to date. It sounds like most of the work will be completed prior to the first weekend of Sunday School. Many of the committees are preparing for either the Prop bingo event, Tent meeting, or programming, with all-hands pitching in! A highlight of our meeting was a visit from Judy Miller and Bev Osekowsky. Judy and Bev are two of the eight Immanuel delegates that attended the Minneapolis Synod meeting in May. They provided Council with a nice summary of the events and speakers at the meeting, and summarized the resolutions that were voted on. I particularly appreciated hearing from them and am thankful for their caring service on behalf of Immanuel. Finally, meeting minutes were approved for our June meetings and financial results were discussed. Attendance and income results are posted here. Summer attendance has been lower than recent years. Giving remains slightly above budget on a year-to-date basis, which is still benefiting from March results. June's approved Exec and Council minutes are available online. Beth Hansen

June 2019

We've held two Council & Exec meetings since my last update. At our May meeting, we celebrated Immanuel's programming highlights over Holy Week and our Easter services. Attendance for Easter Sunday worship was 270 greater than the prior year and the music, in particular, was lifted up as a highlight. Council members provided committee updates, which included programs that wrapped up in May and special summer offerings that are planned (VBS, camps, mission trips, etc.). At both meetings, council reviewed the list of capital projects included in the Building Up capital campaign, as well as financing alternatives as we close out our Opening Doors campaign in June. At our June meeting, Immanuel's parish nurse, Kari Totall, met with Council to educate us on her role and the many ways she ministers to members of our congregation, both personally and through her ministry teams. We are so grateful for her talents and her commitment. Minutes from April and May meetings have been approved and are now online. Attendance and giving summaries through May are also online.

April 2019

This is my first update following Immanuel's Council and Executive Committee meetings, which I now plan to provide each month. We meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month, except July. I'll try to:

Approved meeting minutes, which are more thorough, will be posted on the web site as they have always been. We are striving to provide helpful information as timely as possible. Your feedback and requests are welcome! Please email me at April Council & Exec Highlights Immanuel's Council and Executive Committee met on April 9th. At both meetings, a considerable amount of time was devoted to the upcoming Building Up Capital Campaign, including the new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document which Pastor Paul presented. In addition, Jeff Kjellberg from Kairos presented feedback from the recent MAP survey, including feedback from one-on-one interviews. Council will dig deeper into these results at our upcoming council retreat on April 27th, which will be held at the Luther Seminary. Lastly, we celebrated a great month of giving in March, which made up for a decline in February when weather interrupted worship schedules for many members. Giving and attendance comparisons through March can be accessed here. Additional items discussed at our April meetings will be posted in secretary Pat Hammer's minutes when they are approved in May. Minutes from February and March are now online. Beth Hansen Council President

Immanuel Annual Meeting Recap

Thanks to all who attended the annual meeting on January 27th. We were blessed with a quorum of members in attendance (well over the 60 required), and wonderful food. We are grateful to have a caring congregation that was engaged in dialogue throughout the agenda. Two key highlights of the meeting are as follows:

Documents and links

Beth Hansen

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