At the Crossroads

A mission study of First Presbyterian Church of Davenport, Iowa
Download the ReportLarge Print Version


At the risk of overstating our case, in the 180+ year history of our congregation, we’ve never faced challenges as daunting as what we face today.

First Presbyterian Church of Davenport stands at a crossroads. And it’s time to make some hard choices.

We can choose to live in the past or look forward to our future …

… a future of our own design that is true to ourselves, reflecting our shared values and vision.

… a future we pursue with intention, using the gifts we’ve received and the love and support of our friends and family.

We can dwell on the scars of past conflicts, which have created turmoil, damaged relationships, and led to a steady erosion of membership, financial support, and enthusiasm. Or we can set aside the pain and confusion of the past and move on to something better.

Our congregation’s creativity – an openness to a broad diversity of ideas and sincere willingness to welcome and include people traditionally turned away by more fundamental communities of faith – creates an opportunity.

And that opportunity is a doorway to a future that tells a better story about First Presbyterian Church. A place known for generations as “First Church.”

It’s our story to tell. We just need to find someone who can help us find the words and show us how.

About This Document

This “mission study” presents a three-part story about First Church: where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. It’s an honest appraisal of the challenges and opportunities our congregation faces coming out of an international pandemic and over three years of internal struggle that, in all honesty, began about three years before that.

We call those who welcome the challenge to work with us as we reinvent every aspect of what we do to affect positive change in the lives of our congregation and community. As you’ll learn when you read this document, First Church has a rich history of doing just that. But as times change, so do congregations and priorities.

We seek to engage those who listen closely to the stories we tell; join us as we discover and understand the true meaning of the gifts we have received, and work with us to share those gifts to the best of our abilities wherever required.

To make First Church better meet the spiritual needs of the Quad Cities community, we hope to find a visionary head pastor. We need to find someone who can listen, lead and motivate us to act on our hopes for a future and spark our imagination, making it inspiring again to be a member of First Church.

And we hope to find that head pastor installed by the fall semester of 2022.

So, go ahead and read this report. Consider the opportunities. And then let us know if you’re interested in helping First Church write its next chapter.

We can be at this crossroads together.

Where We’ve Been

First Presbyterian Church of Davenport took root in the new frontier town of fewer than 1,200 people back in 1839. Located in the Iowa Territory of the Louisiana Purchase, the community could be found on the north side of the Mississippi River, just upstream from Credit Island – which was near the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi Rivers.

During the War of 1812, Credit Island was where Major Zachary Taylor fought the British to help settle the question of American independence from the crown.

Davenport’s location was also near the Rock Island Rapids, which would become the site of the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River fifteen years later, officially opening the western frontier to settlers and immigrants.

During the period known as The Second Great Awakening, all self-respecting villages, towns, and cities had churches – and Davenport was no exception. So  Ann Rhea Mitchell, a Covenanter Presbyterian with ties directly back to the  Scottish House of Argyle, gathered ten other charter members and formed the First Presbyterian Church of Davenport.

That small log cabin only served the congregants for a few years when they moved to a new home on Third Street and then moved again, twenty years later, to a larger church building at 7th and Brady Streets.

A generation later, the congregation was on the move again, this time to a new home at the top of the hill, on the corner of Kirkwood and Iowa Streets. On the actual day of the move, the entire membership of First Church made a symbolic pilgrimage up the hill and to the new building. Leading the congregational parade was a young A.R. Bawden, the grandson of one of the founding members and whose great-grandchildren now attend Sunday School at First Church.

When you comb through the Southwood Heritage Center, located on the top floor of the Christian Education Building, you’ll find artifacts and interesting stories about members of the congregation actively involved in the church’s life and the community it serves.

These were people involved in all facets of the community’s life: from public education to the arts, from local business to foreign missions.

Stories abound involving political and civic leaders of the day who were also active members. By the mid-1950s, First Church was the largest Presbyterian Church in the State of Iowa. In the 1960s and 70s, the church added several programs and services which allowed members and their families to get involved and stay connected to their spiritual community.

But times have changed.

If you look at it today, you’ll see that the immediate neighborhood surrounding First Church bears little resemblance to its condition when the congregation moved there nearly 125 years ago. Back then, at the turn of the twentieth century, Kirkwood and Iowa Streets were away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and less than a quarter-mile from “The Outing Club,” where Davenport’s elite would enjoy fine dining, tennis, and formal balls.

Over the years, the Victorian-era homes in the neighborhood gave way to urban redevelopment, and the area lost its luster as more well-to-do families moved to other subdivisions in East Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. As a result, household incomes of the immediate neighborhood dropped. Ownership of homes in the area shifted from the residents to absentee landlords. Investment in the neighborhood slowed as “the hilltop” aged – and it was reflected in the general condition of the houses. Over time, the ethnic makeup of the blocks surrounding the church bore no resemblance to the membership of First Church’s congregation.

Many of the active and engaged families in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s remained members of First Church even though they had moved further away. At least for a while, for the traditions of faith were not easily broken.

But things were changing.

The Modern Era

By the mid-1970s, with membership still relatively robust, membership stagnated, and youth engagement became more and more limited.

It’s possible the root cause of this problem could be the wide range of school districts and programs in which First Church’s teens were involved. At any one time, it would not be unusual to have a dozen high school students in a youth group who never saw each other during the week because each went to a different high school.

The social pressures experienced by other mainline denominations afflicted First Church’s membership. In addition, demands for time from competing organizations and interests, forced members to prioritize and make hard choices.

As the church population aged, donations of time, talent, and money became more difficult to secure.

Where We Are

Davenport and the Quad Cities have a lot going for them.

The larger region is mid-sized, with around 475,000 people in the five metropolitan areas that make up the Quad Cities (yeah, that’s not a typo). Davenport is the largest of the cities, with just over 102,000 residents.

The Quad City area offers big-city amenities with many small-town conveniences. And it’s affordable. In fact, with the cost of living approximately 16% below the national average, the area is ranked as one of the ten most affordable communities in the entire USA.

The community has over 50 parks and numerous bike paths along the river and creeks that extend from one city to another. Every week, there are also many festivals, events, and activities.

The area is the home of several excellent school districts and institutions of higher learning. And major institutions like the University of Iowa or the University of Dubuque (home of Dubuque Seminary) are less than an hour away by car.

Community Demographics

The Quad Cities is predominantly white (84%), with Latinos and Hispanics making up 7% of the population, African-Americans 4%, and 6 all other races equaling the remaining 5%. Davenport is a bit more racially diverse than the Quad Cities as a whole, with whites making up 77% of the population, Latinos and Hispanics constituting 7%, African-Americans at 12%, and all other races equaling the remaining 4%.

When looking at the community by generation, 25% of the population is 19 or younger, another 25% is between the ages of 20-39, another 25% is between the ages of 40-59, and the remaining 25% is over 60. One in twenty-five people in the Quad Cities is 80 or older. The median age is 40.2 years.

A Closer Look at First Church

From a generational and racial perspective, First Church’s congregation is old (70% of the congregation’s membership is over the age of 56) and white (97%). There are an estimated 40 children of high school age or younger.

This demographic profile reflects a long-term membership who remain members of First Church for a variety of reasons but who, in all likelihood, no longer live in the immediate neighborhood. The social and economic differences between the population in the surrounding neighborhood and the perceived affluence of the congregation make it difficult to attract and retain members.

More recently, general disorientation resulting from significant staff upheaval and organizational/institutional disruptions from 2016 to the present day have made it easier for members to leave First Church and find an alternate church home.

More information about these events and disruptions can be found in the “A Narrative on Recent Events” appendix to this report.

Perceptions of Our Congregation

There is a widely held perception that FPC is a wealthy church. While no specific household income is available for this study, this perception is not supported by observations made by the Stewardship Committee. Committee feedback from non-pledging members would suggest that a significant portion of the congregation does not feel able to contribute financially, but rather through time and talent.

Physical Plant

First Church sits on the corner of Kirkwood Boulevard and Iowa Street in central Davenport. The building’s dedication occurred on December 3, 1899. It is a beautiful structure built of Marquette brownstone in the Romanesque style. The building is a registered National Historic Monument.

The Sanctuary features art glass windows commissioned and created by Frederic Lamb of J & L Lamb Studios of New York at the time of the building’s construction. They have previously been restored and are currently in another phase of restoration, funded by a grant from the Iowa State Historical Society and a family trust.

Through the years, the Sanctuary has undergone multiple redecoration and renovation projects. Past projects include the enlargement of the chancel to accommodate larger choirs and Performing Arts Series (PAS) events and the addition of the 61-rank Casavant organ in the front of the space. This addition, made in 1980, required a reconfiguration of the pews in the Sanctuary to accommodate the instrument. The main floor now seats 430, with the balcony adding another 204 seats.

Multiple cameras, a multi-channel audio system, and the accompanying technology allow for recording and live streaming of Sunday services and other events from the Sanctuary. There is also a screen with video projection capabilities to enhance worship.

The ground floor of the main building houses the Fellowship Hall, kitchen, library, and Bride’s room. The Sanctuary level includes a Chapel that backs up to the main worship space. In 1982, the church installed an elevator to provide easier access between the two levels.

The Christian Education building, built in 1923, connects to the main Sanctuary building and includes three levels. The upper-level houses classrooms and a nursery. The main level has a medium-sized meeting hall with a small stage (Von Maur Hall) and a parlor (connected to a small kitchen), and offices for pastors and support staff. The ground floor includes a gymnasium, music library, choir practice rooms, and offices for music staff. There are restrooms on all three floors, and a second elevator was added to provide access within this building.

Two paved parking lots adjacent to the buildings provide ample parking.

In 2019, the church installed a security system to monitor every entrance as well as the interior and exterior of both buildings. Door locks, activated by programmed key fobs, help control entry to the building from the outside. Call buttons with monitors/ speakers are also available for persons requesting access.

As with all structures over 100 years old, our church building is constantly faced with repairs and maintenance projects to keep the buildings and grounds safe and sound. Fortunately, major capital maintenance and improvement projects can often be funded through endowed funds that have been donated to First Church and its foundation by past and present church members. This allows utility bills and routine maintenance expenses to be covered by the annual church budget.

Staff and Volunteers

First Church operates with a complement of paid staff (full- and part-time) and members of the congregation who volunteer their time and resources.


Due to loss of membership and budget constraints, FPC staff is 50% the size it was a decade ago. Current full-time staff includes Bridging Pastor, Rev. Dr. Kathy Stoner-Lasala; Director of Music, Matt Bishop; and Principal Organist & Assistant Director of Music, Alex Gilson.

There are also full-time administrative staff positions, including the church Finance Manager, Administrative Assistant, Custodial Supervisor, and an additional custodial position. The part time staff covers Christian Education, children’s choirs, and other custodial duties.

In past years, the congregation has called associate pastors specifically covering Christian Ed, Pastoral Care, and Mission. Those positions no longer exist in the church’s current staff organization. Other eliminated positions include Parish Nurse, Membership Coordinator, and additional office and publication staff.

The current staff has accepted the downsizing and is willing to pick up additional duties. They work well as a team, recognizing their unique strengths and weaknesses. Staff members do their best to step in and assist when and where the work is needed. In addition, the congregation continues to be blessed by the involvement of a retired pastor who fills the pulpit regularly and handles some pastoral care duties.

At times, it has been a challenge for members to acknowledge the full impact of downsizing. For example, the elimination of staff specifically responsible for pastoral care and Christian education has left a void.

There was also a full-time employee who coordinated publications — bulletins, newsletters, visual displays, etc. That position has been eliminated as well.


As with many groups, the number of volunteers has decreased since 2020, largely due to COVID concerns. However, the congregation still has a mindset of volunteering when needed.

Volunteers regularly cover tasks such as answering phone calls in the church office, preparing mailings to the congregation, visiting the homebound, assisting the Finance Manager, and serving as worship hosts, liturgists, and media coordinators during worship services.

The Music Department, in particular, has a robust volunteer program. A group coordinates and organizes the vocal music literature, ensuring that it is ready for choir members’ use during worship and concerts and then refiling the music following its use. In addition, volunteers set up and tear down the temporary stage for the Christmas Concert, Good Friday, musicals, and other Performing Arts Series (PAS) events. Volunteers make up the staff of PAS musicals and are responsible for costuming, props, set building, directing, and choreography.

The CE department requires numerous volunteers for youth groups and Sunday School to be successful. It has often been a challenge to recruit Sunday School teachers. In response, a previous CE Director set up a staggered teaching schedule so teachers could alternate weeks. Unfortunately, the congregation has recently experienced a decline in the number of Sunday School-aged children for various reasons.

The commitment to volunteering remains strong at FPC, but there has been an adjustment period due to the decrease in event participants and available volunteers in recent years. The congregation looks forward to a time when there is both a greater need for volunteers and a larger volunteer pool.

Fiscal Health

Although First Church’s annual budget has shown a declining trend in recent years, the overall financial position remains reasonably strong.

Total revenues in 2021 were $810,000, including $647,000 from annual pledges and offerings and additional receipts from deacons’ offerings, estate gifts, government grants for COVID, and custodial funds. Custodial revenues—i.e., targeted donations for specific purposes such as mission or music—accounted for $53,000.

Total expenditures in 2021 were $797,000, with the largest items including $467,000 in compensation expenses (58.6%) and $138,000 in building expenses (17.3%).

The church’s general fund balance as of 12/31/2021 was slightly over $484,000.

The five-year revenue history reflects the decline in membership and some impact of the pandemic on church participation for the past two years. Pledges and offerings have decreased each of the past five years.

Pastoral staff changes primarily drive the five-year expense comparison. Annual changes in compensation reflect the departure of the head pastor late in 2018 and severance paid at that time. In addition, compensation costs reflect the engagement of an interim pastor for portions of 2019-2020, departures of the CE director in 2019 and the associate pastor early in 2021, and the hiring of a bridging pastor in 2021.

Budgeted revenue for 2022 totals $772,000; this amount includes $568,000 in projected pledges and offerings. Expenses of $880,000 reflect an expected increase in compensation to $609,000 resulting from adding a new head pastor during the year.

The deficit budget for 2022 is atypical, but church leadership has committed to the projected compensation increase, with the shortfall paid off with money from the church’s general fund balance.

The FPC Foundation

In evaluating the fiscal health of First Church, it is important to note that other financial resources are available for both capital maintenance and improvement as well as mission.

The Foundation of First Presbyterian Church was established in 1999 to supplement the annual budget. The Foundation is a combination of unrestricted funds and restricted funds targeting capital expenditures for the church building.

Thanks to many generous donors, the Foundation balance had grown to $1,385,000 as of 12/31/21. This includes $1,075,000 in invested funds and $310,000 book value of real property owned in the area neighboring the church.

The properties currently generate sufficient rental income to be self-sustaining. The Foundation’s investment portfolio consists of about $940,000 in endowed capital maintenance and repair funds managed by donor-appointed fund managers as well as approximately $441,000 in various donor-restricted funds designated primarily for mission and programming.

Financial Challenges

Long-term challenges to the fiscal health of the congregation are rooted in the need to stabilize and increase membership, with an urgent need for new staff to provide innovation and leadership in achieving that goal.

The cost of maintaining an aging building is particularly concerning. The congregation will need to make some decisions regarding allocating resources among its programs and facilities to keep a solid financial base.


In a broad sense, Stewardship includes the management of time and talent as well as money. Simply put, it’s not just fundraising. Therefore, other parts of this Mission Study directly address Stewardship’s time and talent aspects, while this section focuses primarily on financial issues.

Certain aspects of financial stewardship have been beyond the congregation’s control, most notably the COVID pandemic. In addition, leadership changes and uncertainties within the church have also presented a significant challenge. These factors and the resulting decline in membership have created challenges in maintaining a stable annual budget.

While recognizing these challenges, the Stewardship Committee has maintained a positive focus. For example, the fall campaign in 2021 highlighted the essential needs the annual fund drive addresses and included testimonies from members about pledging and the church’s impact on their lives.

The theme “Give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6) was developed in conjunction with the Session. A low-key campaign emphasized “giving what you can” without putting excessive pressure on church members and acknowledged they come from various backgrounds.

The church office offers multiple ways to fulfill pledges, including online and automatic payment options.

First Church also annually promotes four special offerings: One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost, Peace and Global Witness, and Christmas Joy.


First Church’s music program is well known throughout the community. In past years, the church’s Christmas Concerts have been televised nationally on PBS.

The focus of the music program takes three main directions: the enhancement of worship through weekly musical leadership; Christian Education of children, young people, and adults; and the outreach of our church through the proclamation of God’s salvation to the world.

The Performing Arts Series includes multiple visiting artists (often in partnership with Quad City Arts), a church’s principal organist concert, and a biennial musical. The series also features a Christmas Concert and Good Friday Tenebrae Service, including orchestral accompaniment.

The various choirs include the Sanctuary Choir, Chamber Chorale, Celebration Singers (grades 7-12), Kirkwood Choir (grades 2-6), and Cherub Choir (ages 3-6), Vesper Bells, and Kildalton Quartet. In addition to programs for adults and children from ages 3+, a certified instructor leads the church’s Musikgarten classes for babies and toddlers on Sunday mornings.

In prior years, First Church’s program included The Choir of Young Men & Boys and Cecilian Carolers (young women & girls). Both groups are currently inactive.

The regionally-renowned Sanctuary Choir often works with living composers to commission new music. In addition, it has established a tradition of music outreach tours:

• In 2018, the choir traveled for 11- days in Germany. The trip included concerts and partnerships with refugee resettlement organizations.

• In 2019, the choir took a long weekend trip to Milwaukee, which included a benefit concert for a local organization that works with the urban homeless and the singing of the National Anthem at an MLB game.

• The choir is currently planning a tour of Ireland in July 2022.

The music staff includes two full-time positions (the Director of Music and the Principal Organist/Assistant Director of Music) and two part-time positions (the Associate Choral Director and the Associate Choral Director for Young Children).


First Church’s mission programs are often joint efforts with other local organizations or churches.

Current projects include:

• Regular donations to a local food pantry and a free meal site, in addition to serving a monthly meal at the Salvation Army

• Founded in 2006, P.U.N.C.H. (People Uniting Neighbors and Churches) includes nine churches in the Hilltop area, including First Church. The nine churches are from different denominations, and each is actively involved in this ministry. Some of the services provided include community gardens, Blessing Box (non-food supplies to those in need), and other community outreach to the homeless, unemployed, and all in need physically and spiritually.

• Caring Closet, located in the church, provides clothing free of charge for community members.

• Support for Quad-Cities organizations such as Churches United, Habitat for Humanity, Humility Homes (outreach to the homeless), Meals on Wheels, and New Kingdom Trail Riders (therapeutic horseback riding programs)

• An ongoing relationship with a church/outreach project in Zacapa, Guatemala. Since 2000, members from First Church have made multiple trips to the country to work on and support a variety of projects.

• Sewing circle for dresses to be distributed in the U.S. and abroad and a knitting group making prayer shawls and items for Knit for Kids.

• Longtime sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 7, chartered at First Church in 1912, continues to meet at the church.

• Annual donations of Christmas gifts for the children of incarcerated parents

• Support of Camp Wyoming (church camp of East Iowa Presbytery)

• Kids Against Hunger (packaging meals for overseas shipment)

A few past mission efforts have included establishing housing and assistance to immigrant Vietnamese and Congolese families, mission trips to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and U.S. areas devastated by inclement weather.

The congregation also provided space for a Boys and Girls Club for many years and offered tutoring services for its members.


Establishing opportunities for members to develop friendships is vital at First Church. Therefore, small groups and activities have formed around shared interests.

These groups and activities include: two book clubs, a men’s cookout/breakfast, a women’s retreat, a pickleball league (in the church gym), a volunteer group working on church landscaping, a travel fellowship, various Bible Study groups, the Young Adult Connection, and a combined couples/singles group that plans monthly social gatherings.

The Congregational Development & Fellowship Committee of Session organizes events to promote fellowship. Events include a monthly Sunday morning breakfast (Manna & More), Mardi Gras Sunday, and Thanksgiving Eve Pie Fellowship. In addition, the Deacons organize an annual neighborhood picnic and annual Homecoming luncheon for members 75 years old and older.

Special summer services include Blessing of the Animals, when members can bring pets to church, and a musical service recognizing Bix Beiderbecke, a legendary jazz musician from the 1920s whose family considered First Church their home.

Not surprisingly, COVID restrictions have forced modifications of many programs at First Church. Nevertheless, nearly all of the above have continued in some form.

Once COVID restrictions are relaxed or lifted, many former ministries may resume if the needs are present and individuals step up to lead. These might include past efforts such as Peace Fellowship, grief/singles’/young mothers’ groups, Parish Nurse, Befrienders, and United Presbyterian Women.

Christian Education

Christian Education for all ages is a significant emphasis and continually presents challenges of best meeting members’ needs in an ever-changing world.

In the pre-COVID era, preschool through 12th grade Sunday School classes convened on Sunday mornings and Youth Group met on Sunday evenings, focusing on service projects for the church and community. Kirkwood Club (2nd-6th grades) met on Wednesday evenings.

Under COVID protocols beginning in spring 2020, most activities were conducted through Zoom with a few activities held outdoors. As with other church activities, this limited participation.

As the church began to again meet in person, Vacation Bible Camp was held in 2021 in conjunction with weekly outdoor Sunday services during the summer.

Since fall 2021, Sunday school has been scheduled to alternate weeks with the children’s choirs. 2021 concluded with children participating in a Family Christmas Eve Service production from Illustrated Ministries entitled “Do Not Be Afraid.” More recently, the children’s choir sang in person for Palm Sunday.

Confirmation classes are held every other year for 7th and 8th graders. The most recent class concluded in May 2022.

Annual events include an Easter Egg Hunt/Party, Vacation Bible Camp, and Trunk or Treat (at Halloween). In addition, activities for junior and senior high youth in the last decade have included mission trips and delegations to Youth Triennium.

The church’s youth protection policy requires two adults present at any event involving children.

Adult Education opportunities at First Church include a weekly class following Sunday morning worship and Bible studies held during the week. These have continued, largely via Zoom, during the pandemic.



There are twenty-one members in the Session. Every year, a class of seven Elders is elected by the congregation. Members of the Session are restricted to serving no more than two consecutive terms before having to step away.

Standing committees and sub-committees of the Session include:

Adult Christian Education
Includes Library subcommittee.

Building & Grounds

Christian Education & Fellowship for Youth

Congregational Growth & Marketing
Provides direction for marketing the church to stimulate FPC’s membership growth; and coordinates the technological resources to provide in-person and remote access to church activities and protection from internet threats, data theft, and cyber-attacks.

Congregational Development & Fellowship
Promotes activities of fellowship groups.


Hospitality & Welcome
Addresses the addition of new members and recruits and schedules worship hosts.

Supports the Head of Staff in the leadership of staff employees and supports Session leadership of the congregation.


Worship & Music

Pandemic Task Force
Evaluates the current rates of Covid, makes plans for safer activities for the present and strategies for the future.


There are sixteen elected Deacons to the First Church Board of Deacons. Every year, a number of Deacons are elected by the congregation to provide leadership at the board level.

Being elected as a Deacon of the church is a lifetime appointment, so the actual number of Deacons at the church is much larger. Those Deacons who do not serve on the Board of Deacons often provide leadership on committees and subcommittees which are organized as shown below:

Mission Connection
Reviews and promotes current and potential programs/missions, emphasizing national and international missions.

Organizes participation in neighborhood and community involvement opportunities.

Pastoral Care & Spiritual Development
Supports activities related to congregational ministries, including visits to homebound members.

Where We Hope to Go

The only way to successfully overcome challenges is by knowing where to go and how to get there. That takes an ability to envision a future outcome and reach consensus on the values that will drive the change necessary to make that vision a reality.

The Congregational Growth and Marketing Committee (CGMC) – a committee of the Session consisting of six congregational members and two staff – studied national trends that defined what people look for when seeking a church home. The committee then reviewed previous surveys of First Church congregational members (summaries of which are included with this report as appendices) as part of an assessment of our institutional values.

These core values were referenced by the committee as it developed value statements, key messages, and a recommended “marketing position” for First Church.

The CGMC reported to Session (and eventually to the congregation) that it found that churches, now more than ever, need to be “authentic” when presenting themselves to the public – both prospective members and current ones. The younger the audience, the less confidence they have in the honesty and forthrightness of the institution.

In a media environment full of deep fakes and social media rumors, First Church needs to adopt a position of being “real” to stand out from the clutter. The CGMC continued:

“The challenge we face is to come up with an honest and believable vision for First Presbyterian Church and our congregation – who we are, what we believe, and how we act on that belief. An authentic vision of ourselves should admit our faults and celebrate our gifts … and it should inform everything we do and say as well as the way we present ourselves to friends, family, and the public-at-large.”

Admittedly, true transparency can be a little embarrassing, but it can also be transformative and liberating. That’s why the committee recommended focused messaging and communications around some core values that are easily associated with First Church’s storied past and best moments …

Core Values

We are a creative place and a creative people. You can see it in how we solve problems and take on challenges in all forms (both artistic and practical).

We are a congregation of good humor and expression; whether it’s the joyful laugh of children during their worship message or applause at the end of a service’s postlude, First Church expresses love and joy without reservation or remorse. Joy makes us ready to do good work and encourages us to do that work well.

As a congregation involved in the communities in which it lives, we have a long-standing reputation for volunteerism and principled activism, of leadership and fair-mindedness.

First Church has a reputation for honoring commitments made and sticking with them for the long haul. We understand that it is far better to do what is right rather than just doing what’s easy or expedient, even if that’s all that’s asked.

First Church has a rich historical heritage in the community as one of the oldest and most influential churches in the Iowa Quad Cities.

It is that first value, “Creativity,” that the CGMC recommends considering as a critical point of differentiation when it comes to creating a definitive “point-of- view” for First Church in the community. Not every congregation member needs to be an artist or a performer, but rather have a creative mindset – saying “why not” instead of “no.”


Keeping this recommendation in mind, the CGMC has now engaged the congregation to provide feedback on a draft vision statement. As part of that feedback process, members reflect on their personal relationships and faith, then find a way to share that story.

It is, in fact, this act of sharing stories that will build meaning into our shared vision statement by providing real-life examples of that vision at work.

This vision is a work in progress in every sense of the word. The specifics of the statement still require refinement, but the general understanding of the statement has broad support.

First Church needs objective leadership from an individual with the practical experience, spiritual maturity, strategic vision, and ability to motivate others to shepherd the process to a fulfilling conclusion.

First Presbyterian Church is a community of believers who are open and welcoming to everyone.

As a congregation, we are dedicated to making practicing your faith fun and meaningful – and we do that by joyfully and creatively sharing stories of the promise found inside a loving relationship with God through Christ.

We share our commitment to our faith by turning our words into actions and by staying resolute on matters of fairness, equality, and equity for all.

What’s it all mean …

“a community of believers” – As members of this congregation, we’re fully committed to the basic tenets of the Presbyterian tradition.

“open and welcoming to everyone” – As a Matthew 25 church and member of the Covenant Network, our congregation does not discriminate based on race, sexual orientation, preference, or identity.

“We are dedicated to making practicing your faith fun and meaningful” – We publicly proclaim that practicing your faith should be exhilarating and intentional – this is our evangelical message.

“joyfully and creatively sharing stories” – We celebrate and share the good news of not just our faith but of our faithful journey with our fellow members, and we do so in a way that is captivating and relevant.

“the promise found inside a loving relationship with God through Christ” – Every story should have, at its heart, a revealed truth about our relationship with
God through Christ “turning words into actions” We value “walking our talk” – doing what we say we’re going to do and keeping our promises.

“staying resolute on matters of fairness, equality, and equity for all” – The principles of the denomination and commitment to representation that underpin Presbyterianism reaffirm our position on social justice

What we need

First Church needs two things in order to fully realize its vision and live into its potential: a willing and engaged congregation who understands and embodies the core values identified above; and a head pastor to serve as its spiritual leader and chief motivator. Even facing the various economic and cultural challenges that exist today, First Church can attract and retain an activated congregation – when the right leader feels the call and joins with us.

We need leadership and guidance when it comes to sharing our stories as a congregation and motivating ourselves to achieve the bold ambitions expressed in our vision.

The ideal pastor to minister to the congregation and community of First Church would have these experiences and qualities:

Experience as a head of staff – of either a mid-sized church or a larger church.

Experience working as an engaging communicator – someone who actively listens and synthesizes multiple points of view to develop a practical, creative solution.

Spiritual maturity – demonstrating the integrity of purpose by walking the talk and engendering relationships built on trust and respect both inside and outside the organization.

Strategic vision – an ability to see the big picture and understand what it will take to make First Church (and organized Christian traditions in general) relevant to our membership and the community for future generations.

So, you may be someone we need – whether you’re a pastor in search of a new challenge and a new calling, or a believer in the love and power of the Spirit to affect positive change. The door is open.

And we’re ready to welcome you to First Church.

Appendices and Supporting Documents

You can access the source material used to research and write this mission study. Each report/study is downloadable as a printable/viewable PDF document.

We have also prepared a summary of the material used to prepare this report that can be read online.

Just click on the links below to open the additional material for your use.


Studies and Reports