"... we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as a norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But these other occasions, I now suspect, are often full of their own new blessing, if only we would lay ourselves open to it. " (C. S. Lewis)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

~ An Open Letter to My Church Family

On this, the eve of our last Sunday with you, I am compelled to write down some of my thoughts. Last night was a wonderful night of celebration with our church leaders, staff and spouses as approximately 60 of us gathered to remember and look forward. Ken and I were blown away by the beauty of the night and the outpouring of love from so many of you. We shared stories and we laughed (mostly at Ken's expense), and every time I tried to say something, I cried. So I decided this might be an easier way to say what's on my heart. (You won't see the tears but you'll hear my heart!) I could write books with all the things I want to say to you, but I will try to be brief. Here goes!

You probably know this story. Thirty-two years ago (1985), this young girl looked into his blue eyes on our first date and said rather passionately and confidently, "I'm pretty sure God is calling me to be a pastor's wife." That young man boldly replied, "Good! Then we can go ahead and date and have fun, because I am never going to be a pastor." Ten years later, you called him to be your Associate Pastor, and this young, confident young girl was not so sure she was ready for that!

Here's part of the story you may not know. Before his first day on the job, we were told eight families left the church before they even met him because he had a background in psychology and counseling. And then, in his first few weeks on staff, he came home, and I could tell something was bothering him. Someone had left a little "bomb" on his desk. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. It was just a few words scribbled down, but they were enough to blow up any illusions I had of what ministry might be like. The words were so hurtful, I have never repeated them to anyone. So began my introduction to career ministry.

In those first few weeks, I remember thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?" I knew right then I couldn't do this thing on my own. I knew I would need thicker skin and a greater capacity to love. I asked God to give me His love for you when mine wasn't enough. He answered that prayer over and over through the years and somewhere along the way, I learned this lesson: when you understand how much you have been loved, you want to love much. And when you truly understand how much you have been forgiven, you want to forgive much! 

In twenty-one years of ministry, you see a lot of people come and go. God gives, and He takes away. There is grieving and celebration. We have loved and lost many. To you who call Community Church home, you are our family. On behalf of our family, I would like to thank you for a few things. 

First, thank you for being a place and a people of grace. This has been our first and only ministry experience. We have grown much in these 21 years. You have allowed us to be exactly who we are, never expecting us to be anyone else. You have allowed our kids to be kids and have not expected them to be perfect or anything other than what and who they are. You have accepted us, weaknesses and all. You have believed the best, given second chances, and extended forgiveness when we messed up. You have extended loyalty to us, and in a day where people make vows and don't keep them or stick around only as long as something is beneficial to them, loyalty is a rare gift. You have allowed us to grow in the areas where God has gifted us. You trusted our leadership. You gave me a platform to do what I believe I was created to do. I will never forget being on stage and seeing your hands in the air and your hearts engaged in worship. It is my favorite place to be. You have understood that there were seasons when I needed to just be mom and wife, and times when family demands made Ken less available. (I want you to know that it was my joy to share him with you!) You have taught us much about grace!

Second, thank you for your generosity. I think one of my doubts when Ken decided it was time to use his gifts in full-time ministry was a hesitation to give up the security of a successful counseling practice. I can honestly say I have never doubted our decision one day since then. God has provided every single thing we have needed and has lavished us with good things. He has used your generosity time after time as His provision for us. Through two adoptions, surviving twins, and having an unexpected little bundle so late in life, you were the hands and feet of Jesus to us. You filled our shelves with everything we needed and gave of your time so unselfishly. Over the years, you lavished us with many good things, and we are grateful for every card, gift, trip, meal, etc... And I want you to know, as we were able, we shared with our children that the meal they were eating or the place they were staying or the gifts they were enjoying were because of your generosity - because you followed God's leading! You taught us and our children what it means to live with open hands! We know without a shadow of a doubt - where God guides, He provides.

Finally, thank you for your faithfulness to the vision for which God called us and knitted us together. It was in the church's DNA before we got here and will be long after we are gone. We will never forget going out into the community with you for The Church Has Left the Building, showing Fond du Lac the love of Christ. How could I ever forget Living Rooms. It was audacious of me to stand before you and say, "I only need 250 volunteers",  but you stepped up and we stepped into the community again to share the hope of Christ with a hurting world! Thank you for helping us fall in love with the people of Fond du Lac, Romania, Senegal, Haiti, the Bahamas, and so many places around the world. Thank you for keeping the vision clear - to become a movement of disciples radically committed to loving others for the glory of God. Ken and I believe that your best days are ahead, and in all of them, God will be glorified. It has been our pleasure to serve alongside you these 21 years. You will always be in our hearts and welcome in our home!

All my love,



  1. Karen, I'm sad I can't be there today but am praying for you all as you travel into this new season of ministry. You will be missed! You've written beautifully. Community Church has been blessed because of you and Ken and your influence here-on the stage and behind the scenes. Lives have been changed for eternity because of your hearts for hurting people. ((hugs!))

  2. That was a beautiful tribute, Karen, thank you for expressing yourself in this way. You and Ken are wonderful examples of love, grace and faithfulness and you will be greatly missed. Enjoy this new adventure God has called you to! There will probably be similar "rough times" in the beginning, but there is no doubt you will be great and God will use you both in mighty ways for His glory and kingdom. God bless you.

  3. Karen-Thank you for sharing your heart. It has been a blessing to have been led so well (congregationally and personally) by a couple of such great character and integrity. The joy from above you radiant, your beautiful voice guiding us in praise and worship and the servant's hearts you both possess are a beacon for God's glory. Your compassionate guidance, ability to truly hear the hearts of others and, in turn, grieve or celebrate alongside them is a life-changing gift. I have enjoyed being part of our church family together and look forward to hearing of your family in this next season of ministry. While I am sure today will be bitter sweet, I pray you know that we let go of having you in our family in person but you will never leave from our hearts, thoughts and prayers. **hugs**- Heidi Burns