Mission Interpreters: Sharing Our “Shorts” by Ken and Stephanie Tesch, Lord of Life, Kennewick and Pastor Helga Jansons For those of you who have attended Synod Assembly, a popular part of the assembly is called “Synod Shorts”. People share short stories of exciting and fun ministry in their congregations, capturing the difference that ministry is making in people’s lives. It is inspiring to know that God works through us and sharing a story touches our hearts. It is a learning experience that sparks our imagination, creates new ideas and ways to do ministry throughout our synod. Some of these ministry stories have been captured by people submitting stories to the Living Lutheran and in the quarterly EWAID insert. Some stories are found on the synod website under the “Mission Interpreter Story” tab. Recently the synod newsletter “Cross Connection” included mission stories. For those in Cluster G, Lower Columbia Basin Cluster, the Facebook page “The Grape Cluster ELCA” is also a source for stories of faith and mission. Sharing our shorts can build enthusiasm in your own congregation. You can be a Mission Interpreter for your congregation. Look for training coming your way. This is our Mission: God’s Work, Our Hands, Feet, Words and Love.
They Are Just Kids A mission interpreter story by Pastor Donald Short Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Othello, WA
How many times have we decided for our children that they do not have a say in the life of the church? We wait until our children are confirmed to allow them to vote on congregational matters. Some congregations withhold the sacrament of Holy Communion until the children of the congregation have taken a first communion class. We think our children are powerless. We think our children should be shielded from the cares of the world. We think our children should leave the work of the church to the grownups. The children of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Othello apparently missed the memo. For the season of Lent the children of Pilgrim Lutheran’s Sunday school raised money to buy bees and trees through the ELCA Good Gifts program. Bees are priced at $20 and trees are $10 each, or a grove of ten trees for $100. The Sunday school set a goal of $500 and decided to host a bake sale and other projects to raise the funds. The congregation of Pilgrim Lutheran understands the need for fruit trees and bees since we live in an area surrounded by orchards and vineyards. Plus, the cookies were delicious! The net proceeds for the bake sale were over $400, and then the children decided to sell farm fresh eggs to reach their goal. By the time the Lenten season had passed the fundraising total reached $520, twenty dollars above the goal! The children have decided to buy two groves of trees, or twenty trees total, and sixteen bee hives! Well done, good and faithful servants! You have proven true what the Apostle Paul wrote; “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1Corinthians 1:27)
Stewards of the Kingdom Lisa Therrell,Faith Lutheran, Leavenworth, WA
Today is Maundy Thursday. As I look at the painted mural of Christ crucified on our sanctuary walls, my soul feels anguish. Anguish for the events of that day, 2,000 years ago, when Jesus prepared for his own death by having a farewell meal with his disciples. And anguish for this day, knowing our Earth and her denizens are in such travail, and in so many ways. And I also reflect on the humble servanthood of Christ, as he washes his disciple’s feet; a servanthood we are called to emulate, and that today we commemorate by washing each other’s feet. Thy Kingdom come. We live in uncertain and disturbing times. It’s all too easy to give up, and retire to the things that bring us pleasure. But week by week we are called out to “Go in Peace, Serve the Lord.” Here at Faith Lutheran, one way we hear and respond to that call is to be stewards of God’s good creation. Our mission statement at Faith Lutheran reflects that intention, “As disciples in Christ, we are called to Incarnate the gracious, healing, and reconciling presence of God through: Sacramental Worship, Congregational Nurture, and Ministries of Peace, Mercy, and Justice for all Creation.” This intention is also reflected in the ELCA vision statement and values. Here at Faith Lutheran we formed an Earth Stewardship Group. The catalyst was a sincere conviction that we all need to do our part to stabilize climate change. As global temperatures rise, and sea level rises, and super storms rage, and droughts linger on, we acknowledged that we all have a role to play. Perhaps we could contribute to reducing our collective carbon footprint. This has led to initiatives like starting a community solar project, bringing recycle containers to downtown Leavenworth, and positioning ourselves to influence local politics. One current project is to raise the funds needed to install water bottle filling stations around town, with the goal of reducing the fossil fuel wasted on bottled water. Another project is to spearhead synod-wide workshops on creation care. There is so much more that could be done. What if we all joined hands to work on this together? Thy Kingdom come, on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Amen.
Latino Ministry by Pastor Helga Jansons Director for Evangelical Mission
Ministry among Latino people in our synod ranges from renting out space to a Latino congregation, Child Care/ After School Programs mostly attended by Latino children, Citizenship and English as a Second Language classes, to bilingual worship. This is our greatest opportunity and challenge for building cross- cultural relationships and expanding our style of ministry. The high population of Latino people in our geography, predominantly from Mexico, are the gift we have been given by God to help us grow (not necessarily numerical) as a denomination. As we encounter the colorful Mexican culture and passionate faith, our Lutheran intellectual way of communicating becomes apparent/evident. While our love for music, food and art are common ground, we are stretched to appreciate our differences and try to incorporate both cultures into our congregational lives. So, how do we begin to do ministry among Latino people? The first thing is always about building relationships. In doing so, there is a longstanding history to counter, and this takes time. As a denomination, we are mostly Anglo and together with the varied immigration status of Latino people there is already a power imbalance. Socio-economically it is Anglo people that need to make the first move toward relationship and connection. Inviting Latino people for coffee and having a one to one conversation is the best way. Make sure to be able to linger in conversation since hearing about family and sharing about one’s own, is often essential before mentioning anything to do with the church. Speaking even a few words in Spanish shows that we care to make an effort to connect. For example, phrases like Como estas? (How are you?) and Muy Bien, gracias (Very well, thank you). Pastors and communion assistants could memorize the words: El cuerpo de Cristo dado por ti (The body of Christ given for you) and La sangre de Cristo derramada por ti (The blood of Christ shed for you). For adults it is harder to retain a new language but we can learn a few things by rote. Latinos are very forgiving when an Anglo tries to speak Spanish. They usually figure out what you are trying to say. Most Latinos know more English than they acknowledge. They just don’t want to be embarrassed by saying the wrong thing. Anglos who can pronounce Spanish words could read the Bible to those who only speak Spanish. We don’t need to understand each word when we are reading. Once trust has been built, Latino people are open to learning what a Lutheran church is about: beliefs, history and how Latino people would be welcomed. The Latino people that I have met are incredibly warm and include and introduce everyone. Genuine hospitality is essential. To be welcoming signs inside and outside the church, mission statements, and pictures or plaques would be in both Spanish and English. Most are Roman Catholic or Evangelical in background and those roots run deep. Across the ELCA churches that resemble either of these denominations – mostly Roman Catholic – are growing. However, if people are not educated in how a Lutheran church functions, where lay people are involved as volunteers and take leadership roles, then Latino people will only attend on Sundays. ELCA churches with the largest Latino populations are discovering this. Latino people are reticent to assert their views which means that it can be difficult to engage Latino people in leadership positions. However, over time, when recognizing and affirming the natural spiritual gifts of Latino people and with lots of encouragement, training and support, ministry among and by Latino people can thrive. A way to grow Latino ministry is to offer programs for children. Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Yakima has proven this to be true. First Communion classes are well attended. Don’t be surprised, however, when those who have participated in Lutheran ministry, still baptize their baby in a Roman Catholic church. We have a long way to go building bridges across denominational lines not just cultural ones. P.S. All are welcome to be part of the synod wide Latino Ministry team that meets in Mattawa, WA.
STEWARDSHIP : MISSION MOMENTS
at Celebration Lutheran Church, East Wenatchee By Pastor Dave Haven
The question, “What Have We to Offer?” is the title of a song by Ray McKeever. After listing a number of possible answers to the question, the final lyric sums it all up: “What have we to offer? What have we to give? Lives we will give.” It is in this spirit that members and friends of Celebration Lutheran are invited to share Mission Moments while the offering is taken during worship (the time allotted is determined by how long it takes to take the offering). Reflecting on how they live out their calling as Christians, a simple question is posed to them: “Why do you do this?” Telling their stories generates conversation, inspiration, and, at times, participation in the various shared endeavors. Sharing a Mission Moment helps interpret how God works through us – “God’s Work. Our Hands.”
Celebration Lutheran Church’s Stewardship Team is responsible for inviting people to participate in Mission Moments, but it is not uncommon for other ministry teams and groups within the congregation to also recommend folks.
The idea came as result of the Stewardship Team’s desire to foster a climate of year-round awareness of God’s good gifts as manifested through God’s beloved people. Akin to “temple talks” or “personal testimony,” Mission Moments present an opportunity to share stories like: buying an extra bag of rice at Costco and dropping it off at the local food bank, volunteering to read to children at a local elementary school, weeding CLC’s church garden, playing an instrument to enhance music during worship, writing Christmas letters to refugees to shine a little light on their plight, or sharing who was a mentor in one’s faith formation.
Reflections on Rural Ministry
By Rev. Donald Short
I remember the first day of orientation at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. All of us who were new to campus were invited to chapel for some introductory remarks and, I believe it was Rural Ministry Professor Alvin Luedke who addressed all of us by saying, "Stand up, look to your left, look to your right, and realize that two of the three of you will be called to rural ministry."
We have a tendency in pastoral ministry to believe that rural ministry is for beginners, and that people with more experience should serve larger churches in urban areas. Some people believe that people who have been pastors for a long time and are still serving in rural areas must not be very good or they would have gotten a call to a larger church by now. Some people believe that rural pastors don't work as hard as urban pastors because we are willing to be satisfied with smaller congregations in smaller towns.
Many people in my class in seminary were unwilling to accept a call to a rural area. Many of my classmates believed their gifts were in urban ministry and they would be underutilized if they served in an agricultural context. A classmate of mine was initially called to a rural context, but when he toured the two-point parish, he was aghast that he was expected to travel on dirt roads to get to one of the church buildings! Those of us who have been in rural ministry for a while take dirt roads all the time and we don’t even think twice about it.
I have been in rural ministry for most of my pastoral career and along the way I have made a few observations. I will devote the balance of this article to stating my observations with as little commentary as I am able to manage.
Firstly, I have seen that rural parishioners are some of the kindest people on the planet. They are generous with what they have. I served my internship in a rural parish and was treated to home-grown chicken, beef and some of the best garden fresh produce imaginable. People in rural areas are quick to welcome you into their homes, share their best recipes and delight when you take the time to hear their stories.
Second, and don’t take it personally, but rural people are not going to do everything the pastor wants them to do. They have seen you before. They know the drill. The new pastor comes charging out of seminary full of bold ideas and fresh insights and is ready to turn the world upside down. People in rural areas are very happy to 'set him straight' on how the 'real world' works. People in rural areas know they were here before the new pastor arrived and they will likely still be here long after the pastor has moved on to another call. They don't feel the need to try every new thing that comes fresh out of the seminary.
Third, people in rural areas are mission minded. They take pride in making quilts for Lutheran World Relief. They are very generous with donations to Lutheran World Hunger. They are more than happy to support the youth as they prepare to go to the next youth gathering, but they will not always welcome the new constitution that is supplied by the church-wide office. They do not always appreciate the political views of the church-wide bishop, or even the synod bishop, for that matter. People in rural areas do not always see the need for church-wide social statements and rarely read them. They read the Bible and that feels like enough. As a bonus, they may read Living Lutheran or Gather magazine.
Fourth, people in rural areas usually know their neighbors, and sometimes know them too well. Evangelism programs that are designed to 'get to know your neighbors' are useless in small towns because the neighbor is already known. Most people can tell you, not only what church their neighbor goes to, but who built the church, how well it was built, who has been married in that church, who the best pastor in memory is, and what is keeping that neighbor from going to your church.
Fifth, when a new pastor comes to their church most people in rural areas want that pastor to know one thing, and one thing only. Please love them. That is enough. Jesus will change them. Change is not the pastor's job. Jesus will change them with or without the pastor leading the change. It may feel like nothing is changing, but God is at work. People in rural areas already know that God is at work because they see God's work all of the time. They see God's work in the new shoots springing from the earth every spring. They see God's work in the harvest every fall. They see God's work in the summer rain and thunderstorms (that's why 'How Great Thou Art' is a favorite hymn in rural areas.) They see God at work in the new babies that are baptized and they see God at work in the funeral dinners they prepare. They see God at work in calving season, lambing season and even when it is time to take the animals to market. People in rural areas are strongly connected to the land and they see God's work as an integral part of that connection.
Sixth, and finally, to the pastors in rural areas, know that what you do matters. You are the spiritual expert in town. You are the spokesperson for God. You are the one who knows the Bible the best and you are the one people count on for spiritual direction. Don't ever think what you do doesn't matter because people are counting on you. You are needed at every baptism, every wedding, every funeral, every worship service, every potluck and every other social function because your presence is a constant reminder that God is love and God loves them. They know God loves them because they can tell that you love them. When you let them love you back it forms a beautiful circle of love that makes rural ministry a very important part of the life of all of the Christian church on earth.
Food Truck Ministry Pastor Bob Kenyon, Emanuel Lutheran Church, Ritzville WA I hear more and more people say: “There are so many people who are in need: hunger in this land of abundance; people suffering terrible experiences and feeling like they are all alone. We’d love to help…but how?” Rick Rouse, in his new book: Beyond church walls make this observation. “A missional perspective of pastoral care embraces the notion that all of God's people—not just trained professionals—are called to partner in the healing and redemption of the world.”
What people need to learn to care outside the walls of their church is not a motivation but a method….a way…empowerment through training….feeling commissioned by God in Christ. One of the ways many congregations have showed their love for their community by working with Second Harvest and Thrivent to provide the second harvest food truck with about 8,000 lbs of food to come to their community, use the church parking lot, and give away the food on that truck in about 2 hours.
The first time I visited the food bank, I handed out fliers telling about the day and time and inviting anyone and everyone to come and get food. They came at first with flimsy bags, and were grateful to see boxes we had for them. About 20 members came to help bag, as well as give away food, carry it to their cars, and a lot more.
Many of the participants began to ask “why is your church doing this?”. Some of our members didn’t know what to say. The second year, we instructed them to say: “We’re grateful for all God in Christ has done for us, and so we want to help you because you are loved by God too. “ That took the exercise to a wholly deeper level. People didn’t just say, thank you, but also something like “God bless you for loving us”.
It costs $750 for the food truck. But, we raised that money through using the Thrivent gift card to buy soup, bread and dessert for Lenten soup suppers. Volunteers prepared it, served it and we had devotions right at the tables. We raised more than we needed to raise. Soup with a greater purpose in mind.
Also, we began to take a little time before the event to ask: “Why is there this kind of poverty in our little town? What could or should our country do to help us combat poverty in our community? How could resources be shared more equitably?” That took our food give-away to a whole different level. We studied John 6 and shared communion before we served. It then became obvious to us that while we hosted the truck, Christ was both host and guest at this event.
New Ways to Evangelize by Rev. Walter Klockers Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church - Moses Lake, Washington
Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod Insert in The Lutheran Magazine
Mission interpretation is telling the story of what God is doing through our giving. People telling real stories of ministry is the most effective way to bring ministry to life and to dramatize the importance of our work together in the world. Mission interpreters are the bridge between the work of the church and the people who fund the work. It is about telling, listening, and thanking.
A congregation benefits when it Thanks members for past and continued support Informs people about area, synod and ELCA ministries Inspires a spirit for ministry Invites the sharing of faith stories Encourages mission-minded thinking Teaches members to tell their stories and experiences Develops leaders for congregational ministry and beyond Connects members to each other, neighboring congregations, the Synod, and the ELCA
A synod benefits when it Encourages a partnership approach to ministry Informs members about synod ministries and opportunities Builds a network of storytellers focusing on faith and ministry Invites participation in activities beyond the congregation Identifies and develops synod ministries The ELCA benefits when it Encourages local, regional and worldwide partnerships in ministry Informs members about ELCA ministries and opportunities Builds a network of people who share their faith and stories Develops leaders for the present and future church Invites participation beyond the congregation and synod
In 2011 the members of the Churchwide Assembly agreed that supporting the work of congregations is one of the highest priorities of the ELCA. The LIFT (Living Into the Future Together) task force asked that congregations - in collaboration with synods - develop, review or redefine a Mission Plan by the end of 2012. Synods are to be a resource to congregations, and the Renewed Evangelizing Congregations Table of our synod would like to be of assistance.
While the point of planning is to get something done, plenty of churches put a lot of energy into developing a plan, but then lose steam in carrying it out. Many churches are doing missional work without having laid out a plan with goals ahead of time. Nevertheless this kind of intentionality can help to discern direction, priorities and focus. It invites an evaluation of the community context and its needs. It can help identify what the congregation needs in order to be equipped to go out into the community.
Does your congregation have some kind of Mission Plan or Strategic Plan that will guide you in the next year? If yes, would you send a copy to us? We would like to learn from it, and please let us know if we can share it with others. (We would like to have samples of Guiding Principles and plans to show at Synod Assembly.) If the answer is no, that you do not have a formal plan, have you set deliberate goals for the congregation over the next year? If so could you please send those and use the enclosed form if it is useful to you.
If you have not set goals or a specific ministry direction for the next year would your congregation welcome assistance in setting goals or developing a Mission Plan? If yes, please tell us 3 or 4 methods that have worked for your congregation in the past: Dave Daubert’s retreat, cottage meetings or congregational meetings… and let us know how we can be of assistance. If no, would you like the synod Renewed Evangelizing Congregations Table to just leave you alone? If so, we’ll ask together Martin Luther’s great question: “what does this mean?”
Please send your response back to the Synod Office (Mission Plan Form) Attention: The Renewed Evangelizing Congregations Table
Your servants in Christ,
The Renewed Evangelizing Table: Pr Karen Bates Olson, Pr Peg Harvey Marose, Pr Joel Ley, Mary Jamison, Mary and John Jensen, Charleen Kaaen, , Pr Dan Rieke, Beryl Rieke, Pr Duane Anderson, Pr Dave Haven, Pr Paul Palumbo, Pr John Hergert, Pr Mark Nelson, Pr Helga Jansons, Bishop Martin Wells