Launched in early 2014, the ELCA’s five-year, $198 million “Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA” is well underway. With 10 major priorities, the campaign’s comprehensive scope offers something for everyone and focuses largely on positioning the church for a successful future—one where it can have the largest possible impact, both globally and domestically.

The campaign’s major domestic targets are straightforward: to initiate new ministries; enhance ministry to the hungry and people with disabilities; and to cultivate the church’s up-and-coming leaders, including future clergy, youth and young adults.

By the numbers

Here’s a glimpse of some of the campaign’s domestic impact since its genesis:

  • As of Nov. 30, the ELCA has raised approximately $102.1 million in cash and multiyear commitments.
  • 372 new ministries are currently under development across the ELCA, 62 of which were initiated in 2016. Of all the new starts, 58 percent are among ethnic-multicultural communities. And 27 percent are being developed among people experiencing poverty.
  • The ELCA Fund for Leaders provided 250 students with more than $2 million in seminary scholarships this academic year.
  • 35 Renewing Congregations grants have been distributed through the campaign.
  • 21 new or enhanced youth and young adult ministries have received a grant to grow existing programs or start new ones.
  • More than 300 domestic hunger grants support sustainable solutions that get at the root causes of hunger and poverty across the U.S.

One young leader’s journey

Through a variety of experiences at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., Helen Kyle graduated with a heart for servant leadership, specifically in nonprofit work. She was able to cultivate her yearning with a campaign-funded internship at Ecumen, a senior services organization in Shoreview, Minn., that aims to create a home for older adults and change the way society thinks about aging.

“The ELCA campaign allowed me to start my career in philanthropy by funding my internship with Ecumen,” she said. “I can’t stress enough how essential it is for recent graduates to have the opportunity to explore a variety of careers while also receiving compensation.”

Kyle’s internship helped her confirm that the nonprofit sector was the right vocational path for her. After impressing colleagues with her good work, Ecumen offered Kyle a full-time position with its philanthropy team as development specialist. Now she can continue to pursue her passions and develop into a leader who will make an impact in her community.

Vital new ministries

Led by Tom Scornavacchi, Common Ground Recovery Ministry is one new congregation that has benefited from the Campaign for the ELCA (see also page 22). With campaign funds, what was originally a local congregation’s small, once-a-month program has become three separate, growing ministries in Pennsylvania—in Wyomissing, Reading and Douglassville.

Initially, Common Ground was an addiction recovery program using space at Atonement Lutheran, Wyomissing, and aimed to join that congregation for worship and community. Now it’s a completely independent and fully functioning congregation, gathering weekly with 50 to more than 100 for worship.

“Without the campaign funding, Common Ground couldn’t have existed the way it does today. It would have remained a small program within the church. Now it is able to flourish,” said Scornavacchi, an ELCA pastor who is also a recovering addict.

While the ministry still focuses on reaching struggling and recovering addicts, it also attracts those living in poverty or who have previously been hurt by the church. The program in Reading, for example, is a meal ministry for individuals and families impacted by addiction, poverty and food scarcity. The service, which welcomes 60 or more for worship each week, uses the dinner meal as the eucharist celebration.

Camp-ABLE is another new ministry whose work would not be possible without the campaign—it’s a recipient of the disability ministries fund. Held at Joy Ranch near Watertown, S.D., the camp was formed to serve youth with disabilities.

“I feel a strong sense of call from God to do ministry with people who have disabilities,” said Brian Krause, pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arcadia, Ohio.

Krause, who has cerebral palsy, led Bible studies for campers at Camp-ABLE its first summer. “The smile on the kids’ faces at camp reminds me just how important the work of sharing the good news with people with disabilities is.”

Investing in congregations

North Minneapolis is a highly diverse community with a number of complexities. While the area is often described as vibrant and close-knit, it also struggles with high levels of poverty. The ELCA is attempting to reverse this trend through a campaign-funded area strategy grant, which supports four congregations in the community that are working collaboratively to live out the gospel—which for them means meeting the needs of their neighbors.

“We believe our congregations can have a more powerful impact together rather than separately,” said Deborah Stehlin, director for evangelical mission with the Minneapolis Area Synod.

After spending time with each other and listening to the needs of the community, these congregations—Redeemer, Salem Evangelical, Christ English and River of Life—decided to place emphasis on three areas: neighborhood youth outreach, meeting basic needs and evangelism.

With the campaign grant, the churches have made strides in each focus. The collective youth ministry program now brings in neighborhood youth who weren’t previously part of the congregations. When there was an uptick in gun violence last summer, the congregations opened up a gym so youth would have a safe place to play basketball.

Stehlin said there is potential for the grant to produce even more fruit. “I am grateful that the ELCA is investing in congregations that are collaborating for the sake of their surrounding neighborhoods,” she said. “When we work together, we have greater ability to bless and be blessed by our neighbors, and a greater understanding of God’s purpose for Lutherans in this part of our city.”

From the donor’s perspective

Currently a member of All Saints Lutheran Church in Palatine, Ill., Diane Hill is the daughter of an ELCA pastor and a member of the inaugural advisory board for the ELCA Fund for Leaders. Hill said she is delighted to have the opportunity to help support future church leaders.

“I have a passion for supporting and mentoring pastors in their journey of discernment, study and transition to serving the church,” she said. “It has never been more critical for the church to demonstrate such support through scholarships.”

Hill’s inspiration to give and volunteer comes directly from clergy themselves—those who are deeply devoted to their work, education, multi- and cross-cultural ministries, and an overall commitment to the church’s mission. She said nothing should come in the way of a person pursuing her or his call to ordained ministry, especially finances. Because of this, she is pleased that leadership is one of the campaign’s main goals.

“We need to educate and mobilize the church to raise the greatly needed funding for this mission that will help sustain and grow the church,” she said.

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Jill Dierberg Clark
Jill Dierberg Clark is a freelance writer and director of public engagement at Eden Theological Seminary. She lives in St. Louis with her husband and twins.

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