“O, prosper the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17 seeks God’s blessings on the fruits of our labor. In today’s financial climate, the fruits of our labor often go toward bank fees. Many wish to be better stewards and choose financial institutions they trust. Some are finding that at the ELCA Federal Credit Union.

The ELCA’s credit union opened in June 2016 at its office in the Lutheran Center, Chicago, though membership and customer service is available to people living anywhere.

Credit unions are nonprofit institutions owned by their members. They can often keep fees lower and offer better rates because of their nonprofit status. Employees and members of ELCA congregations, and employees of ELCA-related ministries are eligible to become members and open accounts.

Kyle Severson, pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church, Glenview, Ill., said banking with the ELCA’s credit union was an intentional choice: “We like to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak, and we felt this was a way we could save for our goals in a more faithful way.”

Severson also appreciated the lower fees and the fact that their funds would also help other ELCA members. Ultimately, the credit union offered “most of the benefits we need for our purposes [like] direct deposit and mobile check deposit,” he said.

Someone can become a member by opening a savings account with a minimum of $25. After that, members can access additional financial services, including auto loans, personal loans, credit cards and checking accounts with a large network of surcharge-free ATMs.

Luis Reyes, vice president and chief operations officer of the ELCA Federal Credit Union, said what sets it apart from other financial institutions is a “human-focused approach.” Each member application is looked at individually so personalized solutions can be found.

Matthew Smuts, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, Calif., decided to move his family’s money when he learned of unethical management practices by his previous bank. He was impressed with the personal approach of the ELCA’s institution. “I like having a specific person with whom I relate,” he said. “I like that my financial life is being brought into sync with my faith life.”

When Laura Hadley, a member of Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Chicago, realized that her bank had instituted a monthly fee for her checking account, she quickly made plans to close it and move her money into a free ELCA Federal Credit Union checking account. “[I am glad for the] opportunity to put my money in and manage it so that I’m not just giving it away,” she said.

Hadley also appreciates the personalized attention she received when establishing her accounts and as she has encountered questions. “This is the best experience I’ve had of any bank anywhere,” she said.

“I like that my financial life is being brought into sync with my faith life.” — the Rev. Matthew Smuts, Grace Lutheran Church

The credit union boasts loan rates and interest yields that are impressive for the financial services industry, saying they save members an average of $1,500.

“Using the credit union allowed me to get safe transportation for my family,” said Rhonda Pruitt, a pastor living in Northbrook, Ill. “Not only that, I could rest easy that I was in relationship with a financial institution that wasn’t counting on my failure as a step toward their success.”

Pruitt echoed the sense of community and personal relationship she felt: “When I finally said yes to a vehicle, I felt like I had a whole company cheering me on.”


Carla Thompson Powell
Carla Thompson Powell is an ELCA pastor. She and her husband, Darryl (also an ELCA pastor), live and work in the Chicago area; they have three children who are in middle and high school.

Read more about: