When a congregation’s location can best be described as “on the road out of town, near the mall,” that might be a reason people aren’t filling the pews. In fact, in early 2020, Living Christ Lutheran Church, Flagstaff, Ariz., was facing a 65% decline in membership since 2013. Grants from the Grand Canyon Synod, funded by Mission Support, helped sustain Living Christ’s ministry.
So when the pandemic struck, the congregation faced an uncertain future.
After in-person worship was halted, Living Christ reignited its ministry by expanding its online footprint to include digital worship, with new sermon videos posted weekly and associated worship materials provided via PDF.
“We were initially just getting anywhere from 30 to 40 viewings for the sermons,” said Dean Garner, council member and IT/website manager for Living Christ.
“The internet has basically been as much of a change for the church as, say, Gutenberg and the printing press was for Luther,” said Living Christ’s pastor, Kurt Fangmeier.
Though Living Christ may be new to internet outreach, the congregation has long been known for involvement in its community, particularly Flagstaff’s LGBTQIA+ population. In 2011, the congregation began sponsoring Pride in the Pines, an annual celebration in Flagstaff that is hosted by the Northern Arizona Pride Association (NAPA) and typically draws over 4,000 attendees.
Now, in the wake of the pandemic, Living Christ has transitioned to a hybrid in-person/ online model and plans to relocate to downtown Flagstaff, which offers ample outreach opportunities.
“The building has served us well for over 35 years and will serve us well again by providing us the means to take our mission elsewhere in our community,” Garner said. “Jesus did not share the good news from one place, nor shall we. … We are excited about this new journey.”
Living Christ Lutheran Church in Flagstaff, Ariz. has started making an impact beyond their pews with online outreach.