Living Lord Lutheran Church was given a new and exciting focus at our Annual Congregation Meeting on January 28, 2018. For the past three years, we have been focused on the Shared Ministry with Emmanuel and St. Paul. That focus made us look at ways to consider our congregations and to investigate how that might look.
The benefit we gained was to introduce ourselves to others and to build relationships that could hopefully help us to move forward together as a larger congregation with the critical mass of members who would then focus on “Growing Young”. The distracting part of focusing on consolidation was the delay in turning our focus outward and getting trained up to be “Invitational Christians” who would reach out to our unchurched neighbors and find ways to introduce them to God and to build trusting relationships with our friends.
Our Church Council met on February 2, 2018, and formulated a plan for 2018 that would turn us outward and begin to proclaim the Gospel in our community. This plan begins with training. Why? Because we do not invite others into our faith community and that is because we do not know how. Perhaps you do not think we have anything worth inviting people to our Church, but every Council member has a testimony of what their Committee has been doing that is exciting:
The Parish Education Committee has a summer Vacation Bible School that attracts 35 children – few of whom are members of Living Lord. The Committee presented a fun and exciting lesson called “Operation Overboard” that was reinforced with skits, dramas, crafts, and, yes, even snacks. One of our students from last summer ended up presenting the story of Noah to our catechism class this fall. She took the class deeper than any of the instructors expected her to do – share that!
The Youth and Family Committee has been involved in a cooperative catechism class that has built community among our teens. In turn, these teens have participated in a Servant Week that has grown to 70 teens and adults serving others in Steubenville, Rogers, Lisbon, and Youngstown – share that and invite others to join us!
The Outreach Committee has a reputation throughout the Mahoning Valley that garnered them a nomination for the Valley Legacy Award. They bring joy and excitement to the residents at Niles Shepherd of the Valley, serve Community Meals at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, distribute food baskets twice a year that help your friends and neighbors in need, coordinate and deliver school supplies for children, and it doesn’t stop there. The Committee shows up in force during VBS to lead the children, connect with the parents, and invite those parents into VBS to help and engage – share that with others!
The Worship Committee has prepared us to worship with excellence. They model a community that values the gifts and talents of every member. All those who usher, lecture, assist in worship and communion, prepare the altar, bake bread, fold the bulletins, sing, play bells, play the organ, greet, and welcome everyone; touch the lives of everyone who worships. Those who do assist in these ways do so with joy – invite and train others to share in this joy!
The Later Life Committee touches the lives of every member of our congregation. They have been there to comfort those in sickness, in grief, and in loneliness. They have also lifted up and celebrated our joys, and have invited all of us to participate in the comfort and celebration of others. They have knit us together as a family who cares for one another – share that with others!
Our Fellowship Committee has been in general support of every ministry in our congregation. They are the ones who provide the hospitality and the opportunity to break bread together – or cookies, pumpkin rolls, and coffee. Just like Outreach backs up VBS, Fellowship backs up every ministry. They are like the glue that binds us together – share that!
Our Property Committee is the most highly functioning property team I have ever witnessed – and that is saying a lot. Several years ago, the Committee formulated a wish list to make improvements in efficiency, appearance, cleanliness, security, and the desires and needs of our entire congregation. Seventy-two projects were prioritized and most have been completed. Completed because the priority process brought the least expensive projects that could be completed with our own skills to the top. The Fuchs Memorial Fund Committee has helped to knock out other projects for which we needed funding above and beyond our budget. All this results in a church that looks lived in and cared for. Yes, the Committee is also in general support of our congregation, and you have also supported and joined the team in projects such as the Spring Planting.
The condition of our church is welcoming to all with whom we share it: Card Classes, AA, Life Line Screening, Sewing Guild, Cooperative Catechism, voters, and members who celebrate events in our Fellowship Hall – share this!
Finally, our Evangelism/Membership Committee is relieved to witness a congregation who is ready to focus outward. The Evangelism Committee will focus on training this year and will sustain that training in the future. First, we will focus on “Growing Young”. Growing our congregation young has been the number one objective that every small group has voiced as a priority in our small group discussions. In order to do that, we need to learn how. Every Wednesday evening during the season of Lent, we will present what “Growing Young” can look like. This series will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 14, at 7:00 pm at St. Paul. There are six sessions. I will also record these presentations to be shown to everyone who must work or cannot attend one of the sessions. Thankfully, we have been in this Shared Ministry and have been able to share information and resources that have opened our eyes. Dr. Andrea Hall will present the first three sessions. Dr. Hall has her doctorate in Christian Education and is practiced at presenting the “Growing Young” series. We would never have made this connection without our relationship with St. Paul. We will continue to find ways to do cooperative ministry that will help both our congregations “Grow Young”.
I will present to the Council a series called “The Invitational Christian”.
I will also lead training on Evangelism and Stewardship on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Feb. 27, Mar. 6, 13, and 27 at St. John Lutheran Church, 1200 Mahoning Avenue, Youngstown. This is one of six sessions that the Eastern Conference Ministries Studies Program offers for all our congregations. I also record these and put these on YouTube. Please let me know if you can attend these classes.
So this is what is happening in your neck of the woods. Now, let’s learn how to share it and how to become effective “Invitational Christians”.
Church Information…Please remember that you can obtain church information from the monthly Lamplighter Newsletter, the Constant Contact emails you receive, on the church website (www.lllc.org), on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Living-Lord-Lutheran-Church-493806727349110/), and postings on the church bulletin board. Church Council Meeting minutes are posted on the bulletin board and sent out via Constant Contact. We would like to see a better “open rate” when we send information to you via Constant Contact so that we know you are being informed of the activities that are occurring at the church. If you have any other suggestions on how best to reach out to our parishioners, please see a Council member.
Seeking the Fountain of Youth…It is no secret that the culture in North America is going through a massive shift, and it is no secret that this shift is having a tremendous impact on the church. With every major denomination (and churches in no denomination at all) in steady decline, churches are wondering about their ability to survive. In particular, churches long to see more young people walk through their doors, but young people today just don’t seem interested, and most churches have no idea where to start. The future seems unsure, at best, and downright depressing, at worst.
Yet amid these grim statistics, there are churches that are beating the odds. That is why the folks at Fuller Theological Seminary decided to research churches that were “growing young” (that is, churches whose average age was decreasing or holding steady). They wanted to determine what, if anything, these churches had in common. Was it denominational affiliation (or lack thereof)? Was it location? A “contemporary” worship service? The size of the congregation? A young, hip pastor?
You might be surprised to learn that they found that none of these factors were particularly significant. In fact, time and again, they found churches of every denomination, size, geographic location, and worship style that were able to grow young. Through their research, the team identified six core commitments that every “growing young” church embodied.
During Wednesdays in Lent, we are going to examine each of these six commitments in the hopes of sparking some conversation about how we might begin to help young people discover and love our churches. The last three strategies will be discussed as follows:
- March 7 – Fueling a Warm Community
- March 14 – Prioritizing Young People (and Families) Everywhere
- March 21 – Being the Best Neighbors
Please join us at St. Paul on each of these days. We will gather for a soup supper at 6:00 pm and then at 7:00 pm for a worship service where we will explore these themes.
Growing young can be a difficult process. It requires some change and a whole lot of faith to step out and embark on something new. But, it is necessary if the church is going to thrive amid the changing cultural tides. And, more importantly, it is necessary if we want a new generation to know and follow Jesus. While many things have changed, some things have not: Jesus is still the only one who has defeated sin and death, he is still calling his children to follow him, and he is still calling his church to go and make disciples. Join us as we talk about the ways in which we can embrace our role in God’s mission in the world – even if that world is a bit different than the one we used to know. Andrea Ceplecci Hall (Andrea Ceplecci Hall was baptized, confirmed, and married at St. Paul. She has a Master’s degree in theology from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Educational Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary. She is married to Rev. Dr. Sean Hall, and they live in Greenville, PA, where Sean is the pastor at Hillside Presbyterian Church.)
Praying Together During Lent…Our PRAYER EMPHASIS for March is “Growing Young”. Will you pray for youth and young families, especially those in our churches?
WEDNESDAY EVENINGS DURING LENT: The Worship Committee at St. Paul is preparing a Service of Preaching and Teaching called “Growing Young Presentation and Prayer”. The 7:00 pm prayer service will include song, scripture, prayers, and a key presentation. Come learn and worship! Everyone is also welcome to the Soup Suppers which begin at 6:00 pm each Wednesday.