From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Why Lutheran Service Agencies Do What They Do

From Brenda Williams <>
Date 30 Apr 1998 21:04:39


April 30, 1998


     CHANDLER, Ariz. (ELCA) -- They manage one of the largest
organizations of housing, counseling, child care, foster care and adoption,
refugee resettlement, employment services, disaster response, health care,
nursing home and AIDS ministries in the United States and Caribbean.  More
than 300 of them heard that "why" they do what they do may be more
important than "what" they do.
     Participants were here April 22-25 from 32 states, the District of
Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands for the first annual conference of
Lutheran Services in America (LSA).  About 280 social ministry
organizations operating in about 3,000 locations formed LSA as a corporate
partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in April 1997.
      "In the days ahead when your motivation is running low and your
problems are running high, remember the source of your inspiration," said
Bishop Howard Wennes of the ELCA's Grand Canyon Synod, reminding those at
the event's opening worship that Jesus asked his disciples to care for the
most vulnerable as though they were doing it for him.
     Wennes also brought a word of encouragement from the Bible: "Be not
afraid."  He said, "This is the group that worries least of being safe in
the church; and it's refreshing to be with you.  You are on the front lines
of building a bridge between the world and God, between the church and
     "Out of deep-seated love for God and for people" the Lutheran church
is involved in social ministry, said the Rev. Loren Kramer, president of
the LCMS's Pacific Southwest District.  "This gathering is proof that there
are fundamental and basic things that unite us in a common mission of
helping people."
     Kramer said there is a "critical connection between the church and
its social ministry organizations" to alleviate social ills.  "The church
lives by the gospel.  It must proclaim the gospel.  It must also live the
gospel," he said.  "What we believe is demonstrated by what we do ... the
litmus test of our faith."
     "Find the language to describe why you're doing what you're doing
instead of what you do or how you do what you do," Frances Hesselbein,
president, Peter Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, New York,
said in her keynote address.  "Leadership is a matter of 'how to be'
instead of 'how to do it.'"
     Hesselbein described a circular method of management that disperses
leadership responsibilities across the organization to replace a
traditional hierarchy of authority.  "Leaders did not train to be leaders.
They expressed themselves in their work and helped others to do likewise,"
she said.
     The social sector must see itself as an equal partner of government
and business in helping people, said Hesselbein.  It must assess the needs
of a community and select partners that will help meet those needs.  "I
have worked with principled, effective leaders in business and politics,
and I'm ready to partner," she said.
     Themes of articulating goals and forming partnerships continued into
about 20 different workshops offered during the conference.  There were
also pre-conference meetings and planned "conversations" during the event
to encourage cooperation among participants with similar interests.
     One workshop showcased a new videotape and study materials, "Why We
Do What We Do," produced by the LCMS.  The resource is to assist the staff
members of Lutheran agencies in understanding what they do as ministry.
     Workshops on such topics as managed care coalition building,
legislative advocacy and disaster response emphasized ways in which to
"partner" with other agencies doing similar work -- not only with other
Lutheran agencies but with other religious, private and government agencies
serving people in the same territory.  Care team ministries promote
organized ties between social ministry organizations and the lay members of
nearby Lutheran congregations.
     A pre-conference meeting brought together ten agency executive
directors who entered that position in the last year: Nya Berry, Lutheran
Family Mission, Chicago; Yvonne Crumpton, Lutheran Congregations for Career
Development, Chicago; G. Frederick Aigner, Lutheran Social Services, Des
Plaines, Ill.; Stan Veit, Lutheran Social Services of Indiana, Fort Wayne,
Ind.; Stephen Phelps, Council of Lutheran Churches, St. Louis; John W.
Speckhard, Lutherans in Medical Missions, St. Louis; Sally Gammon, Good
Shepherd Home, Allentown,  Pa.; Leslie Vance, Lutheran Social Services of
Utah, Bountiful, Utah; John A. Noreika, Oakwood Village Retirement and
Health Care Community, Madison, Wis.; and Roger W. Able, Lutheran Homes of
Oshkosh, Wis.
     During one conversation leaders of eight Lutheran social service
agencies described a vision of forming "a national Lutheran network of
international adoption without creating a cumbersome and expensive
bureaucracy.  We seek to develop and sustain an ongoing relationship that
will bring together the considerable resources of the agencies within
Lutheran Services in America in the arena of international child care."
     Another conversation presented the "theologian-in-residence" program
of Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania and Tressler
Lutheran Services, Mechanicsburg, Pa.  The Rev. Foster R. McCurley works
part time for each agency, not counseling one-on-one but working with
staff, board meetings or groups of chaplains to help them determine the
theological values of the organization and to deal with immediate ethical
     Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1997, the Lutheran agencies served
1,776,126 people -- 137,712 in residential services, such as 45,615 in
nursing facilities.
They employed 95,064 people; and 68,687 volunteers provided 5,068,524 hours
of support.  The social ministry organizations received $3,073,566,000 --
49.8 percent from government sources -- and spent $2,967,318,000 -- 88.3
percent on programs and 10.8 percent on administration.  The $3 billion
budget makes LSA one of the largest charities in the United States.
     The assembly approved a 1999 budget for LSA that will not change
membership dues, will increase the support from the ELCA and LCMS and will
establish new service fee procedures.  There are several core services of
LSA that are free to its members, and other services are offered on a
variety of fee schedules.
     In the corporate partnership, the social ministry organizations elect
nine of the LSA's 18 board members; the 5.2 million-member ELCA appoints
six members; and the 2.6 million-member LCMS appoints three.
     The agencies elected Gene Svebakken, president and CEO, Lutheran
Child and Family Services, River Forest, Ill., and re-elected Jane Hartman,
president, Bremwood Lutheran Home, Waverly, Iowa, and David A. Jacox,
president, Bethphage Mission Inc., Omaha, Neb., to three-year terms.
  The Rev. Nelson C. Meyer, president, Lutheran Social Services of
Central Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, chairs the LSA board.  Joanne Negstad is
LSA's president and CEO with offices in St. Paul, Minn.
  The board will meet July 7-8 in Itasca, Ill. The next LSA annual
conference will be April 17-20, 1999, in Washington, D.C.

For information contact:
Ann Hafften, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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