From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Latino Lutherans Put Talents to Work for Mission and Ministry

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Wed, 19 Feb 2003 16:18:57 -0600


February 19, 2003


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- According to U.S. census figures released
this year, Latinos may be the fastest-growing and largest ethnic
group emerging in the country.	Taking that into consideration,
Spanish-speaking congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) are putting their "God-given talents and gifts" to
work to enhance and sustain mission and ministry.
     Through a program called "Dones en Accion" (Gifts in Action),
ELCA congregations across the United States and Puerto Rico are
approaching ministry "in life-changing ways by using their God-given
talents and gifts," according to Evelyn B. Soto, director for
multilingual and culture-specific resources, ELCA Division for
Congregational Ministries.
     "If current census trends are correct, Dones en Accion can
serve as a vital approach for ministry among Lutheran Latino
congregations looking to organize and renew their mission and
ministry," Soto said.
     "In the past some Latino congregations of the ELCA have
operated on a needs-based approach or a deficit approach to
ministry," said Soto. "Congregations have formed their budget and
developed ministries by first asking: 'What do we need for ministry?'
     "Dones en Accion begins with the question: 'What are the gifts
and abilities of  congregation leaders?'  It engages leaders to look
at gifts, skills and abilities already present in a congregation, how
God has graced them and their church, and what God has done in the
lives of Lutherans," she said.
     Dones en Accion uses a 140-page "field guide" called "Dones de
Gracia:  Guia de Accion para Congregaciones" (Gifts of Grace: An
Action Guide for Congregations) that includes theological background,
case studies and "how-tos" for congregation leaders, all directed
toward an asset-based approach to congregational renewal.  The book
is also designed for ecumenical audiences interested in the asset-
based approach.
     "The program involves a shift in behavior and attitude," Soto
said.  "When we understand God's abundance in our lives, and the
gifts and talents given to us by God over what we lack to carry out
ministry, we begin to talk and act differently. Our perceptions
change, which presents an interesting analogy.	If one pours several
half-empty glasses of water into one half-empty cup, the cup
overflows.  So, the glass is never really 'half empty' but 'half
full.'	When a church begins to assess all the gifts of its
individual members, the church will operate with an abundance of
gifts for use in a church's mission and ministry."
     With support from the ELCA Division for Ministry and Division
for Outreach, the Division for Congregational Ministries (DCM) hosted
a series of meetings and training sessions last year for Latino staff
from several of the ELCA's 65 synods, pastors and other congregation
leaders to introduce Dones en Accion in synods and congregations.
Training sessions were held in California, Illinois, New Jersey, New
York and Puerto Rico.  They will continue this year in Pennsylvania,
Texas and Puerto Rico.
     "Trainers are now available to help implement Dones en Accion,"
said Soto.
     Idalia Negron, DCM deployed stewardship staff serving the ELCA
Caribbean Synod, Dorado, Puerto Rico, facilitated the implementation
of Dones en Accion in several of the 26 ELCA congregations on Puerto
Rico last year.  With the implementation of the program, churches
have seen a shift in the way members volunteer, Negron said.
     At Iglesia Evangelica Luterana Getsemani, Dorado, members now,
more than ever, freely volunteer to participate in worship, sign up
to be lectors, teach Sunday school, cook or share music, Negron said.
Before Dones en Accion, members were often coerced to participate in
church activities, she said.
     "Because we have taken the time to assess the congregation's
God-given gifts and talents and use them in the community of faith,
ministry has grown.  An idea of Dones en Accion is that "when people
begin to discover what they are good at doing, they take charge.
That is life-changing.	And, as a result, we have seen new leaders
emerge and ministries expand," Negron said.
     The process of "mapping assets" also works to organize a
congregation, especially in forming committees or groups to carry out
certain ministries of the church, Negron said.
     Another key element to Dones en Accion is its biblical
foundation.  The program is not merely another program for
congregations to implement but "it is a calling from God.  Dones en
Accion inspires congregations to revitalize communities, using what
God has given, and to renew the message of Jesus Christ," she said.
     Maria Paiva, director for Latino ministry, ELCA Southwest
California Synod, Glendale, Calif., and member of Iglesia Luterana
Angelica, Los Angeles, said she has been impacted with the
application of Dones en Accion among young people.
     "Many of our young people have felt they do not serve the
church in important ways.  But, when we uncovered their God-given
gifts, they began to understand their value in the church.  The
church is not for them to serve in the future at an older age, but
they represent the church now and must share their gifts now," Paiva
     The Rev. A. David Anglada, assistant to the bishop, ELCA
Metropolitan New York Synod, New York, introduced Dones en Accion at
the Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC), Bronx, New York.  LPAC is a
faith-based, non-profit organization that equips clergy and other
leaders to serve effectively in church and society.
     Operating on an annual budget of $4.6 million, LPAC relies on
government funding for its survival, Anglada said.  A goal of
implementing Dones en Accion at LPAC was to demonstrate "how the
gifts and talents of staff can be used as part of their stewardship
toward the institution."  As a result, Anglada said staff deepened
their "vision in the work of the organization" and managed to raise
some funds for new ministries without much government support.
     "People have many gifts and assets to share.  Once they see how
these gifts are used, it creates a better sense of investment in what
they are doing.  I, too, am reminded that I am a gift of God not in
an arrogant sort of way but humbly, through God's grace."
     Dones en Accion was developed in partnership with the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod's Hispanic Ministries.  Research used to
develop the program was funded in part by the former Aid Association
for Lutherans (AAL) through its Cooperative Parish Project Committee.
In 2001 AAL merged with Lutheran Brotherhood to form Thrivent
Financial for Lutherans, a fraternal benefit organization based in
_ _ _
     Information about Dones en Accion and other resources in
Spanish is maintained at on the
Internet.  "Dones de Gracia: Guia de Accion para Congregaciones" is
available through Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, the publishing
house of the ELCA.  The book's ISBN number is 6-0001-6748-2.

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

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