From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Board Receives Short-Term Plan, Congregational Typology

Date Thu, 26 Feb 2004 14:55:17 -0600


February 26, 2004

ELCA Board Receives Short-Term Plan, Congregational Typology

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In the midst of transition, the board of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Division for
Congregational Ministries (DCM) laid out a short-term strategic
plan when it met here Feb. 20-22.  The board also learned about a
typology of ELCA congregations and attended to other business.
     The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, is
expected to recommend a proposal for the reorganization of the
churchwide office, budget and staff to the ELCA Church Council in
November 2004.	The council serves as the ELCA's board of
directors and legislative authority of the church between
biennial assemblies.
     "What can we do in this transitional year that will impact
congregations, maximize use of resources and strengthen ministry
areas for transition?" asked the Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock,
executive director, DCM.  "Our goal is to support congregations
in their call to be faithful, welcoming and generous," she said.
     The goal is one of the five strategic directions of the
church.  Staff of the division will use the strategic direction
"as a launching pad," said Bullock.  "The desired outcome is
congregational renewal.  Work in achieving that objective will
begin with integrating the ELCA churchwide strategic directions
and commitments," implementing the church's evangelism strategy
and Renewing Worship initiative, and working with other
churchwide units, she said.
     The presentation of the division's strategic plan offered
the board an opportunity "to bring individual perspectives and
dialogue around common themes, such as the importance of
discipleship and renewing congregations.  The division's plan is
also an affirmation of the staff and trust in God's work," said
the Rev. Jeffrey L. Schock, Trinity Lutheran Church, Latrobe Pa.
Schock, vice chair of the DCM board, led the meeting.
     The board met in small groups to work on "phase one" of
"Faithful Yet Changing:  The Plan for Mission in the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America."
     Faithful Yet Changing includes a process to restructure the
ELCA churchwide organization based on the mission statement and
strategic directions affirmed by the 2003 ELCA Churchwide
Assembly.  At its November 2003 meeting, the Church Council asked
division boards and commission steering committees to participate
in phase one of the process.
     The first phase of the plan began in January and will end in
April.	It involves examining the strategic directions and their
implementation.  Responses will serve as input to the redesign of
the churchwide organization.
     Dr. Kenneth W. Inskeep, director, ELCA Department for
Research and Evaluation, delivered an "executive summary" of
demographic changes and membership trends in the ELCA.	Inskeep
said, in the course of the ELCA's strategic planning process in
the past two years, "a host of contextual information" was
collected about the church and its 10,716 congregations.
     Membership in congregations of the ELCA has not kept pace
with the U.S. population, said Inskeep.  "Congregations may grow
in Minnesota, but they struggle in states that are more diverse
in every way, like California and Florida.  These states are
among the fastest growing states in the United States," stated
the summary put together by the ELCA Department for Research and
     Inskeep said the majority of ELCA congregations -- 5,738 --
have less than 350 baptized members.  "These congregations
account for about one-fifth of the total membership.  Another
fifth of the membership is in the largest 476 congregations,
those with more than 1,500 members.  The number of very small
congregations -- 1 to 175 baptized members -- has increased by 2
percent since 1990.  The number of very large congregations --
more than 1,500 members -- has increased by 6.7 percent," he
     "There are four ideal types -- not reality but general
descriptions of congregations based on [ELCA] members' views,"
Inskeep said.  There are two types of small congregations -- the
"discontent" and the "content," he said.  "The discontent
congregation has gone from providing for a full-time pastor to
not being able to support the pastor.  The congregation is under
financial pressure," Inskeep said.  About 25 percent of ELCA
congregations fall in the discontent category.
     Another 35 percent of small congregations are content
congregations, Inskeep said.  "They like themselves.  Although
things are going very well, these congregations are not growing
nor declining," he said.
     Twenty percent of ELCA congregations fall into what Inskeep
called "the committed congregation."  These congregations are
growing, he said.  "Their key to success is a widely shared
vision based on faith formation.  They are engaged in Bible study
and interested in reaching out to their community."
     The ELCA's large congregations, with 800 individuals
worshipping on a given weekend, have multiple services and
programs, Inskeep said.  "Fifteen percent of these congregations
have been large for a long time and rely on 'corporate members'
for support.  These members have a long-time relationship with
the congregation and have a level of prestige," he said.
     Five percent of large congregations are "newer
congregations.	They are diverse and have an ability to generate
programs and engage people in these programs.  They are also more
willing to accept failure [of a program] and move on," he said.
     Inskeep encouraged the board to "think seriously about doing
mission and ministry where the environment has changed
significantly, but where [the church] still has a presence."
     "How valuable is our voice?  We haven't paid attention to
that.  I hope that, as we reorganize, we ask ourselves:  How
valuable do we believe our Lutheran voice is in the world we find
ourselves in today?" Inskeep told the board.
     In other business, the board:
     + accepted a "Proposal for Stewardship Services" designed to
address how stewardship ministry is positioned in the ELCA
churchwide organization.  Stewardship and mission funding
functions are currently housed in DCM.	Staff of the stewardship
and mission funding team is looking at how its work connects with
a proposal for a new Resource Development Unit in the churchwide
organization.  Staff is working to increase delivery of direct
services to congregations of the church through two stewardship
ministries -- Salt Ministry and the Stewardship Key Leader
program.  It is also working to add a fund-raising component for
the 65 synods of the ELCA, increase services for "field staff"
and provide "supervision, coordination and training of the shared
and deployed stewardship staff."
     + received a progress report on the improving relationship
and work between the division and Augsburg Fortress, the
publishing house of the ELCA, Minneapolis.  Improvements center
on two mutual commitments -- open communication and joint
planning of programs and resources to serve congregations and
     + forwarded a resolution about the 30th anniversary of the
World Hunger Appeal of the ELCA and its predecessor church bodies
to the ELCA Church Council.  Last year marked the 30th
anniversary of the appeal.  Gifts to the appeal enable the church
"to accompany people in need in this country and throughout the
world through relief efforts, sustainable development, education
and advocacy."	The resolution asks the council to "give thanks,"
reaffirm the ELCA's commitment to combat hunger and poverty, and
call on individuals, congregations, synods and others to "deepen
their commitment" to effective ways for fighting hunger and
poverty "at home and throughout the world."
     + forwarded a resolution about "Stand With Africa:  A
Campaign of Hope" to the Church Council.  Stand With Africa began
as a three-year Lutheran campaign in 2000.  It was designed to
focus on issues significant to Africa, including HIV/AIDS, food
security, and peace and reconciliation.  The resolution would
affirm the continuation of Stand With Africa as a "second mile"
giving opportunity and "reaffirm" the ELCA's commitment to
accompany companion churches and partner agencies in Africa.
-- -- --
     Information about the ELCA Division for Congregational
Ministries is maintained at on the

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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