The ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission helps the church support the next generation of clergy and other leaders so ministry candidates' first concern needn't be loan repayment.
In 2003, the fund grew to a $7.2 million endowment, which has provided a total of $764,849 in full-tuition scholarships for 56 ELCA seminarians.
ELCA Foundation staff gave away 1,200 candy bars with gift envelopes at the 2003 Churchwide Assembly. Seven months later they were still receiving chocolate-smudged envelopes. Further sweetening the deal, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation has challenged the church to raise $2 million for the fund's scholarships before Aug. 31, 2005, for Thrivent Foundation to grant an additional $1 million.
The fund isn't just raising money. It's raising awareness of the need for the ELCA to call forth and support a new generation of gifted leaders.
Fund director Cindy Halverson says donors recognize that leadership development is part of the church's commitment to evangelism. "When people invest in the fund, they invest in the future of our church," she adds.
One face of that future is James Pike, 25. He received a full-tuition scholarship from the fund when he entered Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. The scholarship was an affirmation of his call to ministry, as was his campus minister's vocal support and the "quiet affirmations" from his family. Such encouragement of young people's gifts need to become the norm if we are to have a new generation of leaders serving in parish settings, says Harold Usgaard, bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod. "We need pastors," he says. "So we as individuals and congregations need to be talking to our young people and our adults about ministry. All of us share this responsibility."
Pike says the fund promotes "excellence in ministry" and "addresses the basic economic problems of candidates, [partnering] with them to help draw out their baptismal potential."
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