The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Things we've learned

'It's not about survival of your congregation. ... You have to let go.'

Here's what members of Renton [Wash.] Lutheran learned as the church closed its doors to make way for Luther's Table, a new coffeehouse/pub ministry which opens this fall (see "'A crazy idea' with walls").

1. It's not about us, what we like, etc. It's about God and the people who God wants to reach.

2. Work with the people who want to move forward and don't worry too much about the rest — and do so without malice or blame toward them. Some people just aren't there.

Gretchen Weller Mertes, a pastor of
Gretchen Weller Mertes, a pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Renton, Wash., is one of many who are helping Luther's Table, which opens this fall, live out its motto: "Good Food and Generous People."

3. Location and context are critical. Ask: What is happening? Who lives here? What do they long, dream, hope for? What is already being done well? (You don't want to duplicate what is already there.) What needs do the city, agency people see? Who needs help with a program or project and does it fit with your mission?

4. Everything that happens under your roof is part of your mission. Adopt it and make as much connection as you can without trying to take over.

5. Partner with other congregations, agencies, etc.

6. Timing: much depends upon timing; things eventually jell but it takes awhile and your initial plan may be modified more than once. Everything takes longer than you think.

7. Ask for help­ — like the importunate woman. Talk to everyone and keep track of all the contacts you make: names, phone numbers, e-mails, etc.

8. It's not about survival of your congregation and preserving what you have loved. You have to let go.

9. After you let go, there's a wild and wonderful freedom to explore, experiment, risk.

10. The critical question: What is God calling us to do and be in this time and this place?


Gerry Miller

Gerry Miller

Posted at 7:09 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/8/2010

A creative, spirit led project and I hope to hear more.

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February issue


Embracing diversity