Cindy Redman was baptized, confirmed and married at Christ Lutheran Church in Catonsville, Md., and so were her children. So the reality of the 102-year-old church closing its doors is “just too sad to think about,” says Cindy.
Christ Lutheran is an ELCA congregation experiencing declining membership and fewer contributions in the offering plate.
But Cindy is not fazed. “We believe that we can turn these trends around,” she says.
Christ Lutheran is one of 159 congregations receiving grants in 2011 to help revitalize their mission and ministry plans.
“We want to guide congregations in discerning their purpose and developing a new mission plan, so that they can help meet the needs, hopes and dreams of their communities,” says Neil Harrison, who assists ELCA congregations in their renewal process.
According to Neil, more than $2.48 million has been authorized by this church to help congregations with their plans, support ethnic-specific strategies and work among the poor, imprisoned and people living with disabilities.
To help congregations in this process, a new resource —“Re-Rooting in God’s Mission: Transformational Ministry 2.0” — is scheduled for release this fall.
The renewal process is one way that congregations “can turn around and get new life, particularly in a church that has been declining,” says Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane, bishop of the ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod, Baltimore.
He says every renewal plan should have five components: worship and hospitality, outreach and evangelism, also leadership development, and stewardship and resource development, and prayer and Bible study.
“We don’t do anything without prayer and Bible study,” he says.
“When Wolfgang met with us 14 months ago to (consult) with us about the option of redevelopment, we just knew that we had to take the chance,” says Cindy.
“It is our hope and our prayer that we will be able to call a pastor or deacon that has specific training in mission redevelopment,” she says. It is also Cindy’s prayer that the congregation will maintain its nursery school, which is well-known in the community.
“The nursery serves between 60 and 80 children a year with part-time and full-time services,” she says. “It’s a great ministry for us and the community. We don’t want to see that die. Our renewal plan will be about sharing God’s work in the community.”