150th Anniversary, Legacy Opportunity
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is a multigenerational congregation, including some families with as many as four and even five generations who are members.
And those great-great and great-grandchildren are one reason the congregation is using its 150th anniversary as an opportunity to build on the church’s legacy without building up the church’s debt.
“Instead of leaving the next generation shackled by more debt, we wanted to do something that frees them up to serve,” said Sara Junio, St. Paul’s executive director.
Not coincidentally, “Free to serve” is the theme of the biblically based capital stewardship campaign the congregation has launched in partnership with Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s (LCEF) Capital Funding Services. “We want to have not only a celebration but to leave a legacy,” Junio said.
VisionPath: Right Questions are Key
Such an anniversary tradition is nothing new for St. Paul’s. It was during their 125th year that they started Kinder Place, an early childhood ministry that is now a strong feeder for the church’s day school as it serves a community need.
As their 150th anniversary drew near, the congregation turned to LCEF’s VisionPath to clarify how best to use their resources and reach out in another strong ministry direction.
Congregants expressed a variety of ideas, and the VisionPath process–created by LCEF Senior Vice President Max Biesenthal and facilitated by the Rev. Dr. John Sproul, Western Region vice president–sharpened their focus.
Asking the right questions is a key, Sproul says. What is the congregation’s strengths? What makes St. Paul’s passionate about ministry? “When you have clarity about what God desires and what you’re called to do, you can move forward,” Sproul said.
Along with input from congregants, St. Paul’s leaders–including senior pastor Rev. Lance Armstrong O’Donnell–talked with city leaders to learn how the church could strengthen its presence.
Biggest ‘Eye Opener’
The biggest “eye opener,” Junio says, came when congregants did an exercise to evaluate accessibility in their 100-year-old building.
Testing a variety of “life stages,” some made their way through the church on crutches and walkers. Others lugged car seats holding 10-pound flour bag “babies.”
“As we engaged in the experience of moving around our building, we saw what it was like to work your way, for example, through a tight, winding staircase with a toddler and a baby,” Junio said. “We saw a definite need to improve accessibility, including remodeling the bathrooms and to have better elevators.”
Adding a welcome center, making St. Paul’s more “user friendly” and, on down the road, hiring a director of community outreach are among some “Free to serve” goals.
The congregation’s top priority, gleaned through VisionPath, is to enhance worship through the addition of a full-time music director to serve both the church and St. Paul’s day school. But even as members pinpointed ministry objectives, the congregation expressed an overriding shared goal: to limit–and finally eliminate–debt. “Ultimately what we heard from people is that taking on more debt is not fair to the next generation,” Junio said.
Seeing vision through stewardship values
Today, St. Paul’s is in the midst of a nearly year-long celebration. Highlights include prominent Lutheran speakers, including Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, LCMS president, and, for the actual 150th anniversary worship in July, Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mekonnen Mendedo, president of Concordia College Alabama.
Special events range from a gala dinner and “homecoming” services April 19 to “the mother of all pot lucks,” also in July. (See the complete schedule.)
The Lord’s Cupboard–the congregation’s busy food ministry that provides weekly groceries and monthly meals–is only one of many local, regional and international opportunities to serve and share. “We want to look beyond ourselves,” Junio said.
Of their VisionPath experience and capital stewardship campaign, the spiritual components are the most valuable to the congregation, she says.
St. Paul’s includes many professionals with corporate-world expertise in facilitating, but “we needed the credibility of seeing our vision delivered from stewardship values, which John does so well,” Junio said of Sproul, who is guiding the congregation’s capital campaign.
And while their celebration technically ends this year, the congregation expects ministry and stewardship seeds planted in 2015 to blossom for years to come.
St. Paul’s theme for October, Junio says, is “we don’t stop here.”
For more information on VisionPath in the South Wisconsin District, please call Diana Raasch 414-464-8100, ext #25.