If Our Congregation Were Gone Tomorrow, Who Would Miss It

Source: Living Lutheran

For many congregations asking the question, “If our congregation were gone tomorrow, who would miss it,” is a powerful tool for measuring congregational impact.

When the members of Good Shepherd Lutheran in Wilmington, Delaware asked themselves this question, it sparked a serious conversation among the congregants. Susan Loney, Senior Pastor, said “We could not think of one person who was not a part of us who would notice. That question really set our feet on fire.”

The question was raised as part of Good Shepherd’s first steps in its work with their denominational body coaching and consulting organization known as LEAD, Living Everyday As Disciples.

Over the years, LEAD has developed to foster lasting, positive change through a three-year process known as the LEAD Journey. Developed in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod a decade ago, LEAD is built on a foundation of strategic planning. Through their Camp Hope retreat process congregations are invited to reconsider how communal concerns can address congregational revitalization with a focus on youth engagement.

“If they’re willing to do the work, we can work with them,” said Jessica Noonan, LEAD’s associate director. “If they’re willing to pray, to read, to listen, to wonder what God is up to, we can work with them—if they’re willing to know their neighbor.”

The process for congregations begins with planning to engage youth. LEAD uses a program called Camp Hope to facilitate a summer camp that provides ministry formation activities. Camp Hope runs from one to three weeks and focuses on faith formation for elementary school children with leadership development for a team of high school-aged staff who serve as counselors.

“It’s not like vacation Bible school,” Peggy Hahn executive director of LEAD said. “It’s a foundation of lifelong learning for those high school students, and it’s the biggest outreach in the ELCA to youth and children in neighborhoods that are unchurched. Most of the young people who participate in Camp Hope are not church members—60% to 70% are not.”

Congregations can either host an individual camp or partner with other congregations/organizations interested in launching their own Camp Hope with assistance from LEAD.

“It can be congregational, or sometimes three or four congregations come together to build a ministry team,” said Hahn, who has helped the camp reach multiple states and also the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guyana. “Ideally you’ll have your first team meeting in August to have camp the following summer.”

Good Shepherd hopes to have its camp in place by summer of 2023 and hopes that their year-long process with LEAD will give the congregation an opportunity to explore how they can better serve their community and witness for Christ.

Source: Living Lutheran