Stewardship Resource

Nativity Lutheran Church, St. Anthony Village, MN Report of Ministry During 1998

Happening  Happening
  • Author: Program Staff at Nativity Lutheran Church. Glenn Seefeldt is the current Senior Pastor.
  • Updated: 07/19/2008
  • Copyright: Nativity Lutheran Church
    3312 Silver Lake Road
    St. Anthony Village, MN 55418

This is a unique annual report from the program staff of a congregation.

Instead of individual reports of activities, this is a compilation of a small sample of stories and activities of how Nativity makes a difference in the lives of people.

There is no attempt to be comprehensive.  

Nativity Lutheran Church, St. Anthony Village, MN Report of Ministry During 1998

Our Mission:  Nativity is a hospitable congregation, sent by Jesus Christ to make a difference bringing God's love, hope, joy and peace to the world."

1998 Focus:
We have built on the work of the past and lay a foundation for the implementation of the Nativity vision:
- Being a center for spiritual growth
- In mission to youth and our communities
- Hospitable Space

A Joint Program Staff Report

Pastor Gerald Hoffman, Pastor Glenn Seefeldt, Adult Bible Instructor Marilyn Eberlein, Director of Shared Ministry Jan Frederickson, Director of Music Ministry David Livingston, Director of Family and Youth Darcy Skarsten, Director of Children and Youth Handbells and Choirs and Director of Ministry With or Youngest Children Karla Singer, and Director of Family and Children Michelene Verlautz

The report is comprised small sample of stories and testimonies of how Nativity makes a difference.

Nativity Is a Center for Celebrating God, Transforming Lives and Renewing Faith.

The Crossroad Team completed their assignment to provide direction for the future of

Alice (a true story, but not real name) was a member of the Crossroads Team. For twenty-six months, she joined fifty members of Nativity assigned the responsibility to lead the congregation in forming a vision and a plan for the future. She, like many others, gave over twenty full days to the effort. On six occasions, she gathered with the team on a Friday evening for two to three hours. On Saturday, she returned for five to seven hours. What happened during this journey? During the gatherings, she joined others in celebrating God. As Alice dialogued with others on passages of faith and sang songs of faith, her faith was renewed. Indeed, she testifies, "through Crossroads, my life was transformed."

One of the insights of Crossroads was the reminder that when church leaders gather together, the very essential component of their life must be worship. Scripture, song, music, art, prayer, faith talk and spiritual reflection in the midst of work changes lives and strengthens the community in its ability to discern the guidance of the spirit of God.
Tenth graders and their parents met with Nativity staff in preparation for their Affirmation of Baptism.

"I am thankful for all the things that Nativity has done to help me understand my journey of faith. Confirmation, the retreats, and the Colorado trip really helped. I believe and I am ready to take greater responsibility in my journey of faith. I want to go to church, not because my parents want me to but because I want to."
- Tenth Grader's Faith Statement

New Ministry: Women's Retreat
32 participants, 5 on planning team

"It was fun being with so many women that I had never met before. I go to the 10:30 Sunday morning service and haven't seen all those people. We are all in different ages and stages of life but we have a common bond of being a woman, mom, friend, etc. On Friday evening, I ended up with a group of people and we began talking and didn't stop for a couple of hours. We shared common stories and laughed and laughed. Some went soaking in the hot tub, swimming in the pool or walking on the trails. As I listened to the speaker talk I began to realize I can choose to take life too seriously or appreciate the humor in life. God is with me and cries with me but also laughs with me. Women from Nativity shared meaningful devotions from their lives. It was a nice mix of spiritual and personal experiences."
Composite of comments by participants

"I had this idea to plan a women's retreat and provide people who could lead women on a spiritual experience. I was amazed at the quick response to the retreat, was affirmed that there was a need and felt God was leading me to use my gifts of organizing. Since I hadn't done this type of event before, I depended on God to guide the decisions for a smooth retreat."
- Joan Petersen, Woman's Retreat Team Leader

Ninety youth participate in Nativity's Confirmation program: 14 small groups, 18 volunteer adult leaders

A mother of two Middle School youth stopped me one Wednesday evening and shared with me an earlier conversation she had with her sons. They each had large projects due the next day. In the past they would have opted to miss confirmation to complete these assignments. When mom came home, she expected to hear all the reasons why they could not attend confirmation. To her amazement, they told her how they had to go to confirmation because they were completing a unit on cults. The material that would be discussed would apply in Social Studies class at school. Mom was excited that her sons were able to apply the information they were learning at church to other aspects of their lives.

Youth and chaperones backpacking in the southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado experience God

In the summer of 1998, 22 youth and 3 adults traveled by van to backpack in the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado. According to Andrew Leivian, the experience was "really fun and challenging. It (the experience) builds up your faith." During worship on September 20"', youth who went to Colorado had an opportunity to share their trip, how they were awakened to the awesomeness of God and His creation, how they discovered and strengthened friendships, how they especially felt God's presence leading them up the mountain during a hail, thunder, and lightning storm, and how they experienced God through community and the encouragement and support of one another.

Hallelujah! We Sing Your Praises
Second to fifth grade Sunday School music time has changed in order to be more intentional about community building and teaching worship practices.

Each week second to fifth graders gather together as they "Sing It Out Loud."   Everyone knows it and can join in with confidence. In addition to singing, they help share the responsibility and the fun of leadership by taking turns choosing and reading scripture, writing and sharing prayers, and playing various musical instruments. It is a time to praise God, bring offerings, receive God's blessing, and be sent out with a joyful song.

"You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest." Jeremiah 29:13.  Many more things happen in Bible Study classes than just adding knowledge of the scriptures. The Wednesday and Thursday morning Bible Study classes have expressed the following 'learnings':

Finding Yourself in the Psalms
"I couldn't believe there were 150 Psalms. I had to look it up for myself - and you were right! And many of them are very meaningful; but my favorite is still the 23`l Psalm."

All About Angels
"I always knew the Advent and Easter stories about angels but when you see how God uses angels in the Old Testament, you begin to see that the Jewish people were familiar with angels long before the appearance of Gabriel to Zechariah and Mary." "No wonder the angel always said `Fear not' or `Be not afraid' - they believed that they would surely die if the Lord God in the form of an angel came to close to them."

The Book of Acts
"I didn't realize how difficult it was for the early church to decide things like: who should be included, what would they have to do to 'belong' etc. And when they began to participate, they could expect to be persecuted!" "Names have always been confusing to me in the Bible - like the same person being called by different names."

Now I begin to understand that it could be the same name but in a different language." "Those early believers and their leaders, Peter and Paul, were so brave. Today we take it all so for granted. Maybe it's too easy."

"I always knew that I came from a dysfunctional family. But after visiting them again as aging parents, I want you to know how special it is to come back to this caring community. I have such a warm and encouraging welcome every time I come back and I thank God for you." "Every time I come to class, I feel like I have received a big hug. My life has not been easy and I seem to need this weekly hug. I really miss you all when I am not able to attend."

Many find a place for spiritual growth in the adult music program with four choral groups - the choir, voices of men, voices of women and the festival/gospel singers; and four instrumental groups - Jazz, Brass, World Folk and Chamber Music.

This is a summary of some of the comments received from church musicians and members of the congregation. "It's good to be singing, (playing) again!" Music promotes participation in the life of the church - in rehearsals and services. We have a place to develop our gifts and abilities, as we learn new instruments or get re-acquainted with old instruments or singing voices. "I appreciate the variety!" Our global approach to music choices enlarges musical and cultural understanding. As we enhance our local worship, we are more aware of the universal church.

Nativity Will Be a Missionary Congregation. As a Result of Our Missionary Activity, Youth and Young Adults Will Actively Participate with People of All Ages in Putting Faith into Action.

Nativity made Christmas brighter for over 120 families in 1998.

Members of the Aspen family had smiles on their faces this Christmas. They joined over 120 others from Nativity participating in the Lutheran Social Service Sponsor-a-Family project. On their Christmas list was Patty (a single mom) with three children, Jimmy (10), Suzy (9) and Bobby (4). Their list was very simple. They wanted a television set for the family and blankets for their beds. Even more basic, they asked for underwear and socks.

When, Johnny, a 7 year old member of the Aspen family heard that what Jimmy (10) wanted, he was shocked. "You mean he wants socks and underwear for Christmas?"

"Yes," his mom said. "Evidently, his family is so poor he doesn't have any. God has given us the privilege to give something that is very important. In fact, Jesus said, `Whatever you do to another, you do to me."

The Aspen family together experienced the joy of giving by putting their faith into action.

Nativity began a Saturday Worship Service November 7, 1998. An average of one hundred people worship at this service.

"Our family has not been able to worship on Sunday mornings for years. Worship Cabaret at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays has been an answer to prayer. Five o'clock is a great time to stop what you are doing and head for worship. The service is a good mix for all ages, from the dramas to the music and the message. My whole family likes it."
A Saturday Worship Participant

Parents' Night Out is offered four times a year with an average attendance of 50 children per event.

"We are so grateful to Nativity because my husband and I do not know anyone well enough to watch our children." Parents' Night Out is an outreach program offered to families and friends of Nativity. Four times a year youth and adults provide quality child care at Nativity to give parents a free evening. A variety of activities are offered including: arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor games, books and videos. The evening includes a nutritious meal, as well as lots of love and care. This event results in parents having some relaxing and quality time together while their children are in a safe and loving atmosphere.

Oromo Congregation, People from Ethiopia

From the president of the Oromo Congregation, "Thank you for all you have provided us this year: five loads of furniture, household goods and toys/clothing for a three year old brought to a family that has just moved to the U.S.; consultants from the Nativity community assisting the president of the congregation; job opportunities, housing and bikes made available."

Conversation is continuing as to how we can be in a partner relationship: some people from Nativity attended the installation of their pastor, in September, a special service highlighted by their pastor sharing their faith stories, and on-going discussions of how we can have people-to-people interactions through prayer and gatherings.
Youth do mission work in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia
This past summer, a small group of youth and young adults traveled to the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia to do mission work through Youth Works!, a youth ministry organization that provides and facilitates mission sites in the U.S. and Mexico. They went into homes without electricity and visited families with 10 to 12 people living in small trailers. They painted cultivated crops, built horse stalls, tended animals, visited a nursing home, helped run an after school program, etc. They met a variety of people who shared their faith stories and opened them up to new ideas and ways of living. Amanda Truchinski shares that "The most important thing they learned was how to put complete trust in God." The group discovered that through giving of themselves, they could experience and share God's love. Through reaching out to others, they grew in faith and were blessed.

>i>Reaching Out by Inviting In

The new offering of a Kindermusikی program at Nativity is meant to enhance the lives of children, form parent friendships, and reach out to both the families of Nativity and the community.

What brings people who already have a church "home" or people who do not attend any church into an unfamiliar church building -  People and Programs.  Nativity's decision to offer Kindermusikی classes makes use of both of these resources. In addition to being a program that is good for children and families, it provides an opportunity for people to safely extend an invitation to others. In just the three months since the program started, invitations have been accepted to, "come and see", by friends of Nativity members, relatives of prospective members, and people from surrounding communities who had not previously heard of Nativity.

The following contributions have been made to the Nativity Art Collection: Holy Family by De Grazia, gift of Greg and Paula Peterson and Linda and Gary Beck in honor of their parents; The Nativity Icon from Stravronikita Monastery, Greece, gift of Marilyn Eberlein in memory of Harry Yurista; Nativity PEACE Woodwork, made in Frank Plasek; Peruvian Nativity Set With Musicians, gift of Marilyn Eberlein; and The Holy Family sculpted by Paul Granlund, gift of Goldie Johnson in memory of George Johnson.

Many times strangers will stop to look at the cases of Nativity sets when they are new to the narthex and worship space. Often when I go to speak to the parent, they are very apologetic about the fingerprints their children may have left on the glass as they try to get closer to see Baby Jesus. It gives me the opportunity to explain that the Nativity sets from many cultures help us tell our story here at Nativity of the birth of Jesus - the Good News to the whole world!

Nativity Will Provide a Hospitable and Usable Space That Encourages and Supports Ministry Within and in the Community Year Round.

Air-conditioning the whole building has made a significant difference in many events during the summer.

The temperature outside was hot, sticky and humid, but inside the Nativity Fellowship Hall it was very comfortable. A Nativity couple was celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. People were seated around round tables in comfortable, pleasantly colored, chairs. A video depicted the wedding as it occurred fifty years ago.

The hospitable setting provided the atmosphere for people to gather at Nativity and celebrate life, family and marriage.
Nativity has installed air conditioning and an energy management system.
"Seven years ago I attended a funeral at your church and the heat and humidity were almost unbearable. Funerals are difficult enough without your clothes sticking to you because of sweat. Attending the funeral today was difficult, but the air conditioning really helps. I want to say thanks to all those who made it happen."
Funeral Guest
During the school year, the Nativity nursery provides childcare for one or more events every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In September - November 1998 alone, 375 children have used the facility, cared for by 150 adults and youth.
From the perspective of a small child:
I am only two feet tall. There is a room at Nativity just for me. It is bright, inviting and stimulating. Big people get down on the floor to talk to me on my level and offer wonderful adventures: I can drive a fire truck, slide on a train, hide behind a castle wall, read a book of my choosing, and play in a house just my size. It is the best kind of hospitality; I am welcomed, treated respectfully, and caring people are concerned about my comfort and safety.
Youth and parents discover God together

During the 6`h and 7`h grade Confirmation Retreat at Luther Park, parents were encouraged to visit for part of a day and interact with one another and their children. Youth and parents laughed, played games, and talked with one another about significant times in their lives, including their Baptisms. The day was an opportunity for parents to share their faith with their child, for youth and parents to share special memories, and through this sharing discover God acting in their lives.

Welcome to the New Members
31 households: 46 adults & 20 children
"I was new at Nativity. Pastor Hoffman called and invited me to have a conversation with him at the church. I indicated interest in joining the church and an inviting letter was sent to me with new member class information. The variety of class times helped me fit it in to my schedule and the enclosed post card was a convenient way to respond. When I went to the class the signs to the Fellowship Hall were clear. Pastor Hoffman greeted me at the door, and the packet with my name on it let me know I was expected. The day I was received as a new member it was wonderful to be connected with another family. I was also given a flower so others could identify me as a new member. The potluck meal following the worship service was great because it was a chance to meet so many people. I felt welcomed but not pressured by the whole experience. I knew there were many opportunities to be involved and I could go at a pace that was comfortable for me. "
- A New Member, Fall 1998

Nativity's Sunday School enrollment is currently at 203 children between three years of age through 5th grade.

On any Sunday, a family with children may walk into the narthex asking how they can register their children for Sunday School. Often these families are filled with many questions and are seeking guidance. The gift of hospitality is shared when a prospective family is greeted by a Sunday School staff person. This person will Guide them to their child's class, introduce them to the group leader and answer any questions they may have at the time. At the end of the hour the group leader can share the child's Sunday School experience with the family. We want families to leave feeling that Nativity cares about them as a family and supports them on their journey.

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