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Students at commencement

Vocation

Central Lutheran Church

Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Size: Approximately 1,800 members

 Download Central Lutheran's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context

Central Lutheran Church is placed in the center of a vital and vibrant city and is called to reach a diverse neighborhood and city in a language that reflects the real world as well as our church’s heritage.

We have a rich heritage of powerful preaching, inspiring music and a marvelous sanctuary. We are also a church that advocates for the marginalized, the poor, the powerless, the weak, the homeless, the lonely and we are called to advocate for justice and against injustice.

Central envisions itself becoming a more thriving, vibrant model for inner city ministry, a church defined as one that ministers effectively to those who reside, who are employed, and who visit downtown Minneapolis as well as its members who reside throughout the seven metropolitan counties of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Pre-existing practices

1. Sending Language in Worship

Worship begins and ends at the front doors of the sanctuary that lead out into the everyday world; people turn and are greeted, people turn and are sent – processional cross and open doors in their same viewing line … in preaching, careful and intentional encouragement, blessing, and worldview of living out their faith in everyday life … the blessing in worship of particular vocations throughout the year in worship, with prayer and applause; i.e. those who work in the helping professions (doctors, nurses, practitioners, counselors, etc.); those in the educational enterprise of our society; those who work in the legal and justice systems; moms and dads, veterans.

2. Preach/Teach Stewardship without Apology

We do so throughout the year in worship as appropriate lessons occur in the lectionary assignment; seek to make this aspect of Christian life “normal,” not relegated to just a 3-5 week period each year; consistently take a multi-level approach to the topic, aiming at the variety of “givers” that exist within the congregation–same meaning, but different methodology and words in attempt to reach people where they are at and bring them along to life as stewards.

3. Shared Ministry Team

The Shared Ministry Team (formerly referred to as efforts related to use of time and talents within congregational life) has taken surveys, interviews of the congregation–their passions, experiences, talents–and seeks to connect people with others around shared interests, some of which may spring new ministries to bless and enrich the lives of our faith community. This team also creates annual congregational celebrations to lift up and appreciate the ministry of all who seek intentional ways to live out their faith in everyday life.

Discoveries from listening process

1. There is a Disconnect

We need to help our people to better interpret what they hear and experience on Sunday with their own life experiences. It matters because there too often can be a disconnect between Sunday worship and Monday’s demands.

2. Better Communication Needed

We need to better communicate in ways that seem more relevant to not only the younger members of our community but also those whose life experiences have been extremely varied as one ages and experiences life-changing events. It matters because we desire to create a community that fosters relation and communal sharing of both the Biblical and personal narratives of our people and thereby strengthen the culture of God in the places we live and work.

Opportunities for growth

1. Biblical Input

Our people hunger for something best described as living daily life shaped by the Biblical narrative. What is the real need? Discerning that for which there is hunger, and what we may provide.

2. Engaging the Biblical Narrative

Members need personal engagement with the biblical narrative--locating their story within God’s story. Our ongoing vision is to do so “in the language of our children.”

How? By making use of accessible language that is relational language, and is an articulation of the biblical narrative, combined with personal narrative done in the context of our present day and culture.

3. Share the Narrative

Create a community that fosters relational and communal sharing of both the biblical and personal narratives of our people, thereby strengthening the culture of God in the places we live and work.

Experiments undertaken

1. Faith: Daily Walk and Talk

We envision creating a Lenten worship series employing videoed faith stories: Interviews of disciples who cross our path at Central (locations: home, street, shelter, school, etc. and varied by ages and demographics) as they share the individual narratives of their faith active in their daily lives. These videos will be used during our mid-week Lenten series, paired with a Biblical narrative, sacred music, or sacred art, discussion, and prayer.

The videos will meet the three criteria (accessible language, language that is relational, and the Biblical/personal narrative); they will introduce models that can be reflected upon by those in attendance and possibly provide insights as to the integration of one’s own faith and daily life experiences; they will provide a safe forum in which to try out, and to practice speaking of their personal faith and lives with others.

By viewing and listening to the narratives we hope each presentation will help to better nurture, strengthen, and bind together our faith community and enable our members to better articulate the personal/biblical narratives that have affected their lives.

We will identify four to six members of our congregation who will agree to serve as a “focus group.” They will be interviewed and asked to respond to a number of questions that pertain to the Lenten series. The questions will be the same both before and after the completion of the series with the hope that the series will achieve what it is intended to yield. Videos will be made available on-line for people’s reflection, also requesting their responses if unable to attend.

We plan to measure its fruitfulness by the number of participants and future surveys.

2. Online Bulletin Board

This “Faith-in-Life Bulletin Board” will employ daily emails, which will be devotional, integrate faith and daily life in accessible language, be relational and connective, and speak of both biblical and personal narratives. There will be a way for those reading them to participate by commenting, adding their own insights, and reflections, etc.

Our goal is to keep faithful reflection in front of folks in daily life. It might also include words, music, art, photographic contributions of our own community of faith.

We will make available an online survey approximately three months after introducing the bulletin board asking questions that probe for the effectiveness of the daily devotional material as it relates to faith and daily life. The survey will also solicit comments from viewers for the bulletin board’s further development.

We will measure the “faith bulletin board” by being aware of the volume of daily devotions contributed and by measuring the numbers of people accessing the website.

3. Enhance Silent Ministries – The Fine Arts

We will invite faculty and art students from our community of faith and various schools, colleges/universities and seminaries together with other artists to come and work/dream with us about using the fine arts to create reflective opportunities that help to more profoundly shape one’s faith and daily life .

The silent arts engage the individual at a different level as a “language of faith” -- an accessible language through which many people find deep and profound insights into their own personal relationship with the Biblical narrative.

Our hope is that such a project will best engage and yield a depth of expression to those who relate and experience deep and profound insights into their own personal being with the Biblical narrative through the fine arts.

We will know this path is leading our congregation in the right direction by the numbers of people who attend opportunities such as Prayer Vigils, etc. that will occur periodically throughout the year.

We will offer an online survey from those who have participated. We will also offer opportunities for participants to respond in writing, knowing not all members/friends have access to the Internet.

Discoveries from experiments (July 2014)

Filed July 2014 by Lloyd Thorsen

At the time of our Vocation Project’s second consultation in July, 2012 it had become increasingly evident that many members within our congregation were aware of a relationship that had developed between our senior pastor and one of our associate pastors, both of whom were married . Within a matter of two months both pastors were discharged from their calls and are no longer on the clergy roster. Needless to say both friends and members of our congregation felt betrayed by two individuals in whom they had invested enormous trust and now had to begin a lengthy and very difficult period of reconsidering their investment in the church at large and their trust relationships with clergy. The healing process still continues and we are now at the point when we will soon begin to interview pastors who have expressed an interest in being considered for call as the senior pastor of Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis.

In light of the above our remaining associate pastor, interim pastors, or members were not of a mind to continue experimentation or efforts to engage in adaptive challenges. First and foremost this was a time for healing and exploring where we were/ are as a congregation and what our future holds for us in downtown Minneapolis.

Toward the end of 2013 we participated in a congregational assessment conducted by a church consulting firm. The results of this assessment were compared to the results of the web-based questionnaire and one-on-one interviews conducted by our VCP study team in the first half of 2012. The two assessments were amazingly similar in their outcomes, giving credence to both.

We have now developed our Ministry Site Profile. Our congregation has identified four priorities in which we want to expend new energy:

  1. Provide more opportunities for Christian education and faith formation at every stage of life.
  2. Develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to reach new people and incorporate them into the life and mission of our church.
  3. Make necessary changes to attract families with children and youth to our church.
  4. Create more opportunities for people to form meaningful relationships.