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Students at commencement


Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit

Location: Emmaus, Pennsylvania  
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Size: 1,200 members; Average Weekly Attendance of 341

Download Church of the Holy Spirit's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context
Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit (LCHS) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In November, 1960, they began worship in a store-front, and were chartered on May 14, 1961 with eighty-five members. In 1964, ground was broken for a new church building, which was dedicated in 1965. Educational space was added in 1972, and by 1975, the congregation numbered 600. In 1980, a new sanctuary was built. Current membership is approximately 1,200. Plans are being developed for another new sanctuary, additional classroom and office space, along with accessibility improvements.
Pre-existing practices

1. Variety of Worship Experiences  

We currently have three weekly worship services: a traditional service at 7:30 AM; Spirit Alive, a contemporary service at 8:45; and a blended service at 10:45. On the second Sunday of every month we welcome Rejoicing Spirits, a welcoming and exciting fellowship/worship experience for persons with special needs, their families and caregivers.

2. A Welcoming Place  

The message of our Senior Pastor, Ric Elliott, as presented on our web site, sums up what we hope visitors experience when they first come to Holy Spirit:

In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, WELCOME!

The Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit is a dynamic, energetic, generous, and loving Christian community dedicated to Christ-centered worship and faith-forming learning. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve our community and the world by our ministry in daily life.

As our mission statement says, “Gathered by God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we invite and welcome all people to join us on our journey to become more faithful ministers of Jesus Christ in our homes, our communities, and the world.”

As you view the pages of this website, I hope you will sense the excitement and joy that our members share as God’s people in this place. We share a high quality worship life which values excellent biblical preaching and God-praising music and liturgy. We strive to provide faith-forming classes and events for all ages through Sunday School, the Center for Faith and Life (adult education), bible study, catechism classes, youth groups, Vacation Bible School, senior group, nursery school, and fellowship events. We invite and welcome all people to join us, a “Reconciling in Christ” congregation.

But perhaps most of all, the congregation has a long history of generously donating time, talent, and financial support to local and global ministries which help the hungry, hurting, homeless, and less fortunate. We actively encourage our members not only to discover their God-given gifts and talents, but to utilize those gifts and talents in serving others in their daily lives. Our congregational slogan is “Empowered by the Holy Spirit for Ministry in Daily Life.”

3. Faith Formation  

Holy Spirit provides faith formation opportunities in a wide variety of ways, including Children's, Youth, and Adult Faith Formation. We have a pre-school, providing a faith-based education to about seventy children. Every Summer, we welcome over 125 children from the community to Bible School. We provide formal weekly Catechism classes for children, beginning with Cat Club in the 5th grade, and Catechism for 6th – 8th graders. For adults, the Center for Faith and Life provides Sunday learning opportunities. During the week, our Adult Faith Formation director leads Bible studies and LifeKeys studies.

4. Ministries

Holy Spirit was founded on the theme of "caring for others." Our benevolence budget reflects our desire to share God's love with the world, beginning in our community. We support a number of local organizations such as 6th Street Shelter (for homeless women and children), Angel Network (at the local high school for students whose families are in financial need), Christmas Ingathering, Meals on Wheels, Allentown Rescue Mission, Project Help (in Starks, Maine) the Gulf Coast, and general disaster relief, all to rebuild and rehab homes.

Discoveries from listening process

1. Disconnect between Congregational Slogan and the Words “Vocation” and “Calling”

We haven’t communicated what we think we have. There seems to be a disconnect between our congregational slogan “Empowered for Ministry in Daily Life” and words used in this study such as “vocation” and “calling.”

2. Apparent Lack of Importance of Scripture to Many Members  

3. Reticence among Members to Share their Faith 

4. Desire for More Fellowship

Because of the size of the congregation and number of services, there is a desire for more opportunity for fellowship to come to know one another better.

5. Vocation after Retirement

An increasing number of “senior” members, (including the founders) who struggle with naming “vocation,” now that they are retired. Seem to equate “vocation” with “work/job.”

Opportunities for growth

1. Connection between “Knowing” and “Understanding”

We need to communicate the connection between “knowing” and “understanding.” That “Ministry in Daily Life” is our vocation/calling!

2. Training for “Ministry in Daily Life”

Provide means of training for Ministry in Daily Life (again), e.g., return to equipping the people for Ministry in Daily Life.

3. Faith Made Exciting

Find a way to make “faith” something exciting to talk about; people share what they love.

4. Inclusion of Young Parents

Can we find a way to bring young parents into the life of Faith Formation instead of dropping their kids off for Sunday School?

5. Retirement as a Calling

Part of our challenge is to help “seniors” who have had vital careers to understand that being a senior is a “new normal,” and that their calling is no less valid, just because they no longer have a “job.” Retirement is no less a calling than to have a career or a job.

Experiments undertaken

Our major challenge is to communicate our message to the congregation. We are using a variety of media and efforts:

  • Weekly sermons focus on member ministry.
  • Our church newspaper, Moving with the Spirit, contains articles on member ministry.
  • New Member classes include a strong focus on Stewardship and Ministry in Daily Life.
  • The Ministry in Daily Life Team presents three sessions each year on Ministry in Daily Life.


Discoveries from experiments (July 2014)

Update filed in July 2014 by Becca Middeke-Conlin:

I personally have only been at LCHS for about 2 months so my knowledge of the project and history of vocational preaching/teaching is very limited. However part of my job description is to work with the Ministry in Daily Life (MIDL) team.

Here is one response from the head of our MIDL team: We have typically tried to disseminate information regarding MIDL through the Center for Faith and Life during adult education, which is poorly attended by anyone under the age of 50. Both Pastor Ric and Pastor Jim have been inclusive in preaching to the topic in sermons regarding MIDL when appropriate. Like several of the other congregations involved in the study, there continues to be a strong disconnect between the term MIDL and such terms as Vocation and Calling. Despite our rich history in this area, our members still cannot articulate their vocation or calling and have a difficult time naming what they do the other six days in their families, community, and/or the work place as ministry.

Update filed in July 2014 by Ric Elliott:

When I think about vibrancy, I often translate that to congregational energy. I am less and less convinced that people are attracted to or engaged by “programs” or “formats;” I am more and more convinced that people are attracted to and engaged by smiles, humor, positivity, hospitality, vitality. I don’t believe this can be packaged or programmed. I think vibrancy or energy is a combination of genuine transparency of leadership enhanced by positive faith, good humor and a life giving spirit.

I still believe that good biblical preaching and teaching (be it about stewardship, vocation or Bible) is first and foremost story … the biblical story and our stories interacting upon one another. Knowing the biblical story well enables us to find points of contact between our stories and the stories of those to whom we preach and teach. Jesus was a story teller; using metaphor to teach the kingdom … when we do it well, we are likely doing the same thing.

I find there to be some inherent complexity to questions about ministry in daily life. I am somewhat convinced that we at Holy Spirit strengthen ministry in daily life by highly qualified professional ministry leaders. Almost an oxymoron, but the strength of our lay ministry is a result of strong professional leadership. When we have weak professional leaders; the ministry of the laity lags. On a theoretical level this should not be so; strong lay leaders should beget strong lay leaders, but that does not always seem to follow.

In a similar vein, it takes a healthy organized structure to organize and send people forth in mission (lay ministry), but one can only have a strong core organization when attention is paid to organizational maintenance as well as missional focus. To be missionally focus without attending to the structure that supports mission is ultimately self-defeating.

So what I am musing about is the question: How does a congregation balance professional staff leadership and organizational structure with an outward missional focus and a lay ministry emphasis? It may be more of a larger corporate-sized congregational question, but that makes it no less valid. Does it always take professional leadership to empower and equip ministry of the laity? Is sustained ministry of the laity possible without a structure to support it? It is a question that haunts me as I watch our larger Lutheran church drift toward a more missional focus and abandon supporting structures. Where in the future will we find the structures to lead and support mission? Will we find ourselves re-inventing structures to support lay ministry?

I think vocation is a huge part of everyone’s life, they just often don’t realize that it is a calling. Why you choose your college, career, place to live, spouse, or interest areas all stem back to vocation--being who God calls you to be and being able to share the gifts God gave you and God’s love to the world. As to how we make that a part of people’s consciousness is more difficult but the number one way is to talk about it. At my former congregation I would end announcements by asking “Where have you seen God this week?” and after a few weeks of hearing crickets and a few months of the same two people always responding, it eventually became part of the DNA of the congregation as people were excited to tell stories about how God was active in their lives. So maybe that question along with “How did you show God to others this week?” are ways to get people to realize that God is active in their lives and they can use the gifts from God to show God’s love to the world.