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Students at commencement


Light of the World Lutheran Church

Location: Farmington, Minnesota
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Size: Average worship attendance: 120

Download Light of the World's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context
Light of the World (LOTW) is a new congregation in suburban St. Paul, MN. We have drawn in the young and the poor and those who haven't been part of church before. That means that our church has a few people who are familiar with giving money away, but not many. Yet, we are seeking to become a community that is generous, fearless and joyful with the money that God sends our way.
Pre-existing practices

1. The Big Give

After our fiscal year ends, the whole community participates in giving away 10 percent of all that God has sent our way. We give 5 percent to support the work of the ELCA, and the other half is given to local organizations that we've been in relationship with. Then, over two Sundays, all of our people, young and old, "vote" with LOTW "bucks," to determine in what proportion the money is given to these organizations.

2. House Meetings

We held house meetings to have conversations about creating a healthy money culture, get clear about our mission and be transparent about how the money is spent. Eighty-one percent of our people attended the house meetings. This community is learning to talk openly about money and how it's spent on mission. We were able to discover what's really important to our people, and become clear on our core values.
Discoveries from listening process

1. Money as Source of Fear and Anxiety

The biggest discovery we made was that money is a source of fear and anxiety for a large number of our constituents, who are young and many of whom struggle to make it each month. This matters because that runs counter to the life that God wants for us. God invites us into a life of joy and freedom and trust. We are seeking to create a counter-narrative in our community to the story that the world would tell about money. The church can be helpful to our folks about something that is a challenge in their lives.

2. Where the Offerings Come out of

Another discovery we made was that when many of our people give, their offering comes out of their "leftovers," rather than first fruits. This matters because that runs counter to the way God would have us live. God invites us into a life of trust and has created a world of abundance.

3. Care about the Mission of the Church

Another discovery we made was that people really care about our mission and wish they could give more. This matters because guilt seems to color a lot of conversations about money and giving. We would like to learn how to be a community centered in joy and gratitude.

Opportunities for growth

To Overcome the Fear about Money

We want to be able to live without fear about money. This is an adaptive challenge. Therefore, in September 2011, we're hosting "Fearless Feasts." People will host dinners at their home for 8 people. During dinner, we'll tell our money stories to one other person and by telling those stories, discover where we get our ideas about money and the implications of those ideas. The groups will talk about how faith and money connect (or don't) and then make a declaration about a value they discovered or a new way they want to live. We will collect the declarations and celebrate them in worship and then make a congregation-wide declaration.

We're pursuing this approach because in telling our stories, we can become more mindful of our values and attitudes and behaviors. In becoming more mindful, we can begin to see the implications of our ideas and make any changes so that the way we think about and use our money matches up with our values.

We'll know if this is leading us in the right direction if there is less fear and guilt in our talking about and use of money. We'll measure its fruitfulness in increased joy and generosity.


Discoveries from experiments (July 2014)

Update filed in July 2014 by Jenny Mason

With just 8 months under my belt at Light of the World (LOTW), I’ll do my best to report.

We continue to be a congregation that talks openly about money. Our TGIF (Trusting God in Finances) group that met regularly as something of a support group for families who were struggling financially through the recession, was recently restarted as we have several families dealing with the long-term effects of the recession. This group meets monthly, and we have begun conversations with a larger neighboring Lutheran church to help them start a similar group (possibly meeting at their site, sharing a meal together, and then going into separate meetings.)

We are also getting ready to have 9 of our members go through an 8-hour training session to serve as Financial Coaches. We’re very excited about this.

And, it was fairly easy for me, with all the good work done in the area of Vibrant Stewardship before at LOTW, to come in as a new pastor, get a really great team together, and begin leading the congregation again as we consider what stewardship means and how we practice it. We did a series of weekly testimonies in worship throughout Lent, and right after Easter, held our very first Promise Sunday. This was a time to recommit ourselves to a financial promise to give, and from those families who participated, we received a 20% bump in giving.

Our Vibrant Stewardship team is now planning for a year-round emphasis in giving, and we’re practicing a model of “Thank, Tell, Ask, Thank, etc.”