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Students at commencement


Lord of Life Lutheran Church

Location: Depew, New York
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Size: 176 average weekly attendance

Download Lord of Life's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context
Lord of Life is a congregation of 350 people, drawing mostly from the southern suburbs around Buffalo, N.Y. Our character is based on values such as hospitality, caring, and mission to the world. Lord of Life members see the congregation as a family, as reflected in everyone holding hands as they are gathered around the Table during Holy Communion.
Pre-existing practices

1. Equipping the Saints

Lord of Life’s model for mission is Ephesians 4: 11-12, that affirms each person’s gifts in building up the body of Christ. We believe each member of the congregation is a minister who serves God through their gifts, both individually and in ministry teams. The teams--Worship, Pastoral Care, Child and Family, Youth Discipling, and Global Outreach--are the center for mission in the world, based on the “priesthood of all believers.” The pastors and the director of lay ministry are mentors and resources to the teams, for “equipping the saints.” Their role is not to direct ministry, but support it through their gifts from God. Representatives from the teams also meet to both coordinate and support the ministries of each team.

2. Worship

Worship at Lord of Life is both liturgical and informal; spontaneous; energized; contemporary in terms of music and language; and includes image-laden preaching. Storytelling is a consistent part of congregational life, with the use of video and occasional testimonies offered either before or during worship. Since the laity are the center of the church, fully one third of the congregation on any given Sunday is involved in worship planning or activity.

3. Mission

Mission to the world is a priority for Lord of Life. Our Global Outreach Team and others are regularly involved in caring for those in need. Besides almost one third of the congregation going to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the church has an ongoing relationship with Resurrection Lutheran Church, an inner-city parish. From fixing homes, repairing and painting parts of the church building, and assisting in the development of community gardens, our folks have been and continue to be active in service.

4. Engaging in New Ways

With the calling of our new associate pastor for youth and family ministries, a host of new ideas are assisting us in meeting the needs of youth and young families. New approaches to ministry, such as email devotions and social media, may help the church respond to people who identify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious.”

Discoveries from listening process

Emphasize Stories of Vocation

The interviews were interesting in affirming much of what we knew, but also some things that were surprising. It was not a surprise members found meaning and purpose in their relationships, especially in the church. There is a strong emphasis in our preaching that we find God in relationships as well as activities of daily life. Stories are often utilized to help members look at their assumptions and consider new thoughts, insights and perceptions. It is also not a surprise members do not relate vocation very well to biblical narrative. Many of our members do not have church backgrounds, are former Roman Catholics, or see the Bible as important as the basis for their faith, but spend little time with scripture during the week. While Bible study is offered, only a few members take part.

What did provide a surprise was the memberships’ lack of stories about their experiences. Perhaps we need a stronger emphasis on mission/vocation language with more personal stories before and during worship.

Service is valued in church life, and while some see the connection between vocation and the Christian life, it is probably true many of our folks see service as something “special” rather than a natural part of a Christian’s vocational life. Again, personal stories and opportunities to actually connect service, vocation, and relationships with God’s call need to be emphasized.

Opportunities for growth

1. Language for Vocation

Consistently utilize language and stories that connect all of life with vocation, conveying the reality that as Christians all of life is an opportunity for serving others and helping others become disciples.

2. Keep God’s Call Central

Consistently reflect God’s call for us to live service, bring disciples to the church, and experience God’s presence in our relationships.

3. Empower Laypeople to Lead

Live the model of lay leadership so members feel empowered to live a Christian life as vocation.

Experiments undertaken

1. Grow as a Storied Community

Focus on growing as a storied community that shares stories of Christian life and service as vocation.

2. Preach Vocation

Utilize sermons as important opportunities to express vocation as part of our DNA.

3. Strengthen Discipleship

Expand Lord of Life’s strong missional identity with vocation, so that members grow to understand they are not just “good guys’” but are called as disciples to serve others as a way of life, “doing God’s love in the world.”

4. Reach Out in New Ways

Continue focusing on ways to bring postmodern people to church through understanding vocation as a personal relationship with our Lord and service to others. More spontaneous and creative thinking is needed here, such as doing spontaneous worship in settings other than churches.