Heritage Herald – September 2023 Edition
ELS Congregations in Crisis
In response to the trend of declining membership within the ELS, the ELS Board of Trustees (BoT) asked ELS President Obenberger to convene a Commission of Congregations at Critical Mass (CCCM) to study the matter.
The CCCM is asked to review the situation which many of the ELS congregations are facing as their membership declines to a point where the congregation is not being able to support regular pastoral service. The Commission is tasked with exploring valid options identifying how congregations might address their various issues with the help of synodical assistance, which may include limited monetary support. It will also advise the BoT how the synod might provide realistic and meaningful assistance to such congregations.
Some highlights from the report:
The Congregational Survey reveals that a significant number of the congregations suffered a decline in membership to the point where they are either struggling to meet expenses or are no longer meeting expenses.
Age demographics show that 40% of our members are older than 60 years of age. The younger generations are falling away.
A significant number of congregations have a church council that does not meet regularly and most congregations indicate that they don’t have Evangelism Boards, and don’t have a defined outreach and evangelism plan. These struggles for churches to maintain operation have not been well recognized or communicated.
The CCCM identified potential “At-Risk” congregations in all circuits except circuit 9.
While there are no current plans to deal with membership decline in the circuits, the Circuit Visitors are also looking for guidance on how best to proceed.
The CCCM created a survey to gain insight into key questions about the health of the congregation. This survey was distributed to all congregations in the Synod. The response from the congregational survey indicated the following. Of the 53 “Critical Mass” congregations with an average attendance < 30 souls;
o 12 responding congregations indicated that they were at risk
o 10 “Critical Mass” congregations indicated that they were not at risk
o 31 “Critical Mass” congregations did not respond to the survey
o Four congregations not on the list of 53 also indicated they were at risk of closure
During the initial work of the CCCM, there were 7 congregations that closed.
St. Paul, Escondido, CA closed in January 2021
Christ Lutheran, Princeton, MN (Independent but served by the ELS) closed in July 2021
St. Matthew, Myrtle Creek, OR closed in Sept 2021
Our Redeemer, Yelm WA closed in 2022
Immanuel, Riceville IA closed in March 2022
Our Savior, Amherst Junction, WI closed in 2022
Grace, Piedmont, MO closed in 2022
Identification of ELS Congregations at Critical Mass
The criteria used to identify congregations at critical mass is that they have an average attendance below 30 souls, but is more specifically when a congregation is no longer able to financially meet their expenses. It should be noted that these congregations have been identified as being at “critical mass”
purely through statistical analysis. Congregational counseling is recommended to confirm whether this initial assessment is valid.
Current List of Congregations Considered to be at Critical Mass
Church City State Congregation Name
Fort Mohave AZ Family of God
Irvine CA Faith
Windsor CA Christ
Bishop CA Our Savior
Lakeland – Our Savior FL Our Savior
Lakeland – Peace FL Peace
Scarville (Center Luth) IA Center
Forest City IA Forest
Waukon IA King of Grace
Lake Mills-Lime Creek IA Lime Creek
Lake Mills IA Lake Mills
Ames IA Bethany
Northwood- First Shell Rock IA First Shell Rock
Northwood- Somber IA Somber
Indianola IA Good Shepherd
Calmar IA Trinity
Charles City IA Cross
Thompson IA Zion
Thornton IA Richland
Lincoln IL Grace
Portage IN Hope
Brewster MA Trinity
Holland MI Lord of Life
Suttons Bay MI First
Crookston MN Grace
Trail Mt Olive MN Nazareth
Manchester MN Manchester
Ulen MN Calvary
Grygla MN St. Petri
Cape Girardeau MO Scriptural
Bowling Green OH Abiding Word
Weston OH Grace
Hillsboro OR Reformation
Redmond OR Grace
Klamath Falls OR Christ
St. Helens OR Ascension
North Bend OR Resurrection
Medford OR Faith
Grants Pass OR Our Savior
The Dalles OR Bethany
Sutherlin OR Christ
Hood River OR Concordia
Irwin PA Zion
Lakewood WA Lakewood
Please remember these congregations in your prayers. It is an alarming situation considering our synod totals 120 congregations. More than one-third of our congregations are currently in crisis and in danger of closing. Still the Lord of the Church watches over us all. Though congregations close and church membership numbers ebb and flow, the Lord has promised that His Church shall stand and endure and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
A link to the full report is below.
As the school year begins, maybe you have caught yourself thinking about our situation at Heritage and the still uncertain future of our school. I want to let you know that our Education Ad-hoc Committee has been working diligently on a recommendation, and that they are nearing the conclusion of their work. The research that has been completed, the analyses that have been performed, the meetings that have been attended, and the prayers that have been uttered are evidence of the dedication this committee has to ensuring the long-term success of Heritage School. Please continue to keep the committee in your prayers as they prepare a report for you all to review within the next few weeks.
To prepare you for this report, and the decision that our voters will need to make, here are some tentative important dates:
September 24 – A congregational forum in which the report will be disseminated and a presentation given between services. The ad-hoc committee’s recommendation will also be presented but not yet voted on.
September 24 until October 8 – A two week open comment period. During this time, all members are encouraged to submit questions, request specific additional data or seek clarification from the committee regarding its report and recommendation. These comments and questions as well as the committee’s responses will be made available to all as they come in.
October 8 through October 15 – After the open comment period closes, the ad-hoc committee will use this week to sufficiently respond to any outstanding concerns.
October 15 – A congregational voter’s meeting between services during which we will vote to approve, modify or reject the ad-hoc committee’s recommendation. It is my hope that all concerns will have been addressed during the open comment period to keep this meeting orderly and time efficient.
I ask you all for your attendance at both the forum and the voters meeting, and I continue to request that you be ardent in your prayers for the school, the ad-hoc committee, the church council and the congregation during these next few weeks.
State of the Congregation– No update this month, Pastor on vacation
Council Actions– The minutes were approved on a Bruce/Josh motion.
Jacob Smith was approved as a new member by confirmation. Bruce/Josh
In reach – Recruitment of Sunday School teachers is ongoing with opening service on Sunday September 10th.
Spiritual Oversight – Pastor Anderson arrived out west safely, and the Klamath Falls congregation was thankful for streaming services of Heritage Lutheran on a weekly basis during their vacancy.
School Board – Next week the school board will meet. The school is full for the fall. There was discussion surrounding the use of aides for adding additional students.
Outreach – Lyle applied for the food truck permit (event scheduled for August 16) and the city process for documentation of permit approval has been completed.
Properties – Volunteers have been busy painting. We will be looking for volunteers to help with cleaning the sanctuary, Narthex & gym after school starts. We are looking for a volunteer or two to help spot clean the carpet. We have use of a carpet cleaner and we also have a small hand held shampooer available if you are willing to help out. Please contact the office if you would be willing to help.
Treasurer- No report
Chairman-The Newsletter has been revised out of pdf format.
Education Committee- They plan to survey school families and follow up suggestions regarding the survey of all Heritage families with prospective students estimated. There has been a 2nd interview with Sarah Smith and there is an upcoming interview and Q&A with DP Klatt.
TLC/Office– A potluck is being planned for the opening Sunday of Fall Schedule. Information on the anniversary will be given at that time.
Magda, Martin, Zack, and Cooper attended the LYA Convention in Mankato
Report of the ELS Convention 2023
Each month of June our Evangelical Lutheran Synod conducts its annual convention. The convention conducts the business of the synod and sets the agenda for the coming year. Standing synod boards and committees, in addition to elected synod officers, deliver their annual reports so that the members of synod know what has been happening around the synod. Three delegates representing Heritage congregation attended: Bruce Voigt, who serves as congregation chairman of the Spiritual Oversight Board; Phil Holz, the congregation’s treasurer; and myself. Lyle Fahning served as our alternate delegate. Below please read delegate Bruce Voigt’s report on the convention. His report captures the notable convention happenings as well as a sense of the atmosphere and activities of the busy four days of the annual convention. Thank you, Bruce, for your excellent summary report,
What happens at the Synod convention? This is a common question asked by congregational members.
An answer typically given is: The business of the Synod is conducted. What does that really mean? Keep
in mind that the work of the Synod goes on throughout the year and is conducted by Pastors and lay
people who meet regularly and serve on standing boards and committees of the ELS. The annual
convention allows the individual congregations to also become involved in the Synod’s business. Every
congregation sends their Pastor and two voting lay delegates.
Before the congregational representatives arrive, they have been assigned or volunteer to a Convention
Committee. There are more than 12. I have listed some here and include: Doctrine, Higher Education,
Finances, Home Outreach, World Outreach, Elementary Education, and Parish Services. These
convention committees break off into work sessions and review the annual reports from the standing
boards. At designated times during the program/agenda, each committee gives its report/findings
which may result in a resolution that is voted upon by the entire assembly.
Items and highlights from the 106th Convention of the ELS
· Length of service milestones were recognized, this included Pastor Anderson at 40 years
· An essay: We are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made written by Rev. Aaron Hamilton was given
throughout the days of convention. It is downloadable at ELS.org/convention.
· A dedication of the ELS Military Monument was conducted (more info: els.org/monument)
· The Convention Assembly resolved to formally recognize and declare fellowship with the
Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Kenya. This group of churches broke off from the Lutheran
World Federation and reached out to the ELS in 2016. Both parties have been working toward
this end result. Dialog will continue.
· A dedication of the Bethany Activity Center was held. For more info about this marvelous
facility, go to: blc.edu/about/campus-facilities/Bethany-activity-center/
· Every day began with a devotional service (as one would expect) but, it is quite different than
your typical worship service. The hymns were dominated by the tenor and bass sections.
Final thoughts and observations
This was my first convention that I have been able to attend. While there was plenty of “whereas and
whereas be it resolved” throughout the three days, it was an enlightening experience. I learned quite
a bit and had plenty of opportunities to socialize, chat, and work with other Christians all focused on
serving in The Lord’s Kingdom. Given the opportunity, I will be attending again. If you have any
questions or want further information feel free to contact me.
Fall Worship Schedule
We will return to our fall worship schedule on Sunday, September 10th with services at 8:00 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday School and Bible Class will also resume that day at 9:15 a.m.
TLC – The Ladies’ Connection
Fall Kick Off Potluck
The Inreach Board and TLC are co-hosting an all-member Potluck lunch directly following the 10:30 church service on Sunday, September 10th. Every family is encouraged to bring a dish to share (Last name starting with A-H please bring a casserole of main dish, J-P please bring a salad and R-Y please bring a dessert). Beverages and table settings will be provided. This will be a nice opportunity to reconnect with each other after the summer vacation, we hope to see everyone there!
50th Anniversary Celebration Update
Save the Date! Invitations will be given to all members, but please mark your calendars for 10:00 am Sunday, October 22nd.
Theme: We have chosen two themes for the celebration; “God’s Word is our Great Heritage” and “50 Years of Grace”.
Photo and Memorabilia Display Boards: We are in need of photos and memorabilia for display boards. Photos including baptisms, confirmations, weddings, youth events, bazaar photos, lefsa making, outdoor activities, etc. are needed to make these memory boards successful so please look through your photos at home. We are also looking for memorabilia items such as special service bulletins, newspaper articles, bazaar flyers, etc. Please submit your items to the office before October 1st.
Opportunity for All Members to Participate:
Our goal is to make it fun and easy for every member of our congregation to participate in the celebration.
Below is a list of some opportunities, please consider how you and your family would like to be involved and look for the sign-up sheets to be posted early in September.
- Writing Invitations (help needed in August – contact office)
- Spruce Up the Church (see property boards sign-up sheet already posted)
- Decorate a Table for the Luncheon
- Photo Board Making
- Food Preparation
- Luncheon Serving
- Luncheon Clean Up
- Gym Set Up and Clean Up
Other opportunities may include participating in the children’s choir, adult choir, special music, helping with the welcome table or submitting memory stories.
Day of Event Schedule: Below is the proposed schedule for the day.
- 9:30 Pre-Service and Welcome Table with name tags
- 10:00 Worship Service
- 11:15 Luncheon served in gymnasium directly following the worship service
- 12:30 Memory and sharing time in Sanctuary following the luncheon
Please contact the Heritage office or Julie Damico (952-484-0971) with any additional thoughts or ideas.
Adult Bible Study Opportunities
Women’s Bible Study
The Women’s Monday Night Bible Class will resume on September 11th with a study of Song of Songs. If you would like to join, please let Ruth Braun (email@example.com /651-457-9379) know so materials can be ordered.
Men’s Bible Study
The Men’s Thursday Morning Bible Class will resume on September 14th at 8:00 a.m..
Companions in Prayer
My Prayer Story
Once again we are experiencing what I often think of as a “Mini-New Year”. On January 1st, we turn the page to a new calendar year, but on Labor Day, we have a change of season and a change to the rhythm of our lives. I am watching the hummingbirds at my feeder fill up on nectar in preparation for their trip south. I know many “snowbirds” are getting ready to make preparation for their trip south as well. School has or will restart. I am making my list of Fall tasks to do at home – like window washing, getting out warmer clothes, putting away sandals, etc. We start our Fall schedule at church. I find this is also a chance to “reboot” on old resolutions or make “mini” new resolutions. Now is a good time for us to renew our commitment to strengthening our faith, to supporting our brothers and sisters in the work of the church, and give thanks and praise to God for the blessings we have received at Heritage Lutheran Church.
Congregation Prayer Suggestions
Intercessory prayer – prayers on the behalf of others – are a part of a Christian’s life. If you have a request for Companions in Prayer at Heritage to pray for you or someone you know, please contact Alice Schmidt, Pastor Anderson or the Office.
Each of you have a list of those you pray for, but consider adding these to it.
- Many people continue to be displaced, injured and facing catastrophic natural disasters around the world. Pray for strengthening of faith or coming to faith by those impacted.
- Pray for students returning to school, especially those who are going back to college, that they may their faith may guide and protect them as they face new challenges.
Serving in September
9/3 – Chapman
9/10 – Barb Oachs
9/17 – Remus
9/24 – Salava
September Ushers & Acolytes
9/3 – 9:00 – Kevin & Nicholas Henricks/Jaycen Steward
9/10 – 8:00 – Jacob Calhoun, Bruce Reedstrom/Ushers
10:30 – Dan Schwanz, Micah Steward/Ushers
9/17 – 8:00 – Jesse Chapman, Tim Oachs/Cooper Sickmann
10:30 – Josh Mears, Phil Holz/Josiah Mears
9/24 – 8:00 – Craig Remus, Jef Sutton/Ushers
10:30 – Steve & Oliver Cook/Ushers
9/3 – Stan Miller
9/10 – Libby Paulsen
9/17 – Stan Miller
9/24 – Martin Paulsen
September Altar Guild
Ginny Voigt/Barb Oachs
9/3 – Koeplin
9/10 – Potluck
9/17 – Sutton
9/24 – Braun
1 Emmett Rychner
1 Julie Wright
3 Stan Miller
3 Cameron Bergstrom
4 Nikki Sickmann
5 Heidi Paulsen
6 Jef Sutton
7 David Wright
8 Robert Smith
15 Ella Blom
16 Christina Talbot
16 Susan Merseth
18 Jennifer Rusert
18 Gina Kammer
18 Floyd Von Bargen
18 Yuliya Meany
20 Toni Balliet
20 Michael Frimanslund
21 Eleanor Calhoun
22 Magdalena Mears
25 Raymond Holz
25 Frankie Talbot
26 Coriann Ponath
26 Craig Remus
27 Kjerstin Korstad