November 18, 2014

The ELCA's newest congregation's first official act: Investing in MIF

Winding between the rolling acres of golf green and the dock-fringed local lake, the 89 parishioners of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Loudon, Tennessee, converge in a rented chapel every Sunday for worship. Shepherd of the Lake was officially received into the ELCA as its newest congregation at the Southeastern Synod Assembly this past May. Then, in its very first action as an ELCA congregation, Shepherd of the Lake purchased two significant MIF investments.

“The congregation had already been meeting for a few years before we became an ELCA church,” says mission developer and pastor, the Rev. Laura Shally. “And for much of that period, the members didn’t have a full-time pastor. Instead, they had a contract pastor who primarily served as their worship leader on a weekly basis. But then, as the church continued to thrive and showed intentions of becoming an official ELCA congregation, the synod called me to serve as their mission developer and pastor.”

“One of the congregation’s first issues for discussion was deciding what to do with our funds. Ultimately, we determined the best thing we could do wouldbe to help other congregations. So we made the decision to place our money with the Mission Investment Fund, which works to build churches.” The congregation opened an MIF Term Investment as well as an MIF Demand Investment. “We’re very happy with both of these investments,” the pastor reports.

The congregation, located in the midst of a retirement community, rents its own dedicated space within a funeral home. Shepherd of the Lake worships in a large, modern sanctuary.

The congregation is brimming with life. “Just about every one of our worshippers is involved in community ministry somehow,” says Pastor Shally. “We have folks working in animal shelters, resale shops, hospitals, assisted living communities, food pantries and all sorts of other ministries. “Our church leadership is such a visionary group,” says the pastor. “We’ve been an official church for less than a year, but we’re planning for projects and expenses four or five years ahead. Church leaders are envisioning adding an extra Sunday service or investing in certain ministries as the congregation continues to grow. And that’s one of the reasons why it made so much sense to invest with MIF.”

The church might have the enthusiasm for high-energy ministry efforts, but the members of Shepherd of the Lake know that funding is important, too. “With MIF, we’ve got a nest egg that’s growing along with our church. This way, once we decide on a ministry to focus on as a church, we have the money to back it up.”

The present goal for this church, then, is to direct its already-boundless enthusiasm. “Our parishioners are all so passionate about their individual ministries,” says Pastor Shally, “but I’m excited to find the place where the majority of their passions meet the needs of a hurting world. With prayer, focused commitment, funding and members’ energy, there is nothing this congregation will not be able to do.”