September 6, 2017

January snow couldn’t derail a Wisconsin church’s fundraising efforts

It was snowing—hard—on January 31, 2015, when the Mission Investment Fund’s Capital Campaign Services consultant Phyllis Wiederhoeft arrived at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Wiederhoeft was there to preach and kick off the congregation’s capital campaign, “Honoring Our Past—Embracing Our Future!”—with the exclamation point purposefully positioned.

“I feared the snowstorm would keep people home from church that day,” Wiederhoeft recalls.

Her worries were unfounded. Even with some eight inches of snow falling, St. Luke’s members came to church that weekend. They came to hear Wiederhoeft’s reflections on building for the future and giving generously.

“Giving joyfully and sharing abundantly of ourselves flows naturally from our love for God,” Wiederhoeft told the congregation. “Jesus asks us to place God at the center, to let God be the energy source, to let God be the relationship that we attend to. God at the center brings wholeness to a broken world. God at the center changes all relationships, including our relationship to our possessions and our money.”

St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, sitting in a park-like setting alongside the town library and a bandshell commemorating renowned guitarist Les Paul, was built in 1966. The church was started in 1927.

“The impetus for our building project was simply to upgrade for our 50th anniversary in the building. Folks kept asking when we were going to replace the carpeting—before someone would trip and fall,” says the Rev. Kathy Boadwine, pastor.

“We ended up gutting the entire sanctuary.”

The building renewal team focused on achieving a stronger sense of community with the church renovation, while preserving the integrity of the beautiful stone building. To draw the community in, the plan called for moving the altar platform outward, closer to the worshippers. 

A wall separating the main sanctuary from a smaller side chapel would be replaced by movable glass panels—allowing for expanding the main worship space into the side chapel at peak times.

These ambitious plans necessitated funding via a capital campaign as well as borrowing. “A local consul- tant recommended the MIF Capital Campaign Services consultant—then known as Stewardship Key Leader,” Pastor Boadwine says. “MIF was a good fit for St. Luke’s—not high-powered, and everything centered in the life of the community. Phyllis Wiederhoeft had wonderful messages for us—and the program was organized so well.”

On Commitment Sunday, members made their pledges during worship. Following each service, results were tabulated. “We served cake and coffee, congregation members stayed, and we announced the pledges made during the previous service,” Pastor Boadwine recounts. “Following our last service that Sunday morning, many members returned to church to hear the grand total. Our pledges surpassed $1 million! None of us dreamed it was possible. It was a great day!”

Members were enthused that the congregation was more than $1 million closer to realizing its building renovation. “Let’s get started!” became the rallying cry. Exclamation points all around!!

Applying for an MIF loan seemed like the next logical step following the highly successful MIF fundraising appeal.

With the MIF loan approved, construction on the sanctuary began in earnest. For eight months, congregation members worshipped in the lower level of the church.

“That’s a long time,” Pastor Boadwine admits. “But being in the lower level was also a wonderful experience. Space was tight, and we went from three worship services to two—so everyone got to know each other very well. We brought that sense of community back upstairs with us, and it has enhanced our worship life. People smile a lot when they come in.”

Now, in the refurbished setting, more young families are coming to Sunday worship. More baptisms and more weddings are taking place in this sacred space.

The church’s original statue of St. John the Baptist, his arm outstretched to heaven, now watches over a more modern baptismal font designed for the new interior. This promise of God’s grace is the welcoming beacon as worshippers step into the revitalized church.

Upstairs, a new hospitality/fellowship center beckons, creating space for expanded training and study opportunities. This fall, there will be new seminars for parents on nurturing healthy relationships for their children as well as small, adult Bible study classes.

As the giving segment of this capital campaign comes to an end in the spring of 2018, the congregation is considering the next phase of building renewal.

“The first phase went so smoothly,” Pastor Boadwine says. “We were delighted to work with the Mission Investment Fund—pleased that we are in partnership with the church.”