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Mission Orientation: Case Study

The Minneapolis Star Tribune posted an article about the 50th anniversary of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church moving to a new church building. Using this article as a case study of the Mission Orientation post from Wednesday, we can uncover much about this church’s orientation to the community.
The article states,

On March 22, 1964, church members hailing from as far away as Plymouth and Bloomington marched eight blocks from their previous location on 14th Avenue to reclaim the once pigeon-infested building with shattered stained glass and outdated wiring.

They came refusing to abandon the urban core for the suburbs, where many other churches were headed. This is where they were needed most.

Today, St. Paul’s houses four culturally diverse congregations, as well as an internationally recognized missionary training program called the MissionShift Institute and an urban studies program doing cross-cultural outreach.

Especially rewarding to Wells is that St. Paul’s, which is affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, is a reliable partner in a revitalizing neighborhood where more than 100 languages are spoken.

“We stay out of politics,” said Wells, who came to St. Paul’s at age 35 and thought he’d stay two or three years. He’s 61 now.

“Our mission is taking care of people,” he said. “It’s looking at the needs of our neighbors and helping them meet those needs.”

As discussed on Wednesday, there are four different mission orientations a congregation can have towards its community. While it is clear from the discussion in the newspaper that St. Paul’s Lutheran Church has a sense of a mission to the community, it might take a little work to think through what it is. Looking back at the four types of orientations, there are:

4 Mission Orientations

  • Sanctuary – the congregation’s presence is for providing a sacred space and safe haven for the world
  • Evangelistic – the congregation’s role is to seek individuals who need salvation, changing the world one person at a time
  • Civic – the congregation’s task is to promote and preserve what is good in the world
  • Activist – the congregation’s mission is to change the structures of the world that cause suffering and injustice

It sounds like the orientation that fits best with the “mission is taking care of people… helping [our neighbors] meet those needs” quote would be the Sanctuary Orientation. What do you think?

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Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org