Innovative Partnerships that Revitalize Churches

Boulder, Colorado:  Partnership and a New Mission Start

Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Boulder faced the slow decline common in mainline congregations. Its beautiful building and 5 valuable acres gradually turned from an asset to a liability as expenses grew and nearby development cut off visibility. In 2017 a local nonprofit housing developer offered to buy the facility for an attractive price. Mt. Calvary leaders and members decided to accept the offer and look at other opportunities for their future.

Mt. Calvary leaders considered a new facility, closing, consolidation and other options. The most promising opportunity appeared to be an informal merger with one of the two nearby ELCA churches, both of which were healthy and growing. While members were evaluating their fit with each of these churches a 7th Day Baptist Church east of Boulder closed and put its building up for sale at a reasonable price. This building was along the growing Arapahoe corridor, a large area with no ELCA churches. In late 2008 Dave Raymond was engaged to help Mt. Calvary make informed decisions. The shrinking Mt. Calvary ended up expanding God’s mission in Boulder in three significant ways:

  • Mt. Calvary bought the Arapahoe building and funded a new ELCA mission start called Westview Church. A number of Mt. Calvary members joined this effort.
  • Other members joined an informal merger with Atonement Lutheran Church in Boulder, and a portion of the building sale proceeds were donated to Atonement.
  • In 2021 construction will start on the 60-unit Mt. Calvary low-income senior housing complex.

St. Louis Park, Minnesota: Intentional Rebirth

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church was no longer sustainable even with rent from a large commercial childcare center. The nearby Wooddale Lutheran Church was holding its own despite unmet facility needs and a tight budget. In early 2019 the churches formed a joint team to explore consolidation and engaged Dave Raymond to guide them through this process. Three months later the team completed a “Consolidation Recommendation and Mission Plan for a New Congregation”. This document was approved overwhelmingly at special congregational meeting votes at both churches and at the end of May Vista Lutheran Church was incorporated. The Prince of Peace site was sold to a nonprofit developer for much-needed affordable housing. A portion of the sale proceeds were used to renovate the former Wooddale building and a portion was invested in the renewal plan, which included calling a second pastor, re-engaging the neighborhood, and beefing up staff, programs, and worship.

Harbor of Grace Lutheran Church in Muskegon, Michigan:  New Life for Tired Churches

Muskegon is one of those midwestern cities that struggles to recover from the loss of outmoded industry. Combined attendance at the four ELCA churches in Muskegon dropped below 200. In 2018 they decided to consolidate and asked Dave Raymond to help them though the process. Raymond visited Muskegon twice and helped with phone and online advice between the visits. The Muskegon leaders determined that they needed a fresh start. Their joint team developed a plan that was approved by all four congregations. They decided to use one of the buildings for their new congregation and sell the others. The building they retained on the hill above the Lake Michigan harbor and its lighted steeple served as a beacon for ship pilots at night, so the new church chose “Harbor of Grace” as its name.

Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, Minnesota:  Sharing Ownership for Economics and Mission

In October 2020 three churches in South Minneapolis, Lake Nokomis Lutheran, Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community and Living Table UCC held special congregational meetings online and voted to form a nonprofit corporation to jointly own and manage the current Lake Nokomis building. Lake Nokomis Lutheran will give its facility to the new nonprofit and the other two churches will contribute over a million dollars to remodel the building to make it suitable for sharing. Remodeling will update the current large sanctuary, add a second smaller sanctuary, provide new offices and make the facility more appealing and up to date. This partnership will relieve the three church councils from building concerns so they can concentrate on vitality. It will enable joint social justice efforts, joint programs for children and adults, and save about 50% on annual facility costs. Dave Raymond was the consultant to the joint planning team.