The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

Downtown: Issue #3 – August, 2008

Posted by admin on August 21, 2008
A Quarterly Publication of The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches
c/o Historic First Lutheran Church, 808 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, CA 91104
Issue #3 – August, 2008


A warm welcome to this issue of Downtown, a quarterly newsletter full of interchange and exchange between downtown Lutheran churches across our great country!  As your editor, it’s my hope you’ll find this a helpful, powerful resource to further equip and empower your ministry in the great downtown.  As your editor, I can only accomplish that goal when you respond to the content of this newsletter and feed me information about what’s going on with your own particular ministry. Responses, comments, constructive criticisms, etc. can be directed to .


Please check out the Association’s brand new website at Our thanks to Chad Schmutzer, a member of Historic First Lutheran Church of Pasadena, CA and a resident computer guru at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) for getting this up and running for us. This website is BRAND NEW and still very much under construction. We’d appreciate your insights as to what you’d like to see included on the site. Four ideas already bantered about are 1) a blog to enhance the two-way exchange of ideas, 2) a photo gallery of downtown churches, 3) links to downtown ministry websites and 4) a monthly series featuring the mission and ministry of a downtown church. Please forward your ideas to .

Strategic Partnership Effected

The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches has become a strategic partner of the Center for U.S. Missions (C4USM) in Irvine, California.

This new association will lend the ADLC additional credibility and visibility and allow it to use the C4USM’s electronic distribution lists for its quarterly newsletter (see below). In addition, the dream of reviving regular gatherings of downtown churches across the country will become a reality. The C4USM is very interested in further expanding the cross-denominational reach of the ADLC.

Thank God for this development!

Changes to “Downtown”

One outcome of the strategic partnership with the Center for U.S. Missions is the ability to electronically distribute our “Downtown” newsletter. This shift will save approximately $200 per quarter in printing and mailing costs. This shift does carry a danger, though, of losing touch with some of our downtown churches as each person needs to specifically register to receive the newsletter electronically. We anticipate paper distribution of “Downtown” to continue as is for the next year as we work toward the shift to electronic distribution. What can you do to help?

First of all, take a moment right now to log onto the Center’s website – . Click on the link for “Newsletters.” Scroll down to “Downtown” and follow the link to subscribe. While you’re on the Center’s website, peruse other valuable resources and newsletters available to you, many of them free!

Second, please run a bulletin or newsletter announcement about the Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches and the Center for U.S. Missions for all your members to participate in the great vision of mission work within the United States, particularly in our downtown neighborhoods. These resources are being made available not just for pastors and church leaders, but for all members. Encourage your individual members to receive “Downtown.”

Third, if you are unable to receive the newsletter electronically for whatever reason or rather prefer to receive “Downtown” via hard copy, please send that request to and we will make sure you’re not left out of the information loop.

2009 Budget Planning

Back in 1999, the idea was floated to create an actual fee membership for the Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches. While that idea was still being developed, several churches stepped up and made contributions to the Association, those funds which are currently being used to distribute “Downtown” today.

As many of our churches begin budget planning for calendar year 2009, would you please consider adding a modest line item ($25, $50, $100, or whatever you feel is appropriate) to support the mission and ministry of the Association? Such contributions would be held in an accountable trust by Historic First Lutheran Church of Pasadena to offset the ongoing costs of “Downtown” and other communications as well as funding costs associated with anticipated conferences / gatherings. Such contributions would entitle the member congregations to discounted registration fees for conferences / gatherings. More on this in the next issue.

Tackling A Downtown Challenge: Parking!

By far, the number one problem mentioned by downtown church leaders when asked to identify challenges was PARKING! Most of our downtown churches were built prior to the automobile age, in the previous age of “parishes” where most people walked to their local, neighborhood church. As that transition to the commuter automobile age dawned upon the church, many of us have struggled with issues related to parking. The great majority of our downtown churches have inadequate or non-existent parking facilities, without the space or funding to provide additional parking. So, what can be done? Here’s the solutions of some churches:

Historic Trinity Church, in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis, had a unique opportunity a number of years ago. Adjacent to its small parking lot / school playground across the street from the church was a dilapidated house gutted by fire. There were safety concerns that a wall would tumble into the parking lot or onto pedestrians. That lot was purchased. The remaining building demolished and the parking lot expanded. A true win-win situation.

Historic Trinity Church on Gratiot in Detroit and Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, CA have partnered with neighboring businesses that are closed on Sundays, allowing the churches to use their parking lots. Historic Trinity provides uniformed security. Lake Avenue Church sets up directional signs on Sunday mornings and provides a shuttle service from their remote parking facility.

All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA offers free validated parking to parishioners in an underground hotel / restaurant parking facility adjacent to their church.

First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Orlando partnered with the City of Orlando and Orange County. Together, they constructed a multi-storied parking structure. Each corporation owns one third of the spaces. A legal arrangement was effected where First Presbyterian yields its third to the city and county during the week while the city and county yield their two-thirds to the church on evenings and weekends. There was a legal challenge to this arrangement under the “separation of church and state,” which challenge a judge later ruled as invalid.

Parking is admittedly a BIG problem. Dr. Robert Schuller has estimated the cost of every parking space on the campus of the Crystal Cathedral at not less than $10,000. While parking is a problem, it must not become an insurmountable problem to creative downtown church leaders. What solution has your congregation developed? Share it with the rest of us by completing the enclosed survey or emailing .

Whatever solution(s) you develop, make sure that information is clearly communicated to potential worshipers on your website. This is truly a MUST!

Funding the Downtown Church!

A close second to the challenge of parking is the very real challenge of funding downtown churches. Besides the direct mission and ministry costs of staff and programs, most of us struggle with the maintenance costs of old behemoth buildings that are always in need of repair. And we haven’t even yet discussed the monthly costs of electricity, heating, cooling and “watering” such massive complexes. An even bigger challenge has been presented us with the current economic downturn, with all staples of daily life (first and foremost gasoline) climbing astronomically and contributions sometimes being reduced.

The best immediate solution to the challenge of funding is very clear communication to the members of our churches as to the actual cost of operating. This can be communicated as an annual, monthly, weekly or even daily cost. Many church members have no clue what actual costs are and are astonished to be told. Many churches have encountered very positive results when the church leaders have been very transparent with explaining these actual costs. Give it a try, if you’ve not already!

How about partnering with a non-profit? Most of our church facilities are large and largely unused (except as storage facilities for no-longer needed equipment and, dare I say, “junk”). Many of our facilities can be wonderfully reinvented to provide office or program space for others operating in our downtown neighborhoods, those without the luxury of the buildings we enjoy. Again, this can be a real win-win situation, generating moderate to substantial third-source income through the renting of facilitieswhile at the same time exposing many of our neighbors to our facilities, perhaps even opening up the welcome door for potential church members who previously didn’t know your church existed.

How about “special projects?” These are usually major projects far above and beyond your annual budget. Do you provide opportunity for people to specifically adopt one of those projects? Those projects can range from the purchase of a new 100-cup coffee maker to the replacement of a toilet to the re-leading of a stained glass window. Historic Trinity Church in Detroit regularly maintains a “special projects” list in its newsletter. And, since most of us appreciate some recognition for our gifts, think about small plaques to acknowledge the gift of that project.

How about credit card contributions? With credit cards being a standard of daily life, many churches now allow church members and regular visitors to charge their contributions either by the church owning its own credit card keypad or by using a service like PayPal. There is a charge associated with this variety of contributions, but many folks would rather charge their contributions and receive perks like airline miles, etc. In addition, a standing, monthly charged contribution better insures stable income for the church.

How about the vast, usually untapped resource of your “alumni?” You know, the people who “used to be members” of your church and have since relocated to the suburbs, or those who attended your school “back in the day.” Who are the leaders of industry and business in your town who have ties to your church? Have you approached them for support? Many are more than willing to help, if asked. Do you have a former member mail list? If not, ask some of your longest-term members to help you develop such a list for those with whom they stay in contact. Many of these “alumni” still have a great love and concern for their “mother church” and may be willing to make a contribution once a year or more often. Along with simple requests for funding, make sure you clearly communicate what you as a downtown church are actively doing today. Send your “alumni” a Christmas card, inviting them “home” for services. Maybe someone will completely underwrite the cost of a ministry or outreach program for a year to ensure that the church they love will continue to exist into the future.

How about special grants? The Pacific Southwest District of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod distributes annual grants to support youth programs. Funds were generated from the sale of the District’s old Walther League house in downtown Los Angeles. Annual interest from those funds are distributed to support ongoing youth programs. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans offers an ANNUAL matching cash benefit to all Lutheran congregations, just for the asking. Thrivent funds may be attached to a fund-raising event (a car wash or bake sale or rummage sale) or can also be applied for simply in response to a special fund appeal. Talk to your local congregational coordinator or your local Thrivent representative for more information. Many other organizations, both inside and outside the church, offer similar grants. Have you ever tried applying? Even if you’ve been denied in the past, keep trying. The successful key to getting your grant application approved is that you must be doing something vital TODAY, however small or large. A granting organization has yet to be located that likes to support the past or even the status quo.

Regarding the maintenance of older buildings, have you turned to your local historical society for guidance and advice? If your buildings qualify as, or have been declared historic landmarks, there are grant programs available to help with maintenance and, especially, preservation costs. Often these grants require matching funds, but most of our church members are willing to contribute a dollar or twenty dollars (and maybe even more) if they know their gift will be matched dollar for dollar, or even more.

What solution has your congregation developed to the challenge of funding? Share it with the rest of us by completing the enclosed survey or emailing .

Healing Hurting People Through “Comfort Critters”

Though not a “downtown church,” Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Beaverton, OR has developed a greatly creative ministry called “Comfort Critters.” Congregation members donate small cute and cuddly stuffed animals which are collected in a basket in the church narthex. A Christ Care group attaches a little card to each critter, explaining that the critter has been “living” at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, listening to God’s Word and singing His praises. A Scripture passage is printed on the back of the card. Congregation members can take those critters to people they know who are hurting, either through illness or grief or whatever. To the one who receives the critter, it is a very thoughtful way of comforting them in dark days. For the congregation, it’s a great mission outreach. Congregation members are able to report back to the church the persons to whom they have given the critter. In our downtown areas, where we daily deal with hurting people, this could become a very powerful tool. If you’d like more information about this ministry (including samples of the attachment card), email .


In closing, my sisters and brothers in Christ, my wish for each of you is simple: KEEP PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON FOR HE IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.

As you preach Jesus, may He bless you in all ways, enabling you to continue to bless those around you!

Joined with you serving Christ and His people,

The Reverend Christopher Schaar
Senior Pastor, Historic First Lutheran, Pasadena, CA

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