Behold i am about to do a new thing
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“ Behold I am about to do a new thing”. Isaiah 43:19. Metropolitan New York Synod Strategy for Black Ministries Proposal. Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry in the 21 st Century.

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Behold i am about to do a new thing

“Behold I am about to do a new thing”

Isaiah 43:19

Metropolitan new york synod strategy for black ministries proposal

Metropolitan New York SynodStrategy for Black Ministries Proposal

Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry in the 21st Century

Behold i am about to do a new thing

NarrativeAt its constituting convention in 1987 the ELCA adopted the following goal: “it shall be a goal of this church that within 10 years of its establishment, the membership shall include at least 10% people of color and/or primary language other than English.” As of this date that goal has not been attained. The Metro New York Synod (MNYS) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) presently consists of 232 congregations representing 100,000 Lutherans throughout the metro New York area. The synod also consists of 10 social ministry organizations including Lutheran Medical Center, Lutheran Social Services and 150 schools. MNYS has stood strong on its commitment to build a diverse synod. As a result of this commitment, MNYS presently worships in 18 languages. One key component of this diversity is the number of Black Lutheran congregations. In 1999 the ELCA had 224 congregations with 20% or more Black baptized membership. Forty of these congregations or 18% are in MNYS. These 40 congregations represent close to 20% of the total number of MNYS congregations. Of these 40 congregations 29 are majority black. In 1999, ELCA Black membership was 50,835 representing 1% of the total ELCA membership. In 1999, MNYS Black membership was 8,035 representing 9.65% of the total synod membership and close to 20% of the ELCA total Black membership. MNYS recognizes the synergy between Lutheran theology and the Black experience. This is recognized internationally as well since the fastest growing segment of Lutherans in the world is in Africa, particularly in Tanzania where MNYS has a companion synod relationship. MNYS believes that the Black experience and Lutheran theology present one another with clear gifts and opportunities for new and creative ministries. MNYS believes that the way to build diversity is by providing resources, both financial and technical, to congregations for the purpose of building strong leadership and institutions. Through the building and strengthening of congregations in diverse settings, we empower people to celebrate their distinct contributions to the wider church and broaden our visibility in a larger segment of the population. In keeping with the 1987 ELCA commitment, MNYS has engaged in discussions concerning the development of a Black Lutheran strategy. These discussions which have taken place over the last 2 years have resulted in the following. First the MNYS Black Pastors Group.

Narrative cont d

Narrative cont’d

The MNYS Black Pastors group has been developed into a resource body which consults with the office of Bishop on strategies for congregations in Black communities. Second, the organizing of the region 7 Black pastors ministerium. This group meets periodically on issues relating to congregations in Black communities. Third, the January 2001 Region 7 Proclaim the Power conference. This conference, which was one of eight conferences sponsored by the ELCA to discuss Black Ministries, was the highest attended conference. This particular conference was organized by the Black Pastors Group of MNYS. The conference, which was attended by over 150 leaders, provided workshops on skills needed for congregation development. Pursuant to these discussions, development of the Black Pastors group, the Proclaim the Power conference and regional conversations, MNYS has developed a comprehensive strategy for the strengthening of ministries in the Black community. This strategy centers on the development of leaders and resources to empower Black Lutheran congregations to further build their ministries. MNYS believes in developing resources so that its leaders can build strong institutions for ministry. This is evidenced by the synods Urban Empowerment Fund which provides resources to congregations working with and for people in poverty. This was also evidenced by the synods Proclaim Jubilee which worked successfully to eliminate the debt of several congregations working amongst the poor, as well as its Women and Children Living in Poverty projects. There are several models pertaining to building ministries. One is to create new congregations which would bring in new membership. Another model is to build on our present success. MNYS has chosen the latter. We make this choice for several reasons

  • MNYS has the talent in place

  • MNYS has a critical mass of parishioners

  • MNYS has the physical structures in which to do ministry

    Based on this, MNYS is proposing the Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry in the 21st Century. This proposal is a comprehensive approach which focuses on leadership development. As Black people have a 300 year history within the Lutheran church, the fastest segment of the Lutheran church in the world is among Black people in Africa and as the demographics of New York change, MNYS stands ready to take advantage of this opportunity for growth.

Narrative cont d1

Narrative Cont’d

MNYS believes that we must equip leaders with skills and resources that will empower them to build for the church of the future which will increasingly be in communities of color and in particular Black communities.

Project goals

Project Goals

  • Develop resources for leaders to strengthen Lutheran congregations ability in building strong centers of mission in Black communities.

  • Develop an intentional long term commitment and action plan to deepen our roots in communities of color.

  • Develop leadership teams that will work to create intense outreach strategies in communities of color.

  • Develop media teams to use local cable stations to enhance Lutheran presence in Black communities.

  • Develop new pastoral leaders.

Project team

Project Team

  • Dr. Stephen P. Bouman-

    Bishop of New York for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

  • Mr. Tony C. Aguilar Sr.-

    Assistant to the Bishop for Urban Ministry

  • Metro New York Synod Black

    Pastors Group-Rev. Jerome Taylor President

Challenges and opportunities


Despite the commitment to diversify, the percentage of black parishioners in the ELCA has remained flat over the last decade.

Lutherans are not a major part of the religious population in Black communities

To commit resources on a long term basis for ministry in communities of color.


There is a tremendous number of unchurched people in the communities we are targeting.

MNYS has maintained a steady growth of Black membership which has resulted in a critical mass of parishioners from which to grow.

Black membership within the MNYS is at 9.62%.. With the exception of the Bahamas synod, MNYS has the highest percentage of black parishioners in the ELCA. MNYS however has the highest total number of black members of any synod in the ELCA.

MNYS has a cadre of talented religious leaders who have displayed an ability to develop congregations into strong institutions of ministry

Congregations of color are leading the way in developing liturgies which connect to the local community.

Challenges and Opportunities

Initiative assumptions

Initiative Assumptions

  • Lutheran theology of grace and justification through faith has universal implications.

  • Existing congregations are a key component for strengthening ministries in communities of color.

  • A key issue facing congregations is a lack of additional financial resources for the purpose of continued growth.

  • Denominational growth must occur from the ground up.

Behold i am about to do a new thing

Ministry Demographics ELCA Black Baptized Membership 1988-1999 Total Baptized 1999 ELCA membership 5,149,843

Behold i am about to do a new thing

MNYS Black baptized membership 1990-1999-Total MNYS 1999 Baptized Membership 85,927**Represents less than 100% of returned parochial reports

Elca ethnic membership 1988 1999

ELCA Ethnic Membership 1988-1999

Mnys ethnic membership 1993 1999

MNYS Ethnic Membership 1993-1999

Statistics on elca black ministries

Statistics on ELCA Black ministries

  • Number of Black seminarians-60

  • Number of Black pastors in ELCA-155

  • Number of Black pastors in MNYS-15

  • Number of ELCA congregations with 20% or more Black membership- 224

  • Number of MNYS with 20% of more Black membership- 40

  • Number of ELCA congregations with less than 20% Black Baptized membership-3,433

Black pastors statistics cont d

Black pastors statistics cont’d

  • Black pastors

    • Age 30-40 18

    • Age 41-50 58

    • Age 51-60 54

    • Age 61-70 22

    • Age 71+ 3

  • Black Female pastors-48

  • Black Male pastor-107

  • Ordination

    0-5 years-41

    6-10 years-23

    11-15 years-34



    25+ years-16

Mnys congregations with 50 or more black membership


Congregations cont d

Congregations Cont’d

Congregations cont d1

Congregations cont’d



Congregations cont d2

Congregations cont’d



As we look at the profile of many congregations, we find that they minister in some of the poorer areas of the region. The average per capita income in the communities of the 29 congregations with 50% or more Black membership is $17,516.These congregations represent 13% of the total number of congregations within the synod. In many of these areas you will find high unemployment and other social concerns. Yet congregations such as New Hope Lutheran in Queens and St. Peters Lutheran in the South Bronx minister to the poorest of the poor and are building congregations with an emphasis on serving the most vulnerable. One can look at the work of congregations such as Church of the Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in the Bronx which has built a congregation of over 600 people in a community where little is known about Lutherans. These congregations are building strong institutions for ministry. Many of these congregations are working to rebuild their communities as well. This is evidenced by congregations such as St. Johns Lutheran Church in the Bronx which has been at the forefront in building Nehemiah housing in the South Bronx. Good Shepherd Lutheran in Roosevelt Long Island is working on strategies to provide employment in the community. MNYS believes that these congregations which are building strong institutions without a lot of resources should be the vanguard of a Black Lutheran strategy that builds on the ELCA commitment from more than a decade ago. These congregations have taken that commitment seriously. Leadership and resources are critical if we are to get closer to the ELCA vision. Now is the time to develop the new generation of leaders, create creative evangelistic tools and commit resources to building on our success. MNYS believes that our best hope lies with investing in those leaders and congregations that have proven to be builders. Pursuant to our experience and belief, the Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry are designed to develop leadership and resources for those congregations ready to become mega centers of ministry within their communities.

Initiatives for black lutheran centers of ministry

Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry

  • Develop Urban Leaders Institute (ULI) to train leaders in congregational development

  • Develop team ministries

  • Develop congregational media teams to create tele ministries for local cable stations

Initiative i urban leaders institute purpose

Initiative IUrban Leaders InstitutePurpose

Purpose: To train and equip congregational teams with skills to lead and grow African American Lutheran congregation.

Urban leaders institute objectives

Urban Leaders Institute Objectives

  • Strengthen and grow congregations

  • Identify and recruit leaders (clergy and laity) to be engaged in outreach ministries

  • Development of ongoing training resources

  • Develop ministerial teams for congregations

Urban leaders institute projected outcomes

Urban Leaders Institute Projected outcomes

  • 5% annual increase in new members

  • 5% annual increase in worship attendance

  • 5% annual increase in financial stewardship

  • Creation of 5 member ministerial teams per participating congregation

  • 20 congregations trained per year

  • Development of ULI web page for ongoing training materials

  • Development of training materials for ongoing training purposes

Urban leaders institute evaluation and accountability process

Urban Leaders Institute Evaluation and accountability process

  • One day evaluation event 6 months after ULI training conference of all ULI participants.

  • Monthly reports at MNYS Black Pastors Group meeting

  • Annual meeting with stakeholders, MNYS,Thrivent, ELCA

  • Annual review of parochial reports of participating congregations

  • Development of report showing progress in church growth

Team ministry

Team Ministry

Purpose-To provide paid intentional ministry teams for existing congregations to assist in church growth

Team ministry objectives

Team Ministry Objectives


  • Strengthen and grow congregations

  • Conduct 1,000 community contacts per year

  • Develop new ministries

  • Develop ongoing partnership with community

  • Development of three teams of 3 outreach ministers

  • To enable congregations to support permanent outreach staff

Team ministry projected outcomes

Team Ministry Projected Outcomes

  • Development of two new outreach ministries per congregation

  • 10% annual increase in worship attendance per congregation

  • 10% annual increase in membership per congregation

  • 10% annual stewardship per year congregation

  • One new study group per year congregation

  • 2 Redeveloped congregations

  • Use of increased financial stewardship to hire permanent staff for congregations.

  • These projections are above the projections for growth due to ULI

Media ministry

Media Ministry

  • Purpose-To develop a media ministry designed to enhance the Lutheran Presence in the wider community.

Media ministry goals

Media Ministry Goals

  • To reach 20% of households that watch public access cable

  • Development of 1 media team per borough and Long Island

  • Develop DVD and CD for distribution to community and present parishoners

  • Develop media package for community

  • Educate community about Lutheran theology within the community

Media ministry outcomes

Media Ministry Outcomes

  • Airing of 5 weekly Lutheran hour cable programs-one for each borough.

  • 15% annual increase in visitors

  • Membership increase of 30% (over 2 year period) figures based on results from similar ministries utilizing public access.

  • Attendance increase of 15%

Media ministry evaluation method

Media Ministry Evaluation Method

  • Development distribution of check-off sheet for first time visitors

  • Monthly reports at BPG meetings

  • Hits on website page

  • Monthly meetings with Team Ministry Leaders

Risks and rewards

Risks and rewards

  • Risks

  • The biggest risk is not capitalizing on the demographic shifts we are presently undergoing.

  • By not building on the success we have, we risk losing the opportunities for stronger ministries that have been developed

  • Rewards

  • Increased membership

  • Creation of transportable models of ministry

  • Increased pool of talent for the ELCA

  • Increased visibility of Lutherans in communities of color

  • Greater stewardship for ministry both locally and churchwide

Total project budget

Total Project Budget-

  • Urban Leaders Institute

  • 50,000

  • Team Ministry

  • 240,000

  • Media Ministry

  • 17,000

  • Total Annual Budget-




MNYS has put forth a bold vision of a sustained intentional effort for the development and empowerment of Lutheran ministries in Black communities. MNYS believes that if we are serious about ministry in Black communities, resources must be provided. We have the talent, critical mass and the physical plants from which to develop an even more powerful Lutheran presence. We have developed a model which can be transported throughout the ELCA and which every segment of our church will benefit from. Our goal is to combine leadership, resources and technology in a way that enables local congregations to reach the next level of development in their respective communities. It is our goal that by the end of 5 years we will have achieved the following

  • Increased Black membership within MNYS by 30%

  • Developed an institute that trains 100 leaders per year.

  • Enabled congregations to grow in a way that spiritually and financially supports the full ministry of the parish, MNYS and the ELCA.

  • Created a vibrant media ministry.

  • Redeveloped struggling congregations into thriving centers of ministry.

    MNYS now seeks partners to enter into an important endeavor which will have long lasting benefits to the communities we serve and the ELCA at large.

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