1 Corinthians 12: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
What does it mean to be part of a larger faith community called Lutheran? And what does Lutheran Services in America — a network of 300 Lutheran social ministry organizations — have to do with it?
For Lutheran social ministry, being part of a broader faith community means that we are connected:
- With each other in a strong community of faith
- We are connected with the Church and all aspects of the Church
- We are connected with the broader community as the Church in action
Who is LSA? Lutheran social ministry and Lutheran Services in America are some of the best-kept secrets in the U.S. Over the last 150 years, a pastor, deaconess, or lay person in a Lutheran congregation saw a need in their community and acted to meet that need whether it was a need for a child, seniors, homeless, people with disabilities, or refugees, they not only saw the need but acted.
Today, that has evolved into one of the largest health care and human services networks in the country, serving 1 in 50 people in the U.S. each year in all 50 states with a broad range of services. Our network is so sizable it's listed as #20 in the Philanthropy 400, a yearly listing of the nation's largest nonprofit organizations and associations.
When we look at what it means to be part of a broader community of faith called Lutheran, we think of LSA as the "glue" that connects social ministries with each other and the Church. We are honored to play an important role in connecting our social ministry organizations with each other, because we believe that we are stronger together than we are individually. Together, we support each other and take joint action. Together, we celebrate our shared heritage and values.
An example of how the LSA network comes together is our 30 member organizations that serve children, youth and families. They have come together over the past year to identify how we truly make a difference in the lives of children and youth and what more can we be doing to promote their well-being. Another example is how our members come together as a Disability Network to advocate for greater economic independence for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – recently this resulted in a rare bipartisan success, the passage of the ABLE Act that allows for more financial opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Last week, I had the opportunity to gather with the LSA-Ohio group, another example of the power of coming together. The topic of their Board Leadership Symposium was "Faithful Governance for Lutheran Social Ministry Organizations" – a topic to which we can all relate! I am grateful to have been invited to address the group and be a part of the fruitful and thoughtful discussion around how we are part of the Church's witness to the world through the work of Lutheran social ministry. I thank LSA-Ohio for the fellowship and the leadership they show in their communities. More information about LSA-Ohio is available here: http://lutheranservices.org/LSAOhio
It's incredibly meaningful when we gather in person, and LSA is looking forward to very strong LSA gatherings in 2016: the Lutheran Leadership Summit and the Annual Conference. During these events, we strengthen the bonds we have as social ministry organizations and move forward with the work of serving our neighbor and helping make our communities stronger. I invite you to learn more about these events and join us as we connect with each other; the Church; and the community.
Together, we are truly stronger than we are individually. Please take a moment to read more about LSA and our wonderful members, and please contact us with any comments or questions about the work of the Lutheran social ministry network. I hope to see many of you at an upcoming gathering. Blessings on your work.