Small Church Makes a Big Difference with a NALC Disaster Response Challenge
By: Rev. Christopher Martin
Glen Flora Lutheran Church, Glen Flora, Wisconsin
Glen Flora Lutheran Church is not your ordinary small, rural church! In a day and age when it is easy to believe that small churches cannot do big things for the kingdom of God, this small church located along US Highway 8 in the rural village of Glen Flora, Wisconsin (population 92), refuses to believe that narrative!
In 2021, Glen Flora Lutheran Church celebrated the 125th anniversary of its organization, culminating in a weekend of festivities on August 7th-8th. Seven former pastors of the congregation returned and over 250 people attended the festival worship service that weekend. So many people attended, some had to stand outside under umbrellas or the carport on a rainy Sunday morning to give thanks to God for His blessings on the life and ministry of this small rural church.
Once the anniversary weekend was over, the Church Council of Glen Flora wanted to keep the spirit of the 125th anniversary alive, while drawing the congregation’s focus toward the future. Several council members had commented on the many natural disasters that were in the news, and how we had been fortunate in our area of northwest Wisconsin in that we had not experienced anything like that. After some conversation about what our small church that averages about 45-50 worshippers per Sunday could do, the council decided to issue a challenge to benefit NALC Disaster Response. The congregation was divided into three groups: Men, Women, and Youth. The Men were assigned the task of assembling flood buckets, the women took on making health kits, and the youth would put together school kits. The challenge was issued to the congregation as part of the Rally Day festivities on September 19th, with the challenge going through Reformation Sunday, October 31st. The initial goal the council set was that we might be able to have 20 flood buckets, 20 health kits, and 20 school kits, a goal we thought was ambitious on our part. The winning group would be the recipients of an ice cream sundae party.
As the weeks passed from September into October, a corner of the sanctuary designated for completed kits and buckets continued to fill. Suspense grew within the congregation each Sunday as to which group might “win” the challenge. Each flood bucket that was brought in sparked competitiveness in the women to bring in another bag for a health kit. Our children and youth faithfully brought in school supplies with them each week to Wednesday Club for the school kits.
During their Wednesday Club session on October 27th, the children of the congregation packed the school kits. The following day, the women gathered to assemble health care kits, while the men met on October 30th to assemble flood buckets. When the challenge closed on Sunday, October 31st, the congregation shattered their original goals by assembling 69 flood buckets, 48 health kits, and 71 school kits. In addition, several members also made financial contributions that were sent to the NALC Disaster Response ministries as well. During the worship service that day, Pastor Christopher Martin led the congregation in a time of prayer of thanksgiving for everyone who participated in this challenge and their generosity. At the same time, we blessed the supplies that would be used to help share the love of Jesus Christ with others in a time of need. Volunteers from the congregation then delivered the supplies to the NALC Disaster Response warehouse near Rochester, Minnesota.
This challenge was a real, hands-on way for the members of Glen Flora Lutheran Church to live out their mission statement: “We are a Congregation of Christian people who spread the love of Christ to our friends and neighbors here and throughout the world.” Every member was able to find a way to participate, whether it was purchasing supplies needed to assemble each flood bucket or kit, making a generous financial donation to the challenge, or coming out to the church to help pack the kits or buckets, or just simply providing encouragement throughout the challenge and keeping it in prayer each day.
In reflecting on how much of an impact the Holy Spirit has been having in this small church located in this tiny village in rural Wisconsin, a comment was made during the church’s 125th anniversary celebration prior to this challenge of the fact that there was a time in the church’s history from the mid-late 1980’s into the 1990’s where there was a serious question as to whether Glen Flora Lutheran Church would be able to keep their doors open at all, as a series of serious challenges had negatively impacted the church’s membership and finances. Yet, being open to the work of the Holy Spirit, and a desire to see the Gospel continue to be proclaimed in their part of Rusk County, the members of Glen Flora have not been afraid to dream big and invite others to be a part of their ministry. Today, Glen Flora Lutheran Church remains a small congregation averaging between 45-50 for Sunday worship, but with a mix of members from their 90’s, all the way down to a thriving children’s ministry that meets on Wednesday afternoons. They are thriving; doing big things for the kingdom of God in an intergenerational setting and look forward to what the future holds for our small, rural church in northwest Wisconsin.
In the spirit of this, the members of Glen Flora Lutheran Church now have another challenge to issue. This time, the challenge is for all our small or rural congregations across the North American Lutheran Church. We would love to see the spirit of our Disaster Response challenge replicated in YOUR church, wherever you might be, or however small or large your congregation might be! Begin by praying that the Holy Spirit might open you and the members of your congregation to how you can respond and assist this important ministry in the life of the wider Church by offering a similar challenge to your members! Imagine the impact all our small or rural congregations across the NALC can have in the lives of people in a time of disaster by accepting our challenge and host a similar event in your congregation. You will be surprised at what the Spirit will do through your people! If you need some ideas of how to get started, or would like to hear more about our challenge, feel free to contact Pastor Christopher Martin by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s show the entire church how small churches can do big things for the Kingdom!