THE BEAUTY OF THE LUTHERAN VIEW OF STEWARDSHIP IS THIS: GOD GIVES US NOT ONLY THE GIFTS TO MANAGE, BUT ALSO THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Holy Spirit guides us in stewarding those gifts for the glory of God and the extension of God’s kingdom.
So it has gone for Calvary Lutheran Church in Murrysville, Pa., as they’ve actually made stewardship their mission, even against all odds.
The church, located on the southeast side of Pittsburgh, has had a rich and thriving ministry since it arrived on the corner of Old William Penn Highway and School Road in 1957. Part of their ministry includes a preschool, Calvary Early Learning Center, that serves children in the community. They also support local food and clothing banks, participate in Meals on Wheels and are active with Concordia Lutheran Ministries.
Still, it’s by God’s grace that Calvary was able to thrive and grow considering there had always been a particular glaring challenge for the church: They were landlocked. With close proximity to a bustling, commercial thoroughfare, right next to a divided highway, the church is situated on a rectangle with only 25-30 parking spaces, limiting the involvement with the community that could take place on church property any given day.
“Calvary looked at their options over the years, did a demographic study, and determined that the best plan was to stay where they were,” explained Rick Porter, Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) district vice president for the LCMS Eastern District. “In the meantime, they had worked out a parking agreement with the PNC Bank that was across the street.”
Then came the first opportunity.
First things first
In 2011, the church took out a 25-year loan with LCEF for the first purchase of property that would permanently provide the church with more parking spaces.
“Sometimes it’s prudent to borrow to expedite the church’s work,” said Porter. “Calvary has always been deliberate, looking to the future, asking, ‘What is the next thing God may have in mind for us?’” LCEF cheered Calvary on as they consistently paid up to twice the scheduled payment, setting them up to pay off the loan in under 10 years.
Later, the bank branch, with whom they’d had a parking arrangement, closed and the property was split into two parts. The church determined it would be wise to purchase the parcel of property that they used for parking. In 2018, Calvary came back to LCEF for a loan to purchase that property.
Thankfully, the church’s stewardship practices would pay off, and Calvary took joy in consulting with LCEF as they strategically planned their next steps.
Seizing the moment
“We could have gotten a loan anywhere,” said Rev. David Weeks, pastor at Calvary, “but LCEF provides an opportunity for us to be assisted with our loan, member investment and Kingdom growth by helping other ministries through investing.”
“Calvary knew before 2011 that they were embarking on a strategy to acquire parking, but to buy the next piece of property, they had to have the capacity to borrow the money,” explained Porter.
“They’d already borrowed a chunk, so they worked very hard to quickly reduce that balance so that when the next opportunity came around, they could be ready to seize the moment and take on the next challenge.”
The 2018 opportunity increased with the chance to seize the moment by also purchasing the second half of the bank property up for sale.
Steward this blessing well
Now the church has another challenge: They have to adjust their ministry plans to decide what to do with the additional building that they’ve purchased. Of course, they see it as a great opportunity for missions.
“We are looking to possibly turn it into a youth ministry center,” noted Weeks. “Calvary has attempted to heed the call of the congregation to intentionally create opportunities for youth ministry, even to the point of adding staff. Over the last five years we have met in meetings where the theme of youth ministry keeps coming up.”
One thing is for certain: Calvary will steward this blessing well, just as they have in the past.
“LCEF has been a ministry partner of Calvary for many years,” Weeks said, “but … the most important ingredient is [Calvary’s] nature to be faithful to their calling and deliberate about their future.”
While Calvary is certainly a special church with a heart for missions and stewardship, Porter is certain that any congregation can partner with Lutheran Church Extension Fund to engage with their community in meaningful and powerful ways.
“This is who LCEF is,” he explained. “Through Lutheran Church Extension Fund, this is the very nature and manner in which we engage congregations, who then engage their communities. Calvary took stock of who they are and where they are in the context of their own opportunities and challenges, and they made a decision. They decided not to move, and we supported them in their plan to make that happen.”
Want to know how LCEF’s range of loans can benefit your congregation? Visit lcef.org/congregation-loans.