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10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About RSOs


Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) exists to support The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) and its mission. It’s only natural that LCEF works closely with Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) to assist them as they go about their kingdom-building work. Let’s explore this extension of mercy work.

1. What does “RSO” mean?

“RSO”stands for “Recognized Service Organization.” They are non-profits whose vision and values line up with those of The Lutheran Church­—Missouri Synod (LCMS). RSOs reach out to their neighbors in need with the mercy and love of Christ. From helping the homeless to bringing the Gospel to the blind, these organizations are shining the light of God’s mercy all over the world.

2. Why was the status of RSO created?

A need arose in the mid-1960s for connection among Lutheran non-profits. There were many programs reaching out to those in need but a lack of communication between them. So, in 1979, the LCMS began recognizing organizations, which gave these non-profits unity and a way to connect. In both doctrine and practice, RSOs are in concord with the LCMS and each other.

3. There are SO MANY

Over the years, the number of service organizations recognized by the LCMS has grown to nearly 200. RSOs can also have several sites in addition to a headquarter location. There are currently 720 site locations serving communities around the world. Lutheran Senior Services, for example, has multiple locations across Missouri and Illinois from which they support older adults as they live life to the fullest. RSOs are reaching hundreds of communities with mercy and love.

4. There are non-geographical RSOs

Some RSOs are considered non-geographical.  This means the services they provide can be accessed throughout the U.S. and some even have a global reach. Lutheran Braille Workers, for example, produces resources for the vision-impaired and distributes them free of charge around the world. RSOs are having a global impact.

5. The benefits of becoming an RSO

Non-profits that become an RSO have access to benefits other organizations do not. For example, RSOs can call ordained or commissioned church workers, whose education and expertise equip them to serve in various roles. They can also use the LCMS logo on their website and get loans through Lutheran Church Extension Fund. RSOs receive the support of the LCMS.

6. RSOs provide physical and spiritual care

Many RSOs take a holistic approach to their mercy work. Redeeming Life Outreach Ministries, Inc. is an excellent example of this. They give single, expectant and new mothers a stable, safe home. In addition, these women attend a program designed to teach them about relationships, parenting, finances, faith and more. RSOs care for the whole person. 

7. RSOs aren’t just for serving people outside of the church 

While many RSOs reach out to the unchurched population, others are providing much-needed care to fellow members of the body of Christ. Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat, for example, provides care and counseling retreats for pastors, their wives and other church workers whose front-of-the-line, self-sacrificial work can leave them in need of healing and support. RSOs are making a difference inside the church and out.

8. RSOs provide service opportunities

RSOs give Christians the opportunity to care for the needy, show compassion and be the hands and feet of Christ in their community. LCMS members can volunteer, serve as board members or even become an employee of one of these wonderful organizations. RSOs help Christians live out their faith in service to their neighbor.

9. RSOs provide training for the church

Not only do RSOs provide hands-on opportunities to care for others and share the Gospel, many also produce resources to equip Christians to do the same. Recognized non-profits like The Apple of His Eye Mission Society and Lutheran Hispanic Missionary Institute supply training for evangelism and outreach in specific contexts. RSOs are helping to equip the church in her mission.

10. RSOs are on college campuses

College is a key formational time for many young adults. As their mind and world expand through education and they step into the tumultuous world of adult life, students need a way to stay grounded in their faith. RSOs like Fairmount Ministries in Witchita, Kan. reach out to college students, walking alongside them in this new stage of life and encouraging them to come to a deeper understanding of the faith. RSOs serve students, too.