By Candice Hill Buchbinder, ELCA News

Entering its fifth scheduled year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) first comprehensive campaign, Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, is celebrating $144 million in cash gifts and gift commitments, representing 73 percent of the five-year, $198 million goal by Jan. 31, 2019. In addition, $30.5 million in planned gifts is committed to the ministries of the campaign.

“Through this first-ever campaign, we made a commitment to invest in the future of the ELCA – and working together to do so. Something we learned and saw with the Malaria Campaign is that every gift counts,” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. “It is so important for us to do this together, because together, we can do more. Together, we are deepening our relationships and expanding ministries that serve our neighbors and communities here at home and around the globe.”

Featuring four priorities – Congregations, Hunger and Poverty, Leadership and Global Church – the campaign offers ELCA members the opportunity to invest in the future of this church, enabling programs that share a bold message of God’s grace to the world both today and for many years to come. This year’s emphasis is on the Leadership priority, including ELCA Fund for Leaders and Youth and Young Adults.

Since the campaign’s launch four years ago, gifts to these priorities have made an impact here at home and around the world, including:

  • Young Adults in Global Mission opened four new country programs – Rwanda, Cambodia, Australia and Senegal – with 93 young adults sent into service during the 2017/2018 year, representing a nearly 48 percent growth since 2014.
  • In January, the ELCA Fund for Leaders reached its five-year $15 million goal within the campaign, providing more than 520 students with seminary scholarships. While the initial fundraising goal was met, continued support is needed to achieve the program’s long-range goal of providing full-tuition support for every candidate at an ELCA seminary.
  • With more than $21.5 million contributed in a 12-month span, 2017 was the largest year of direct giving to ELCA World Hunger in the program’s history – a 15 percent increase in annual giving since the campaign began. With this support, 518 projects that help fight hunger in 62 countries, including the United States, are continuing or being implemented.
  • The campaign’s Renewing Congregations initiative reached the $1 million mark, allowing for the implementation of 26 grants across the ELCA, including 16 Synodical Renewing Congregations strategies, six Area Ministry strategies and four Fast Growth Congregations initiatives.
  • Above and beyond the monies raised for the campaign, ELCA members continued to respond generously to numerous disasters in 2017, contributing an additional $23 million in support of this lifesaving work. In total, $41 million has been raised for Lutheran Disaster Response during the life of the campaign.

“The Lord has blessed this campaign. We have accomplished so much together. Yet, there is more work to be done,” said the Rev. Ron Glusenkamp, director for the campaign. “We have a goal, which we plan on meeting and surpassing by Jan. 31, 2019. We’re inviting individuals, congregations, synods and our partners to join us as we rally and make additional gifts to these life-giving ministries.”

This year, the campaign is looking to the future of the church with the Leadership priority. Through this priority, the ELCA is accompanying youth and young adults in their faith journeys and supporting talented, gifted students as they prepare to begin a life of ministry.

“The ELCA Fund for Leaders is investing in the future of the church by supporting outstanding leaders as they answer the call of service to this church and the world,” said the Rev. Gabi Aelabouni, director of ELCA Fund for Leaders. “The Holy Spirit continues to call people with the gifts and passion for transformational leadership. Excellent leaders positively impact the whole church, and the ELCA Fund for Leaders is our commitment that they will be supported in their decision.”

“The ELCA is dedicated to ministries that engage and affirm children, youth and youth adults as an integral part of this church, now and in the future,” added Mark Burkhardt, director of the ELCA Domestic Mission unit’s faith formation team. “The Campaign for the ELCA seeks to provide significant new opportunities for youth and young adults to participate in ministry, develop their leadership skills and pursue their vocational calling as Christians in the world.”

In addition to its emphasis on the Leadership priority, the campaign is focused on:

  • Reaching the $115 million goal for ELCA World Hunger, including supporting and lifting up efforts like the 40 Days of Giving and the Global Farm Challenge as part of the upcoming ELCA Youth Gathering.
  • Continuing to accompany our neighbors from around the world through the Global Church priority. Earlier this month, the ELCA commemorated International Women’s Day with a $100,000 match for gifts to the International Women Leaders initiative.
  • Advancing congregational vitality, as well as enhancing ministries with those with disabilities.

Information about The Campaign for the ELCA is available at ELCA.org/campaign.

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