By Bishop Ann Svennungsen

Long before women could become pastoral leaders, my mom was a leader in our congregation. I remember her leading in lots of settings – most notably, chair of the building committee for our new sanctuary.

Do I continue to grow in leading in an area where God has given me passion and concern?

I thought a lot about my mom as I prepared to bring a greeting to those gathered in Minneapolis today through Saturday for the Tenth Triennial Convention of the Women of the ELCA.

There’s no question that Mom’s work with the American Lutheran Church Women (ALCW) was key in giving her both the courage and the skills to serve as a leader. When we sorted her files after she died, there was a whole packet of ALCW training materials: “How to Lead a Meeting;” “How to Build an Executive Committee.”

And, at her funeral, we heard again and again from her Bible Study Circles – at St. Luke’s and Hope and Bethlehem Lutheran.


AS WE STUDY THE things that make for congregational vitality in 2017, two things continue to stand out:

  • Participation in small groups around prayer, Bible study, and support
  • Intentional focus on leadership development

Following Jesus isn’t simple or easy in 2017 – as it wasn’t easy for Luther or, even the early church. Perhaps, one way to examine our lives of discipleship – and the focus of our congregation’s ministries is to ask: Am I part of a small group gathered around prayer, Bible study, and support?  Do I continue to grow in leading in an area where God has given me passion and concern? And, finally, does my congregation provide such opportunities?

For many reasons, the women’s organization in my congregation today isn’t nearly as strong as the one that shaped my mother’s life. Still, the small group experiences she had and the lessons she learned through her involvement in ALCW are as critical today as ever.