Coming Together: Lutheran Social Ministry Network Meets in Minneapolis for Inspiring Annual Conference

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2016 LSA Annual ConferenceThe theme of the LSA 2016 Annual Conference was "Coming Together: Building the Path, Shining the Light," and this sentiment was felt throughout the keynote speakers, the breakout sessions, the community of practice meetings, the worship and the opportunities for fellowship and friendship. We were blessed with the participation of close to 350 people, our largest gathering in three years, engaged in the work of Lutheran social ministry, called to serve and guided by our mission to lift up our communities and amplify our voices.  

We couldn't have asked for a nicer host city than Minneapolis (and St. Paul!). We are grateful for the hospitality, leadership and support provided by our local members and partners. We experienced "Minnesota Nice" in full force and the gathering was an overall success, despite a little rain that wasn't able to dampen the spirit of our attendees.

Conference highlights:
Attendees commented on the caliber and inspirational nature of the three keynote speakers, who shared their personal faith journeys as well as their lessons learned from their national and international work lifting up communities and transforming lives:  

  • Jonathan Reckford, Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity International
  • Jonathan Lever, Executive Vice President, Chief Membership & Programs Officer, YMCA of the USA (Y-USA)
  • Dr. Kathryn Edin, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University 

Visit the resources page of our website for highlights from the keynoters' presentations as well as handouts, photos and videos related to the Annual Conference:

Annual Conference attendees line-up for book-signing with Dr. Kathryn Edin

New this year was a fun book-signing with Dr. Edin for her recently published book, "$2 a Day-Living on Almost Nothing in America" – the line was down the block to meet the author and chat with her about her ground-breaking research into extreme poverty in our own backyards.

Dr. Edin also participated in a breakout session, the "Poverty Response Panel" with several of our member CEOs - Angela Bovill, President and CEO, Ascentria Care Alliance; Drew Genszler, President and CEO, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry; Valarie Ashley, Executive Director, Southeast Ministry; and Dr. Lori Vallelunga, President and CEO, Bethel New Life - to take a deeper dive into the topic and how we as a national network can be doing more together to achieve security for the economically vulnerable.  

Other engaging breakout session topics included: Harnessing the Faith: Engaging Congregations and Communities; The Future of Senior Services: Is The Sky Really Falling? ; and Pioneering Business and Investment Models. These are indicative of the in-depth, thought-provoking and relevant breakout sessions that characterize the annual conference. (Want to see what else you missed? Peep at the 2016 agenda here.)

Also new this year:
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Foundation hosted a "Planned Giving Luncheon" on the topic of how the ELCA Foundation serves Lutheran social ministry and ways to implement, launch and upgrade legacy giving programs. The conversation was led by Annette Shoemaker, Director, ELCA Foundation and Rev. Glenn Miller, Vice President of External Relations, SpiriTrust Lutheran.

Building on last year's very popular breakout session on building a culture of philanthropy presented by "The Billionaire Whisperer" Jennifer McCrea, Senior Research Fellow for Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard University, this year McCrea presented on the topic of how social ministry organizations can leverage the ‘Jeffersonian Dinner' concept to enhance their development efforts – and followed the session with an actual Jeffersonian Dinner that evening for 40 participants – the dinner concept proved very popular, and sold out in a short period of time! The robust development content also featured an interesting panel discussion featuring the perspective of several leading national foundations: Michael Shaw, Program Officer, The Kresge Foundation; Nora OBrien-Suric, Ph.D., Senior Program Officer, The John A. Hartford Foundation; Teresa Markowitz, Vice President, Center for Systems Innovation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Courtney Smith, Program Associate for Resilience, The Rockefeller Foundation; and moderator Leah Lundquist, Program Manager-Leadership Development, Minnesota Council on Foundations.

Learning Tour participants get a first-hand look at how local
organizations are seving refugees in their communities

The "Learning Tour" focused on the important topic of refugee resettlement and the work of LSA members and partners to create an environment of welcome. Special thanks to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) for their sponsorship and support of the tour, that took participants to three vibrant communities in the Twin Cities and gave a first-hand look at how LSA members, working in partnership with LIRS, are innovating to serve the needs of newly arrived Americans and their communities.

Annual Meeting
The Annual Conference traditionally includes the Annual Meeting of the LSA membership to conduct the business of the network. We're pleased to report that the Fiscal Year 2017 budget was approved and a new Board member was elected, Larry Bradshaw, CEO and President of National Lutheran Communities & Services, who will begin his term on July 1. LSA Board Chairperson Betty Oldenkamp, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, honored Board members whose terms end June 30 for their leadership and service, Wendy Goldstein, President Emeritus, NYU Lutheran, and Dr. Brian Hofland, President, Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.

Click here for materials from the annual meeting >

LSA honors outgoing Board members Wendy Goldstein and Brian Hofland

We also made sure to celebrate the fellowship that makes our Lutheran social ministry network special. The "Connect the Dots" reception at the American Swedish Institute allowed us to recognize our Scandinavian heritage while meeting new friends and reconnecting with colleagues.

Meeting new friends and reconnecting with colleagues at the Connect the Dots reception American Swedish Institute hosts reception in recognition of Scandinavian heritage

We are extremely thankful to Thrivent Financial for hosting a lovely and elegant Thank You reception for our donors and supporters on Wednesday evening, which included a presentation from their Curator on their world-class collection of religious artwork and a tour of their gallery with an exclusive sneak preview of their latest exhibit, "Curious Creatures – Animals on Paper".

Many thanks to Thrivent Financial CEO Brad Hewitt and President Teresa Rasmussen for their warm hospitality and long-standing support of LSA and social ministry.

A Great Big Thank You to our Sponsors & Exhibitors
We thank all our sponsors, exhibitors, advertisers and supporters! If you didn't have a chance to visit with them at the conference, please take a moment to learn more about products, services and partnerships that can benefit your ministry. Their support makes our conference possible, and your business in turn helps benefit the national network of Lutheran social ministry organizations.
Lead sponsors:

We are deeply appreciative of our donors and corporate partners who contribute to the work of the Lutheran Services in America network.

Connect with Us
We invite you to view all the photo highlights from this year's event, please tag yourselves in the photos and share your comments:

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Save the date for 2017 Annual Conference!
May 3-6, 2017
Washington, D.C.

For information on all upcoming events:

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