Neighborhood Partnerships Help St. Louis Congregation Build Relationships

Ten years ago, things were very different at St. Trinity Lutheran Church. With about 35 members, it had come down to a vote of whether to close the congregation. The vote tied. Fast forward a decade, and you’ll find a vibrant congregation of approximately 70 members always looking for ways to be more present in their neighborhood.

Rev. Dave Lewis points out that you never know what you’re going to see on Sunday morning. Some days you’ll find a family getting their four kids baptized, while other community children attend the church without their parents or guardians, because people feel like it’s a safe place for their kids.

Around the time the congregation almost closed, the Missouri District leadership was recognizing the opportunities of working in urban areas, like the pocket of southern St. Louis city that surrounds St. Trinity. There were a few people who were infusing real energy into keeping the congregation going. Seven years ago, Rev. Lewis was approached about moving to St. Trinity from his church plant in Mississippi. Rather than a church plant, the work at St. Trinity was branded a “church re-launch.”

The defining word for St. Trinity is “welcoming.”

People often comment on how welcome they feel, which is necessary for a congregation serving such a diverse group of people. Their food pantry serves approximately 60 to 70 local families, which draws people to the worship community both directly and indirectly.

They also partner heavily with the neighborhood association, supporting events with cars at the Trunk or Treat, family-focused booths at street festivals and candy or egg stuffing for the Easter egg hunt. When it comes to building local relationships, Rev. Lewis says, “It doesn’t have to be at our place. We look at what’s going on in the community, and we provide the Jesus place or the family place for these kinds of events.”

Working closely with the neighborhood association also ensures St. Trinity doesn’t duplicate their efforts or put on competing events. Urban ministry comes with a lot of challenges. “This is hard work,” he says. “There are not a lot of resources.” It simply makes sense to augment the good work already happening in the congregation’s foot print.

Ultimately, though, he says there’s a simple truth when it comes to community outreach. “Engaging communities means engaging people…We love our neighborhood and we’re always asking how we can help make it a better place to live.”

St. Trinity is one of many organizations that receives financial support from the Missouri District. District mission funds are supporting the leadership development of the lay leaders of St. Trinity, to help them capitalize on the momentum of their current ministry and form concrete plans for future engagement.

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