Year End Letter

It’s not too late to email a year end letter.  What is a year end letter?  A year end letter is often a letter that summarizes the year and shares what is ahead for the next year with an ask for donations. I have found these letters to be difficult to write because how do you summarize the past and how do you ask?  Do you make a list of accomplishments with numbers and graphs? Do I make a wish list? Do you make a goals list for next year?  Let’s just be honest, many churches do not always have very well-defined goals.  What do you do?  Here are some tips for writing a year end letter.

One of the reasons I don’t like writing a year end letter is the fear of sounding like a beggar or a salesman.  I think both are insults to God, and we are neither. We are proclaimers and teachers of the Gospel.  People need to know and be reminded of the important Kingdom work given to us and how to be stewards of it.  Engage and challenge them in their walk.

One pastor shared with me that his congregation has been incredibly generous through the pandemic and they are up 20%.  Does he need to write a year end letter?  Yes!  He needs to praise the Lord with the people and give thanks. A simple leadership principle to remember is: What gets celebrated gets done.  Celebrate the good in your newsletter.

Your best letter is one that your people help you write. I save positive comments from the year in a file.  At the end of the year I look for comments that illustrate what God is doing among us.  I share these stories with other ministry highlights. These stories tell more than numbers or graphs on a page.  The letter is not about your church gained 10 or even 100 members.  It is about how God has changed lives through the Word and Sacrament.

I know many pastors struggle with asking for money. Giving is part of discipleship and we should not be afraid to ask.  One way that helps with the ask, is to ask with other leaders. I now write the letter and have the president and head elder edit and sign it with me.  When you ask, be clear what the need is, and align it with your vision and mission. Lastly, provide an easy way to give. If you mail your letter, then include a giving envelope that is addressed to the church with a stamp.  If you email it, then be sure to include your link for giving in the letter.

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

He Is a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!

The old saying is true, “holidays can bring out the best and the worst in people.” Even in the church there are people who are negative and critical of you. They say words that can hurt, especially when it is something you have worked hard on. What can you do when you have a Mr. or Mrs. Grinch in the church?

The hardest thing to do when hearing criticism is to actively listen. Listening to what the person is saying and what the meaning is. Active listening seeks clarity of the issue and possible solutions. After getting clarity, take an appropriate amount of time to reflect on your actions. Ask the hard question: “Is there any truth to their criticism?” Not all criticism is bad; it is just sad in bad ways. It is our nature to want to dismiss it or rationalize it. Don’t. Many times, comments will expose a weakness or behavior that we are unaware of how it is affecting others. Before you dismiss it, listen to it. There might be an insight you are missing. Not all comments have the same weight so it is important to consider the source.

John Maxwell taught me, “hurting people, hurt people.” When we run into a Mr. or Mrs. Grinch who says hurtful things, it is often because they are hurting, and it really has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The challenge is not to become defensive or argumentative to prove you’re right, but to respond with empathy. Try to get in the person’s shoes to get what is behind the comment. Ask what is going on in their life? What stress, anxiety, brokenness, etc., are they dealing with?  Don’t assume they have it in for you. Sometimes these comments are bids for your attention and help. Seek to connect on the issue beyond the issue. Again, I said connect to the issue and not try to fix the issue or them. Sometimes hurting people just need to know you care and you are there for them. Fight for the relationship first before your point.

3. E.G.R.
No that is not a typo but a little saying I remind myself of when dealing with a Grinch. It stands for Extra Grace Required. In these situations, we need to apply extra grace to the situation especially when every part of us wants to stand up and shout, “You are wrong” and “Get in line with everyone else.” Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 4:8 “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

When I restarted Hope Lutheran Church, I had a Mrs. Grinch, so I thought. We had some tension filled discussions. I didn’t practice what I am sharing. In reflection, I made too many changes as the new pastor and was very opinionated. Some might even say stubborn on things that were not very important. My actions caused tension and anxiety in Mrs. Grinch. Little did I know there was already tension from a former pastor’s wife who was very legalistic about altar guild. I didn’t see her issue behind the issue or my own issues. The bottom line is I made these worse. I am so thankful she put on love and covered my sins. Eleven years later she is one of my closest members and greatest advocates. She has stood by me through the highs and lows. I will always be in debt to her because she gave me grace, listened enough to get beyond the issues, and sought the relationship first before being right.

Expect a Mr. and Mrs. Grinch will be in your congregation. Look in the mirror and make sure it is not you. Either way, apply the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who came not to condemn but to save us with grace upon grace all the way to the cross.

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

St. Mark’s in Elberta Gives Out Family Advent/Christmas Bags

Since we have not yet been able to return to a COVID safe Sunday school at St. Mark’s, we provided Advent/Christmas bags for every family in the church. Inside the bags were Jesse Tree devotions and ornaments, an activity book for each child in the family, a craft for each child, two CDs of Christian music (with a code to download them onto an electronic device as well), and a bit of candy. We have been so pleased with the response of the congregation for these items. We also gave every family the 40 Days of Comfort devotions from the LCMS Disaster Response Office. We thank Thrivent Action Team grants for providing seed money for this project!


St. Mark’s Lutheran Hosts Comfort Dogs

St. Mark’s in Elberta, AL, hosted three comfort dogs and their handlers to help those in our community who have suffered the effects of Hurricane Sally. The dogs went to three schools on Friday, October 2, and stayed in the Elberta area at the town park and the church on Saturday and Sunday, October 3-4. They are part of Lutheran Church Charities, a national human care ministry embracing the unique, calming nature and skills of purebred golden retrievers.

LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs are working animals, trained to interact with people of all ages and circumstances who are suffering and in need. The dogs participate in scheduled and special events. Dogs are permanently placed with churches, schools, and other ministries involved in Christian human care by LCC. Permanent placement includes full training for handlers and caregivers along with ongoing support, coaching, and training. LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs live in the homes of assigned caregivers. The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs serve every day in the community in which they are placed, and they are dispatched in times of disaster and crisis to bring comfort to all those affected, including first responders and the volunteers who serve them.

Lutheran Church Charities currently has over 130 LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs serving in more than 27 states. LCC operates training facilities in Illinois and Nebraska.

Introducing the St. Paul Food Pantry!

Giving God the glory, St. Paul Lutheran Church (Burgundy) in New Orleans is pleased to announce our new non-perishable food pantry mounted to the building on Port Street. Thanks to the dedication of our church members, we will be able to provide nourishment to those in need. Both funding and in-kind donations make this service possible. St. Paul is grateful for the Thrivent Action Team grant and the generous donation from CEF (Church Extension Fund) Director, Rev. Stephen Linck.

Everyone is encouraged to take what they need and leave what they can, which decreases stigma for anyone approaching the pantry. It holds up to 60 cans and has room for larger items on the bottom shelf.

Information about the structure …
The pantry is made of treated exterior plywood that resembles barge board wood – the same material congregants would have used in the 1840s. Along with the corrugated tin roof, vertical slat trim, and extra layers of white paint, it appears the pantry was built 180 years ago, serving as a reminder of our commitment to neighbors for many generations.

The pantry itself is compliant with ADA regulations, has spring loaded door hinges to ensure it remains closed and unbreakable Lexan windows. The inside is painted bright yellow and includes a motion sensor light for night-time access.

Matthew 25:35-36
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”




Christ the King in Natchitoches, Louisiana, hosted its first monthly cruise-in on August 15, 2020, at the Sonic in Natchitoches. This is an outgrowth of our annual Cruisin’ with the King car show. It’s a great way to continue developing relationships with folks in town.

We will be taking September off to prepare for the huge annual Natchitoches car show on Front Street at the end of September. Our next cruise-in will be October 17 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on our Ctk grounds.