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St. Paul’s brings ministry into sharper focus with VisionPath

Youngsters take part in chapel service at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Oconomowoc, Wis., which is taking a close look at future ministry through LCEF’s VisionPath experience.

Like most congregations, the members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Oconomowoc, Wis., have varied interests – and varied ideas about the ministry direction their church should pursue.

Some prefer to focus on facility needs, while others favor a greater emphasis on emotional care. Still other members want more outreach to young adults, senior citizens or the unchurched in general – depending on whom you talk to.

“While everyone’s hopes and dreams [for the church] have merit, there’s no way at this stage in our journey that we have the resources to do everything,” said the Rev. Lance O’Donnell, St. Paul’s senior pastor.

Students take part in an "Aspiration to Action" ministry session held this winter at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School, Oconomowoc, Wis.

That’s one reason the church turned to Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s VisionPath experience, created by LCEF Senior Vice President Max Biesenthal to help congregants consider different ministry directions and – taking into account needs, opportunities and resources – bring into sharper focus the path where God is pointing.

“What once was opaque is becoming clearer,” O’Donnell said about how St. Paul’s is determining its ministry vision.

Although congregants were already working toward that goal, they are using VisionPath to achieve greater clarity and to tap into the expertise of the Rev. Dr. John Sproul, an LCEF regional vice president.

“We’re relying on John for the experience he has from working with so many other congregations and for the resources that LCEF brings to the table,” O’Donnell said. “He’s been very valuable.”

By early May, St. Paul’s had honed in on a distinct need in their congregation and community – to provide a “continuum of care for all generations, from infancy through older adult care,” the pastor said. 

As congregants plan to celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary next year, they are using VisionPath to help them look even farther down the road.

St. Paul’s began the popular Kinder Place early childhood ministry around the time of its 125th anniversary. Today, members pray they are moving in the direction of another strong ministry to share witness and mercy.

“We don’t want to look at our 150th [year] as any kind of end but as a beginning on a journey that, God willing, we will be able to accomplish what we all want to do and what He wants us to do,” O’Donnell said.

In addition to St. Paul’s, several other congregations in the Upper Midwest Region are using – or have plans to use – VisionPath, facilitated by Sproul. They include:

  • St. Peter’s, Reedsburg, Wis.
  • St. Paul’s, West Allis, Wis
  • Trinity, Merrill, Wis.
  •   Trinity Lone Oak, Egan, Minn. 

To learn more how VisionPath can help your congregation discover and embrace God’s path for your ministry, call LCEF at 800-843-5233 or visit