Mustard Seed Ministries

Stories
11/07/2013

Mustard Seed Ministries 
Mustard Seed Ministries in Loveland, Colo.,
meets in members’ homes.

By Wendy Healy

The Mustard Seed Ministries in the ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod is taking a page from the book of Acts.

Acts describes how the early church met in people’s homes, and this new ministry, led by Andy Boesenecker, an ELCA pastoral candidate studying at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, is doing the same thing. It’s a ministry of house churches.

Since December, Andy, who splits his call with King of Glory Lutheran Church in Loveland, Colo., has been leading a discussion and a meal once a month around the dinner table in people’s homes. He kicked off the new ministry by hosting 25 people for tacos and beer at his place last year.

“We’re on the edge,” says the 30-something Andy, “inside a denomination of having house churches be a part of a larger thing.”

The house churches, which welcome people from all faiths, appeal to the Millennials (Generation Y), he says, but children and older adults also participate.

“Largely, the idea of house churches came from a project related to having dinner together. How powerful sharing a meal can be,” Andy shares.

Mustard Seed appeals to the unchurched, he adds, people who are spiritual but not necessarily religious. The group, which chose the name Mustard Seed, is now studying the parable by the same name and figuring out what living out this story means.

Andy recently chose to study Acts 16, where Lydia meets Paul in a place of prayer. “Studying Acts creates room for us to determine who we are. We still call ourselves a church, but it looks different for us.”

And even though Mustard Seed welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and the unchurched, Andy, who will be ordained an ELCA pastor, still sees the church as Lutheran. “We’re redirecting the conversation. It’s not an original idea — it’s THE original idea. It opens up conversation. I understand that we’re part of a denomination that is shedding members, but it’s also important and exciting to be the church right now.”

From its humble beginnings, Mustard Seed has already multiplied to 70 people. When it’s not meeting around someone’s dinner table, the group is doing community service projects for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

“We do service events and other things out in the community so we’re able to say that we’re part of the community. It’s a different way of understanding how we’re in community together.”

In October, Mustard Seed will split into two groups — one meeting in the north and one in the south, in Fort Collins and Loveland. “We’re the church that keeps getting smaller. As groups grow, the groups split,” Andy jokes.

While Mustard Seed hasn’t had communion together yet, as Andy says, “It’s not a ritual that would make sense now.” But he adds, “Discussion is taking place about who we are and how communion can be meaningful.”

The King of Glory congregation has found the growth of Mustard Seed Ministries exciting. “There is anxiety in every church about where young adults and young families are,” he says. “Maybe not every church can do every thing and not every church can reach everyone.”

The relationship between Mustard Seed and King of Glory is helpful and vital, according to Andy.

It’s Andy’s hope that as Mustard Seed continues to grow and split into smaller groups, a dozen or so house churches will spring up. “We’re a community that pushes the envelope,” he adds. “We have the power to be church together.”

“Mustard Seed Ministries are Christ-centered, welcoming, inclusive communities where we empower people to be church together.”

Wendy Healy is an ELCA member and owner of Griffin Communications in Danbury, Conn.

You might also want to read:
The Catacomb Churches
Membership decline in the ELCA
Why empty-nesters are leaving the church

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