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Experiments in Action: Christian Minimalism Community

This “Experiments in Action” blog series features individuals and communities who are trying something new. This post features a story from The Rev. Rebecca Ehrlich, Interim Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop in the Allegheny Synod and founder of an online community exploring Christian Minimalism.

In December 2017, I was browsing through Netflix, and one of the suggested documentaries was Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. I knew nothing about the minimalism movement or the two men who put the documentary together who call themselves “The Minimalists,” Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. But it looked interesting, and it was only an hour and 15 minutes, so why not?

In less than an hour, my life and worldview had completely changed. I knew that God, through this documentary, was calling me to live a more simplified and minimal life. When I watched the film again with my husband later that day, I put together that minimalism (focusing on the aspects of life that matter most and intentionally removing everything else) and the Christian faith and spirituality were connected in a meaningful way. I wanted to read more about minimalism through a Christian lens, so I did some research. Turns out, no one at the time was writing about the connection between Christian faith and minimalism in any great depth.

I knew that I couldn’t be the only one who wanted to delve into minimalism and the Christian faith, so I started a Christian Minimalism blog,, and a Christian Minimalism Facebook page— while also making incredible changes in my lifestyle and worldview. At first, only a handful of my friends and family were reading the blog and connected to the Facebook page. But more and more people discovered the blog and the page, and within a year there were just under 6,000 people connected to Christian minimalism through Facebook.

As more people started to discover Christian minimalism, more online conversations and participation began to happen. People all over the U.S. and the world, and from all different Christian traditions (and some from other faith traditions!) were having conversations about how to live out their faith through minimalism. A Facebook group, Christian Minimalism Community began so that people could post and have more in-depth conversations around these topics, and just under 1,000 people regularly connect as a part of that community today.

These online communities are a place where people can bounce ideas off of others who are also on this journey, as well as ask questions and discuss in-depth how to spiritually and faithfully live a lifestyle that Jesus himself lived and taught while on earth.

This online community has become especially important during the pandemic; Christian minimalism is even more relevant now as we are unable to do activities we could do previously, and online connections and discussions are essential when we are unable to meet together in-person. As folks contemplate what is most important in the face of life and death, these online communities are even more important than they were before. I am grateful that we have this community through the ups and downs of our contexts and lives.

The ELCA Innovation Lab Blog is new! We’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve got a few minutes, complete this short survey. If you have any additional questions or comments let us know at

Experiments in Action: Daily Bread Matching Grants

This post features information about ELCA World Hunger’s Daily Bread Matching Grants which support congregations and their partners as they work toward a just world where all are fed. Applications are currently being accepted for a new round of Daily Bread Matching Grants . To find out more check out this blog post from ELCA World Hunger and

A successful pilot

Approximately ninety-six percent of ELCA congregations participate in some form of feeding ministry, from community meals to food pantries and more. Today, ELCA World Hunger is connecting hundreds of those congregations with tools for building sustainability in the midst of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic through the new Daily Bread Matching Grants. But Daily Bread Matching Grants did not appear as a response to the pandemic overnight. They have been in development for over a year and, based on user feedback, have been able to adapt to best serve congregations with feeding ministries in a changing landscape.

How do Daily Bread Matching Grants work? Congregations raise financial support for their feeding ministry using the ELCA’s online crowdfunding tool. All funds raised by the congregation are theirs to use in support of the feeding ministry. A congregation sets a goal for raising $500 or beyond, and unlock a $500 matching grant from ELCA World Hunger. In just a few weeks, congregations have new connections and new capital to fuel ministry. Back in 2019, ELCA World Hunger piloted Daily Bread Matching Grants as a new way to support congregational feeding ministries.

2019 Daily Bread Matching Grant Pilot Goals & Results:

  1. Goal: Support domestic anti-hunger ministries as they work toward a just world where all are fed in transformative, holistic and integrated ways.
    • Result: 19 of the 20 congregations unlocked their matching grant and together raised a total of $25,480
  2. Goal: Identify, cultivate and engage new local hunger leaders
    • Result: 75% of congregations did not have a designated Hunger Leader before participating.

Responding to covid-19

Fast forward to the beginning of 2020 and the coronavirus began to spread across the United States. Food insecurity followed, and questions began to arise. For meal programs and feeding ministries, how might food distribution need to be adjusted to ensure the safety of volunteers and neighbors? How might the economic downturn increase the need for food?

“We wanted to respond quickly and make sure congregations were getting support as they serve their neighbors. Daily Bread Matching Grants seemed like a great way to do that while also equipping congregations to quickly raise funds in a pivotal moment when many people in the church and beyond were looking for ways to support their local feeding ministries.” said Juliana Glassco, Director, Planning and Engagement, ELCA World Hunger.

As part of the ELCA’s COVID-19 response plan, ELCA World Hunger announced a special launch of Daily Bread Matching Grants with up to 100 grants of $500 each, available to ELCA congregations. One thing was clear: ministries needed quick access to monetary resources to respond to need in their communities. With the unique ministry moment and experience of past iterations in mind, this new version of the grant had a key feature:

  • The $500 grant from ELCA World Hunger was dispersed to congregations immediately once their application was approved. They would receive funds as soon as possible, whether or not they met the $500 fundraising goal. This change was made to specifically address the widespread and immediate need caused by COVID-19.

Interest in the grants was significant and over 250 applications were received in the span of a few days.

In response, the number of grants available was expanded to 200. On April 3rd congregations opened their fundraising pages and began accepting gifts.

Together, congregations raised over $200,000 in support of their feeding ministries. Once the amount raised was matched by ELCA World Hunger the total impact from online giving was over $313,000.

Reflecting on the experience, a congregational leader of Messiah Lutheran Church, Schenectady, NY said “It not only allowed us to add funding for our food pantry, it also helped us raise awareness, which will help us position the pantry to be a long-term solution for our community’s hunger needs.”

Into the Future

Daily Bread Matching
Learn more about iteration and integrating
feedback here. 

“We’ve learned that, with the right tools and timely support, we can help to unlock the incredible generosity that exists in congregations and communities across the country,” said Glassco.

While online giving was familiar to some congregations and brand new for others, across the board the Daily Bread Matching Grants generated excitement in congregations. In addition to offering future grant opportunities to congregations, ELCA World Hunger is now able to connect with those ministries as they consider their next steps, even offering access to coaching for ministry leaders through ELCA Coaching.

ELCA World Hunger will continue to look for ways to unlock generosity and help ELCA congregations serve their neighbors.

The ELCA Innovation Lab Blog is new! We’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve got a few minutes, complete this short survey. If you have any additional questions or comments let us know at

Experiments in Action: Tree of Life

This “Experiments in Action” blog series features individuals and communities who are trying something new. This post features a story from Tree of Life, Minneapolis, MN a Lutheran church start-up that is queer-affirming, millennial-led, and for the spiritual but also slightly religious. This post is written by The Rev. Marissa Sotos, pastor at Tree of Life.

Before Covid-19: Background

Before Covid-19, Tree of Life Lutheran was a millennial-focused mission start in the North Loop neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis that was turning toward intentional long term planning. We had established Evening Prayer and Dinner gatherings on the first Sunday of every month that were the anchor of our faith community’s spiritual and social life, with a rotation of other gatherings throughout the month for service, yoga, theology on tap, etc. One major problem we faced was that to create opportunities for invitation, connection to newcomers, and a habitual pattern for participants we needed to have our primary worship gatherings more frequently and make them easily accessible. ​​​​​​​

Tree of Life Worship
A worship service at Tree of Life

Meeting more frequently posed serious resource problems including a lack of staff time for planning and a lack of funds for worship space rental and food (dinner was always provided). Our worship space also posed several accessibility problems: it was at the back of a building down a hall and had extremely limited parking. Additionally, spreading an average attendance of 15 people over multiple Sunday’s posed a potential risk.

While being intentional about our commitments to worship, prayer, music and rich interaction, we began to plan ways to strip down Sunday gatherings to be group facilitated and easily navigable for visitors. We also decided to try stretching our resources to add another gathering on the third Sunday of every month.

Now: The Experiment

​​​​​​​On Saturday, March 14th, the night before what was to be our first third Sunday together, word of community spread of Covid-19 led Tree of Life to abruptly shift plans to go online the following day. We realized immediately we needed to do two things: first, create high quality and highly interactive online worship that could help provide a communal and spiritual safety net during extreme stress, and second, offer it weekly as members and friends lives began to change by the hour. We chose Zoom as a platform because it was highly interactive, easy to use and easy to share. The first service went ahead with what we had planned for worship that day which was Holden Evening Prayer. Everyone who was planning to attend that Sunday successfully made the last-minute switch to Zoom and we found we could easily converse in a group our size. However, Worship did not go well. We learned very quickly that communal singing was impossible due to lag, and that following along on a PDF bulletin without much interaction or explanation led to people quickly giving up on participating.

Tree of Life

Recognizing these problems, we spent the next several weeks building a format for gatherings that worked with, rather than against, Zoom. We flipped our social and check-in time to be before worship rather than after it so that everyone would know who was in the “room.” We adjusted singing to be either call and response that could be done between two different computers, or easy to sing melodies that everyone except the musician would sing along with on mute. We added a lay-led Bible Study component, continued our tradition of volunteering for first readings but with a wider variety of poetry, and asked everyone to show up with cups and candles. This meant we had some common physical objects to work with: cups to talk about how full our spiritual “cup” was that week and candles to light together at the beginning of Evening Prayer and extinguish together at the end. ​​​​​​​

Then we started inviting people and realized that our new location and format was more accessible to visitors. We could send a link to someone anywhere, it was easy for them to find us, low risk to show up, and interaction over Zoom made it easy for people to participate to their comfort level. We also found that worshipping digitally solved the problem of limited resources. We no longer needed to budget for rent or food or budget time for space set up, and even if our numbers were small there were enough of us every week to make a Zoom call feel full where a physical space might have felt empty.

Into the Future: Learnings

Worshipping weekly and worshipping digitally have become part of our DNA as a faith community. As we anticipated, gathering weekly has made us a stronger and more mature community while also providing more opportunities to invite guests and integrate them. We have found that simple but frequent gatherings work better for us than occasional elaborate ones and being digital gives us the resources to support those. The convenience and untethered nature of digital gatherings also mean that we often have worshippers from a much larger geographical area than we would have before and that our core group shows up more frequently than they would in-person. Finally, we have found that being an online community gives us new options (and new challenges) for outreach and getting to know people.​​​​​​​

There are also many things we lost in moving online: communal singing, regular communion practice, eating dinner together, and passing the peace in-person. We miss those things and still look forward to resuming in-person worship when it is safe. At the same time, we don’t want to lose our new out of town community members, the ease of accessibility and the sacred space we’ve found in our online format, or our ability to stretch our resources. When Covid-19 is no longer such a present danger we plan to shift again and become a hybrid community, worshipping both online and in-person. We don’t know exactly what that will look like yet but have clarified our priorities around weekly worship and broad access. Having pivoted so completely once we know we can do it again to bring together the most important components of our community’s online and in-person life.

The ELCA Innovation Lab Blog is new! We’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve got a few minutes, complete this short survey. If you have any additional questions or comments let us know at