Project Overview

For nearly 50 years, mainline churches have experienced declines in the number of people attending and participating in congregational life. This decline, along with other contributing factors, is evidenced in the many small congregations struggling to sustain vital ministries. With the Covid 19 social distancing and gathering restrictions, these congregations are feeling additional stress. In the near future, it won’t be surprising if many congregations reach a tipping point in the life of their ministry.


The objectives of the project are:

  • Discover new models and strategies for sustainable ministry with small congregations.

  • Develop tools and resources for helping congregations and pastoral leaders who find themselves at a critical tipping point in their ministries.

  • Find direction and discern the best and helpful ways to strengthen the partnership between synods and small congregations struggling with sustainability issues.



This Project has an ELCA focus and will begin by surveying Bishops, Assistants to the Bishop, and Directors of Evangelical Mission 16 ELCA Synods representing North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and western Wisconsin. Rostered leaders and other congregational leaders who are Facebook members will also be invited to complete the survey.

Included in the survey is an invitation for participation on a Partnership Team. This team will act as a steering committee for the project. They will meet online to review the responses to the survey and develop the next steps for synod leadership. Their efforts will focus on developing strategic directions related to the Project’s three main objectives.


The survey has been distributed in May and results will be compiled by mid-June. The first meetings of the Partnership Team will be in June. The goal will be for the Team to produce a report with the survey results and strategic directions by mid-July. The report will be distributed to synods once complete.



Rev. Peter Soli of Dialog Works will coordinate and facilitate this project. This will be provided as an investment in the future of ministry in small congregations.

Call or Text: 507-369-6303   
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Dialog Works

411 Giles Place, Albert Lea, MN  56007

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