NEW ULM - Our Savior's Lutheran Church has been a place to worship in New Ulm for the past 67 years, but it remains young at heart.
Through the decades, Our Savior's has stressed inclusiveness, and it continues to build on to this concept today.
According to Senior pastor the Rev. Debra Bergstrand, the church began as alternative for Protestants who were unable to speak or understand German. These days the congregation's membership includes many younger families with children.
Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
The staff of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church includes (from left to right) Senior Pastor the Rev. Debra Bergstrand, Youth Director Zach Hansen, Associate Pastor the Rev. John Gabrielson, Children’s Minister Becky Eikanger, and Music Director Shannon Stuckey.
Staff changes have taken place during the past two years.
Bergstrand came to the church in March 2012. Associate pastor the Rev. John Gabrielson joined the church in March 2013. In May 2013 Lynda Bauer became business administrator. Zach Hansen started as youth director in August 2013. Becky Eikanger has been Christian Education Director for the last two years, but she has been with the church since 2008.
When asked what brought each of them to Our Savior's, the staff cited the congregation's friendly, welcoming nature and their appreciation for its focus on children.
Hansen joined Our Savior's in large part to the value the church placed on youth ministry. "I felt it was an uplifting place to be," he said.
Gabrielson said the church's focus on children impressed him. "The clincher for me was this congregation's history of raising up and caring about young children."
"This church is bursting with children," said Eikanger. One of her favorite moments was seeing the large number of kids taking part in the children's service.
The staff agree that children are not just the future of the church, they are also the present.
Wednesday Lenten services are led by the congregation's youth.
Other programming is aimed at the family unit. In early May, Family Sunday School is scheduled.
"The whole congregation comes together," said Gabrielson. "At that particular one we will be looking to help people practice faith in the home." He explained that teaching faith should start in, and primarily, be a part of home life. The Family Sunday School program brings parents and grandparents into the teaching process.
Wednesday programming also features two children's choirs directed by Shannon Stuckey.
Related to the youth programing Our Savior's has expanded the building's wireless Internet range.
This Internet access not only assists staff but also benefits high school students, Hansen said. Many teens take advantage of the church's Youth Room in the basement to do homework. The facility is also frequently used by students who are not necessarily involved in church programs.
Wireless access was also useful in connecting with new people, Bergstrand said. Recently Our Savior's invited people to join a special online devotion called "God Pause" as part of the Lenten season.