Beginnings

Our story begins in August of 1988, when Pastor Steve Lunning arrived in Fond du Lac and began knocking on doors on the southeast side of town, inviting people to become a part of a new ministry called Ascension Lutheran Church.  In February of 1989, the first worship service was held at Theisen Junior High.  And on May 6, 1990, the congregation was formally organized as a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  In February 1993, Pastor Lunning accepted a call to serve another congregation.  In November of that same year, Pastor Jeff Blain was called to serve with the people of Ascension.

1994 2000 2006 2012
Baptized Members 180 428 709 829
Confirmed Members 115 308 502 569
Avg. Worship Attendance 96 212 304 268

Buildings

In 1999, Ascension members worked alongside Mission Builders as we saw the dream of our first building come into reality.  (Mission Builders are retired folk from all over the U.S. who live in their trailers on site during the summer and help with basic construction.)  By December, we held our first Worship service in our new building.  Within a few years, it became apparent that God had still bigger plans for us.  In June 2004, we adopted a vision which mapped out the kinds of space and staffing we needed to keep moving forward in ministry.  Less than a year later we completed a major capital fund appeal which resulted in our members pledging to give nearly $700,000 over 3 years towards a two-level building expansion of about 16,000 sq. ft.  Work on the addition began in April 2006 and the Mission Builders were once again a delightful part of it.  Work continued throughout the summer, fall and early winter.  We have been joyfully using the new sanctuary and education space since March 2007.

God’s space, not ours

In our early years, we were dependent upon the hospitality of others who opened their homes, buildings or churches for our use.  That’s probably a big part of what fuels our desire to open up our building space to others community groups who share our vision and values.  (After all, it’s not really “our” building, it belongs to God!)  Over the years, a whole range of groups have used this space, including: Free Spirit Riders, Narcotics Anonymous, FdL Piano Teachers Association, Habitat for Humanity, Cub Scouts, a Special Needs 4-H Club, Gamblers Anonymous, a Community Marriage Initiative, a developing congregation, etc.

Finances

When we started, our congregation was subsidized by several outside sources; by 1997 we were fully self-supporting.  Today, our current annual operating budget along with mortgage payments is about $490,000.  Our fiscal year begins July 1 and we adopt a new budget at our annual meeting in early June.  Each year we ask our members to complete and return an offering card giving us their estimate of giving from which our budget is built.  It is common for our budget to include a “faith factor” which is the difference between estimated income and anticipated expenses.

Giving away to others

In our earliest years, we learned that our congregation needed to receive in order to survive.  But even more significantly, we have learned that our congregation must give away in order to thrive!  For this reason, we continue to look for ways to be supportive of ministries and agencies beyond ourselves.  15% of our regular offerings are given “off the top” to our local Synod and the wider ELCA to support both their general operating fund as well as specified ministries.  We also support several local and area ministries with both monetary and in-kind support.  In recent years, we have sent Mission Teams to WI, MN, IL, MS and TX and we have developed a relationship with the Lazarus Project which is a Lutheran Mission in Haiti as well as with a small Baptist church in Belize.  In the past 22 years, our congregation has given away over $1.2 million in mission support – and we’re not done yet.

Highs & lows

Like every congregation, we’ve had both highs and lows.  Much of what is written above falls into the “highs” category.  Yet it would not be a true picture without making mention of the “lows” as well.  For example, the economic downturn of 2008-09 necessitated some difficult and painful decisions.  Staff positions, hours and compensation all had to be adjusted downward.  When it became apparent that the economy was not going to turn around anytime soon, some cuts remained permanent.  As a result, several key staff including our 2nd Pastor and Adult Ministry Coordinator left to take other positions.  This has been a tough time to go through but it has also helped us to sharpen our focus on Ascension’s mission, purpose and vision and look forward to the future – for with God ALL things are possible!

Things to know

The heart of worship

Around Ascension, we like to say “Worship is not a spectator sport.”  Instead, Worship invites all present to join in the thanks and praise of our awesome God who created the universe and who has rescued us from sin and death through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  In Worship, we have the privilege of gathering with others to hear the story of God’s love, to receive God’s mercy and grace, and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to take the Good News of Jesus to a hurting and broken world.  We want everyone involved!

Growing in faith

Christian Education is an important facet of our ministry, with Sunday classes for children as young as 3 years old all the way up to adults.  In addition to what is offered on Sunday mornings, we also have various Bible Studies and Prayer Groups that meet at other times, as well as other opportunities for women, men, couples and mixed groups.  Our long-term goal is to involve every person in ongoing Spiritual Education and Formation.

Current facts

  • We have about 280 families/households in our congregation
  • About 30% of our members are children & youth (birth to 18)
  • We enjoy a variety of Worship and Music styles from traditional to contemporary
  • The average Length of our Worship Service is 1 hour and 15 minutes.  (At least!!!)
  • There is much JOY and LAUGHTER whenever we get together!