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.
|Avg. Worship Attendance||112||134||156||231||278||287||326||302||260||272||247||245||230|
Our first building was constructed in 1999 as Ascension members worked alongside Mission Builders to bring this dream 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.) We were able to move into our 10,000 sq. ft. facility a few weeks before Christmas! As you can imagine, there were LOTS of smiles! It was only a few years later, that we realized God had still bigger plans for us. During 2005, we conducted a major capital appeal to raise the raised the needed funds to add on an additional 16,000 sq. ft. of Worship and Education space. Once again using the Mission Builders and member volunteers, work was started in April 2006 and we were able to worship in the new Sanctuary for Easter 2007. We continue to be blessed to worship and learn in this “new” space, even as we joyfully still utilize the “old” space for offices, fellowship, and classrooms
A Big Change
Throughout its 30+ years of history, Ascension has sought to live up to these words from our Constitution: “This congregation believes, teaches, and confesses the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life…” (Chapter 2.03.) Unfortunately, over that same time period, it seemed to several of us at Ascension that the ELCA had continued to drift further and further away from this same commitment to the authority of God’s Word. In 2021, this sad reality led us to engage in a difficult but important time of discussion, discernment, and decision, in which the congregation ultimately voted at two successive special meetings to leave the ELCA and to “dual affiliate” with both Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and also the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). While we are in our very early days of this new partnership, we look forward to where God will lead us in the next 30+ years.
God’s space, not ours
In our early years, we depended upon the hospitality of others to open 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 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 met here, including: Recovery Groups, FdL Piano Teachers, Habitat for Humanity, FdL Historical Society, Teens Encounter Christ, (TEC), Cub Scouts, 4-H Clubs, and even a developing congregation, etc. We have also hosted several piano recitals, baby showers, wedding showers, and birthday parties!
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.
Things to know (continued)
At first, 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 almost $600K. 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 return an offering card giving us their estimate of giving from which our budget is built. It’s 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. More than 15% of our regular offerings are given “off the top” to various benevolent causes. We also support several local and regional ministries with both monetary and in-kind support. We have sent mission teams (adults and/or youth) to several places in the U.S. as well as overseas to Haiti and Belize. (We have a long-standing relationship with the Village of Hope, which is a Lutheran mission in Gaunthier, Haiti with a school and a medical clinic and with Santa Elena Baptist Church in western Belize near San Ignacio.) By God’s grace, our congregation has been blessed to give away nearly $2 million to benevolent causes through the years – and we’re not done yet!
Both Highs & Lows
You need to know that Ascension is NOT a perfect congregation! Like every church family, we’ve had both highs and lows through the years! Several of the highs are listed above but so is the low of the painful conversation and decision to change denominations. Other lows include the economic downturn of 2008-09 when we had to scale back and then eventually cut some staff positions, including a second full-time pastor! In recent years, we have experienced some difficult transitions in our Youth Ministry staff but by God’s grace that has now stabilized. Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on all kinds of challenges as well. By far the best high of all is belonging to Jesus. We also are blessed to have a great staff team and members here.
Some Current Facts include
- We have about 250 families/households in our congregation
- About 20% 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!