Know a community or group of people where the gospel would flourish?
Know someone with the gifts to start ministries?
Great! You should nominate them for the Sower’s Project! The Sower’s Project is a synod-wide initiative to seed grassroots ministries in our communities, and encourage them to grow and thrive. Anyone in the synod may nominate a community where they think a new ministry is needed, or a leader equipped to “sow” a new ministry.
Leaders with ideas for ministry projects may also submit an their idea for a ministry project.
Initial “Seed” grants of up to $10,000 will be given for projects with a scope of 6-12 months. Funding may also be available for some larger projects. A total of $250,000 in grants may be authorized annually by the bishop. Nominations and applications are received on a rolling basis and considered the third Thursday of odd numbered months. There is therefore no deadline to apply.
A ministry idea or project that helps share the Good News of God’s love with groups of people not currently served by the Church and creates opportunities for those folks to connect to or form Christian communities. A major goal of the Sowers Grants is to seed ministry projects with the long-term potential to become new Word & Sacrament ministries in our Synod. Successful proposals should outline how the envisioned ministry intends to build a community centered around Christian faith.
We have received many proposals for ministries of service that aim to do incredible good for our neighbors in Christ’s name. While we encourage this kind of ministry, a Sower’s Project must have explicitly faith-related components and demonstrate a plan for creating or welcoming those served into Christian worshipping community. Just to help clarify, here are some examples of what might constitute a Sower’s Project and what might not:
A community garden would not be a Sower’s Project. A community garden with an eco-spirituality group and/or regular outdoor worship for the community and/or a weekly blessing of the vegetables would potentially be a Sower’s Project.
A dance camp for kids in the neighborhood would not be a Sower’s Project. A dance camp for kids in the neighborhood that connected them to a new or existing liturgical dance ministry in a congregation would potentially be a Sower’s Project.
A tattoo removal ministry for former gang members would not be a Sower’s Project. A tattoo removal ministry for former gang member that invited those served into a peer support group with bible study might be a Sower’s Project.
See our Sowers Project Rubric for more guidance on what types of projects we support.
Anyone with a strong love of God and neighbor! Leaders (or “sowers”) don’t have to be ordained or have gone to seminary, though if their ministry takes off, we may invite them to do more theological study. It is important that sowers be self-starters, have good interpersonal and communication skills, be able to clearly and confidently share their faith, be able to adapt to change, and capable of handling failure. Because of the short-term nature of the Seed Grants, it is also important that nominees have some source of financial security other than the grant. For this reason, the nomination form includes a question about the nominee’s current employment.
Any community not being served by an existing ministry in the Metro New York Synod. The goal of the Sowers Project is to plant seeds for ministry in communities and groups of people which are not currently being served. So if your church has a wonderful but already existing ministry that could use support, we encourage you to check out some of the other grants available. That said, existing churches can certainly help start new ministries to new communities using a Seed Grant!
In particular, what we are looking for are groups of people who already share some connection to each other, but are not currently connected to the gospel of Jesus Christ in either word or deed. Some examples could include:
An assisted living community with no opportunities for bible study or worship
An ethnic or linguistic community with no worship opportunities in their own culture or language (even if there is an existing Lutheran church in another language/culture on the same block).
An interest group, service organization, or club not currently connected to a religious organization.
Informal communities that gather in public places like basketball courts, chess tables at parks, or cafeterias at lunch
Concentrated groups of subcultures not currently being served by a local congregation, such as homeless communities, recently graduated students near a local college, or surfers who gather at a specific beach.
What Happens After I Nominate an Idea or Person?
Phase 2) Reviewing Applications:
On a quarterly basis, the Innovation Team will review nominations and match promising nominated leaders with promising nominated communities and proposals. Those nominations that the Innovation Team feels offer promise to proclaim the gospel and meet the Sower Project criteria will be scheduled for interviews.
Phase 3) Meeting Applicants:
The Innovation Team, in collaboration with the Director of Evangelical Mission, Pastor Lamont Wells, will interview promising nominees either in person or via video conferencing to further access potential matches between nominated leaders, communities, and projects.
Phase 4) Creating Assessment Rubric:
Prior to receiving funding, leaders of approved projects will create a self-assessment rubric including a set of goals, a loose time-line for their project, and a plan for what will happen when Sower’s Project funding ends. Each leader, in collaboration with the Innovation Team, will outline a supervisory system comprised of mentors, advisors, and supporting congregations. Leaders will be expected to support one another through write-ups on the Sower’s Project blog and gatherings twice a year with other Sower’s Project leaders.
Phase 5) Execution of Projects:
Leaders will be given funding, encouragement and support to carry out their projects.
Phase 6) Interpretation of Results:
Throughout the ministry experiment, leaders will blog their experiences on the Sower’s Project website. At the end of the experiments, leaders will assess the experiment using the rubrics they created and provide commentary to interpret the assessment. These assessments will also be posted on the Sower’s Project website for public edification and to spread the word about Sower’s Project, thus restarting the phase cycle. Projects which seem rooted in good soil will be passed along to the Director of Evangelical Mission as potential sites for a Congregation Under Development and longer term funding.
The Innovation Team
The Innovation Team is tied specifically to the Gathered Committee of the Metropolitan New York Synod’s Strategic Plan. The Innovation Team currently consists of the following: Faith Rowold, Pastor Becca Seely and Pastor Paul Walley. Former members of this team include Pastor Marc A. Stutzel, Alex Lawrence, Pastor Emily Scott, Pastor Ben Colahan and Renee Wicklund.