Bringing Children to Jesus

In Matthew 19: 14 Jesus told His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  In Matthew 18: 3 He added, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Children show us what it means to be humble and trust.

Lutheran CORE is very pleased to be able to offer a large number of resources on our website for pastors, lay people, and lay leaders of congregations.  We have suggested prayers of the church and hymns for each Sunday, daily devotions, and weekly lectionary-based Bible studies.  Links to these resources can be found here, here and here.

We are now very happy to be able to add weekly, lectionary-based children’s sermons.  Many thanks to ELCA pastor Jim Fitzgerald and his wife Hanna for providing this new resource.  Jim is pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fulton, Maryland.  A link to his children’s messages can be found here. 

The children’s sermons are focused on the lectionary, usually the Gospel.  Hanna plays a lamb puppet named Sammy.  Each week Sammy and the pastor have conversations about Jesus and the disciples.  Pastor Fitzgerald shares, “We keep the scripts simple, fun, easy to understand, and focused on Jesus.”  The scripts are written for young children under the age of twelve, but the Fitzgeralds have noticed that adults also have fallen in love with Sammy’s messages about Jesus.  Each week the Fitzgeralds provide a prop list and Scripture reading along with the script as well as information about each of the characters.  Their goal is to make the scripts “as accessible, readable, and easy to use as possible.”

I asked Pastor Jim how he and his wife became involved in providing children’s sermons.  He wrote –

“During internship, prior to his call to ministry at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fulton, Maryland, Jim served at Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania as a vicar. One of the pastors had conversations with ‘Donkey,’ the puppet his wife played. Jim watched each week as children filled several pews to hear about Jesus from Donkey and the pastor.

“The initial thought both Jim and Hanna had about these children’s sermons was how wonderful they were, but Hanna didn’t want to ever engage in playing a donkey puppet, and then their daughter was born. In October 2023, Pastor Jim was ordained, and he and Hanna began talking about how they could offer meaningful children’s sermons to the children at St. Paul’s. Hanna was not willing to play a donkey, but said she would play a lamb, as long as she could pick out the puppet (the puppet had to be cute). Sammy was born.

“Jim and Hanna started leading children’s sermons together at St. Paul’s Lutheran during the season of Advent in 2023. Working with Sammy, the lamb puppet, they had no idea how the congregation and children would respond to the weekly discussions Sammy and Pastor Jim had together. They had no idea how much the congregation would fall in love with the character of Sammy—and that love has to stem from the church’s deep love of Jesus.

“Each week, Pastor Jim reads the gospel and invites the children to come forward for a children’s sermon. During the time that the children are walking up the aisle, Hanna works her way behind the pulpit, grabs a handheld microphone, and becomes Sammy. One of the members of the congregation created a wooden frame with green felt on the front that slides into place next to the pulpit: Sammy’s meadow.”

A link to further information regarding “The Adventures of Sammy the Lamb” can be found here.

Lutheran CORE would like to thank Pastor Jim Fitzgerald and his wife Hanna for sharing this resource.  To contact Pastor Jim for questions or more information, please email him at

The church’s mailing address is:

11795 Rte. 216,

Fulton, MD 20759

Phone: 301-725-0241

Photo of Pr. FitzGerald and Sammy the Lamb was taken by Sally Murphy.

May 2022 Newsletter

Resources for Ministry to LGBTQ+ Identified Persons

In the January 2022 issue of CORE Voice and the February 2022 letter from the director I had a two-part article entitled, “How Did It Happen?”, in which I explained how groups such as ReconcilingWorks have made use of the principles of community organizing so that they have been able to completely take over the ELCA with their LGBTQ+ values, priorities, and agenda.  A link to the article in the newsletter can be found here.  A link to the letter from the director can be found here

At the end of the second part I described the need for resources for parents, church leaders, and LGBTQ+ identified persons which are Biblically sound, scientifically based, and compassionate in their approach to matters pertaining to same-sex attraction and gender identity, and more broadly relating to sexuality and gender.   

Next month – June – the LGBTQ+ community will be celebrating Pride Month.  In anticipation of that event Lutheran CORE has gathered a list of resources that will provide Biblically sound and compassionate answers to such questions as, “What do I do if I am gay?” and “What should I do now that my child or friend has come out as gay?” 

We began the task of developing this list with the clear understanding that the Bible does not allow for same-sex sexual activity and/or misrepresenting one’s biological sex.  No resource that takes an LGBTQ+ affirming point of view would be included unless in that resource the LGBTQ+ affirming point of view is in dialogue with the traditional point of view regarding sexuality.

The goal in providing this list is to reach LGBTQ+ persons for Christ, to acknowledge their struggles with same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria, and to help them find a healthy way forward and assist them in their efforts to live biblically.

We do not believe that the Bible promises that same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria will disappear if only we will _____.   Rather we are reminded of how God did not remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh (whatever it might have been) in spite of his fervent prayers (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10), and we understand that the Christian life – this side of heaven – is a constant struggle between the flesh and the spirit, as Paul describes in Romans 7.  

The goal is to help same-sex attracted persons live according to a Biblical sexual ethic.  We acknowledge that some will choose to live a celibate life.  Some will marry a person of the opposite sex even though they still struggle with same-sex attractions. 

When working with transgender identified persons, regardless of the initial stance taken on identity markers, the end goal is to help them accept their biological sex. 

We commend these resources to you, and we pray that they will help all of us live in the spirit of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans –

“I appeal to you, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12: 1-2)

Letter from the Director – February 2022




For the January 2022 issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice, I wrote the first part of a two-part article entitled, “How Did It Happen?”  How did LGBTQ+ values, priorities, and agenda completely take over the ELCA, and so quickly?  I began with an explanation of the principles of community organizing and how that methodology has been used extremely effectively by such groups within the Lutheran community as ReconcilingWorks.  A link to that article can be found here.

In that article I covered such things as –

  • Resources for further study
  • Community organizing as part of the curriculum at ELCA seminaries
  • The emphasis upon strong relationships and shared values
  • The “Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit” from ReconcilingWorks
  • Minimal use and major misuse of Scripture

In this second part I will further describe how those who put into practice the principles of community organizing can take over a congregation.  Then I will close with several suggestions as to what those who hold to a high view of the authority of the Bible and the Bible’s clear teachings regarding human sexuality can and need to do.    

Mapping the Journey

A key component of community organizing is categorizing people according to how supportive and/or useful they will be to the cause, and then working to change the minds of the others who are most likely to change their minds and support the cause.

The fourth (out of eleven) steps is called “Mapping the Journey.”  In this step people are divided into five categories according to the level of their support or lack of support.

  • Innovators – 2.5%
  • Early Adopters – 13.5%
  • Early Majority – 34%
  • Late Majority – 34%
  • Laggards – 16%

The percentages given for each category reflect the estimated percentage of people in the total group (a typical congregation) who will fall into that particular category.

The Innovators are expected to be either already on board or easily convinced.  They are then appointed as core team leaders and/or congregational influencers.  After the Innovators, the Early Adopters are the easiest to convince.  The Early Majority will require more persuasion to be on board, but with some effort, they, too, are not too difficult to convince.  Therefore, the Building an Inclusive Church (BIC) Toolkit recommends that these three groups be the primary focus of the efforts.

Because a vote to gain RIC (Reconciled in Christ) status requires a 75% vote on the part of the congregation, the Late Majority will also have to be engaged in order to have enough people to say “yes.”  The BIC Toolkit’s strategy for dealing with the Late Majority is to do the following:

  • Focus first on the Innovators, Early Adopters, and Early Majority.  These people will be easier to convince.  Only then start working on the Late Majority.
  • It is hoped that efforts to win over the Early Adopters and Early Majority will have some effect on the Late Majority so that it will be easier to convince them.
  • Engage in One-to-One Visits with the Late Majority in order to get to know them better, build trust, make them feel heard, and form a strong relationship with them.
  • Leverage this trust with the Late Majority in order to press them to agree with you, or at the very least to not be opposed to you, as you push for change.  (Statistically most people who do not agree with a decision will be willing to live with that decision if they feel that they have been heard and included in the decision-making process.)
  • Gradually work on their hearts and minds, until they are willing to say at least “maybe” if not “yes.”

Laggards are regarded as lost causes.  No attempt is to be made to meaningfully engage with them.  Instead, the BIC Toolkit’s strategy is to engage with everyone else, get all the others on board, and then force the Laggards to either change their minds, begrudgingly accept the decision, or leave the community.  The expectation is that many Laggards will choose to just leave.

The community organizing approach reflects what ReconcilingWorks has been doing throughout the ELCA to bring the ELCA to becoming LGBTQ+ affirming.  This is how the liberal/progressive wing of the ELCA has managed to gain so much power and to have so many things, such as changes in liturgy and in church policy and practice, go in their favor.

Response and Actions

Clearly, the confessional Lutheran community has not been effective in battling the community organizing method nor in responding to the needs and concerns of those who get swayed by these tactics.  What do we who hold to a high view of the authority of the Bible and the Bible’s clear teachings regarding human sexuality need to do?  I can think of several things.

  • We need a strong and effective response to these community organizing techniques.  We need to build strong relationships with people.  That is at the heart of how the LGBTQ+ affirming community was able to get so many people who were once opposed to their ideology to accept it.  If they can do it, we can do it too!  In fact, I believe that the revisionists may have had the advantage in gaining empathy through their telling stories of same-sex attracted people who have experienced rejection, are suffering from depression, and are even suicidal, but those who hold to traditional Biblical moral values should be able to have the advantage of gaining empathy through telling stories of people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery and now regret their decision, are experiencing medical ill affects because of their decision, and/or have found that their undergoing that surgery did not bring them the joy and peace that they had been hoping for. 
  • We need to build a strong understanding of the basics of the Lutheran understanding of the Bible.  We need to promote and model good engagement with Scripture and proper understanding of Scripture – the whole of Scripture – in light of Scripture’s primary message of Law and Gospel.  People’s lack of Biblical knowledge and failure to properly engage with Scripture leave them vulnerable to all manners of false teaching.
  • We need to model what showing love to the LGBTQ+ community looks like in a biblically sound way.  The charge against us – that we are angry and hateful – is widely believed because some people have experienced far more anger than love from those who hold to traditional views of human sexuality.
  • We need to have good answers to such questions as, “What do I do if I am gay?” and “What should I do now that my child or friend has come out as gay?”  We need to do more than just tell people not to sin.  We also need to equip them with tools and support to resist sin.  We need to provide and be for these people a loving and supportive faith community which will walk alongside of them in their struggles against sin and will proclaim God’s gift of forgiveness for them so that – when they do fall – they will find hope in Jesus.
  • We need to find resources that have been created for LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones that are biblically sound.  We need to find them, let people know about them, and promote their use.
  • We need to provide support for LGBTQ+ identified persons who are honest about struggling with sin, yet who want to live in a biblically faithful way.  We need to encourage them and show them that it is possible to live a life that is pleasing to God.  These people carry a heavy burden, which is often made only heavier by rejection from conservatives (because of their having same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria) as well as from liberals (because of their wanting to live in a biblically faithful way).  These people need our support.  We need to have empathy for them and show love to them. 


There is no question but that those who have wanted to totally remake the church’s view and practice of issues related to human sexuality have been extremely effective – much more effective than those who desire to maintain traditional, Biblical moral values. 

In Luke 16: 8 Jesus said, “The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”  Those within the ELCA whose beliefs, values, and priorities reflect the world rather than are based upon the clear teaching of Scripture I would call children of this age rather than children of light.

We need to be concerned for upcoming generations, who more and more are going to be told lies concerning human sexuality, so we must be aware of the principles and methodology of community organizing.  Traditionally minded congregations need to be made aware so that they will not fall prey.  We who believe that the Bible is the Word of God need to show compassion and care for those who struggle with same sex attraction.  We need to be of encouragement, support, and help to their family members and friends.  And we need to be prepared to point them to resources that will help them live a life that is pleasing to God.        

* * * * * * *



Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to ELCA Pastor Matt Voyer for his review of the book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, by Alan Kreider. 

We all have admired and been in awe over the phenomenal growth of the early Church, even in spite of opposition and persecution.  Alan Kreider argues that the great growth of the early Church was driven by the lifestyle of early Christians.  What attracted people were not moving and relevant worship services but the way of life of the early believers.  It was not what Christians said, but what they did.  Their lives and habits and ways of being and living in the world drew people not just to the Church, but to our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Pastor Voyer highly recommends this book and suggests that it be read by individuals, church councils, and within small groups.


I would also like to remind you of ELCA Pastor Kevin Haug’s review of a book edited by Dallas Willard, A Place for Truth: Leading Thinkers Explore Life’s Hardest Questions.  Dallas Willard was a long-time professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California and is well known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation.

The book is a series of fifteen lectures covering such topics as truth in relation to post-modernism, an examination of the exclusive claims to truth of Christianity, human DNA as evidence for a creator, and a psychological study of why some people may be atheists. 

Pastor Haug commented regarding the book, “I found it to be very intellectually stimulating and satisfying.  If you have a high regard for the authority of Scripture and a high regard for reason, logic, and science, if that is you, this book is for you.” 

These reviews, as well as fourteen others, have been posted on our YouTube channel.  A link to the channel can be found here.


If you would like to watch Lutheran CORE’s playlist of all of our video book reviews, click here, then scroll down and start the video by selecting the play button or click on the three vertical lines near the top right of the first video to select a new video from the list that will pop up. 

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

Congregations in Transition: Three Scenarios


Perhaps one of these three scenarios applies to you or your congregation.

1. You are a Boomer pastor approaching retirement.  Like literally hundreds—if not thousands—of
Lutheran pastors, retirement is looking pretty enticing. You’ve faithfully
served as a pastor for thirty or forty years, and it’s time. And when you begin
to waver about this your spouse confirms what you know, in your heart, to be
true, and says, “Honey it is time.” But you’re concerned about what the
future might hold for your congregation. Even in normal times a transition like
this can present significant challenges for churches; especially when their
solo pastor departs. But these are not normal times. There is a developing
clergy shortage among Protestant denominations, and this shortage might soon
become a true crisis. Boomers (like you) are retiring in increasing numbers,
and seminary enrollment is rapidly declining. It’s beginning to look like the
“perfect storm.” So you’re worried about how long it would take for your
congregation to find the “right” pastor.

2. Second scenario: You are a lay leader in a
congregation where your solo pastor has already left. Maybe you are on
the church council, or the recently organized call committee. You are just
beginning to see how difficult this search process will be.  Perhaps you’ve discovered that the minimum
financial package needed for a new pastor could be 25 to 40% more than what
your previous pastor received. (You keep hearing that college student debt has
become a common issue.) Or maybe you sense that available pastors are unlikely
to be interested in living in your local small-town or rural community.  They are more interested in suburban
congregations. In some cases there is the issue of the pastor’s spouse needing
to live where she/he can pursue his/her chosen career.

3. Or the third scenario: You are on a call committee
that has already been meeting and working for many months. You and your
committee are beginning to get discouraged, if not pessimistic. And making
matters worse is an increasing sense of urgency. This prolonged interim is
beginning to impact worship attendance and congregational giving. Some of your
once active members are drifting into inactivity. Perhaps your congregation was
not able to secure the services of an interim pastor; at least not a full-time
one. And this has had a profoundly negative effect on your congregation’s
ministries and morale.

CORE Can Help

Do any of these scenarios apply to your situation?  If so, Lutheran CORE can help, and help in
meaningful, practical ways. We are training a group of recently-retired,
confessional Lutheran pastors to consult with congregations like yours. And
these pastors, by the way, are volunteering their time, so the only cost
to your congregation is the actual travel expenses for one initial visit to
your community, and a nominal sign-up fee ($150) to cover CORE’s administrative
costs. But know this: That initial on-site visit to your community will only be
the beginning of a six to nine-month (or longer) phone and online relationship
with key congregational leaders chosen by your church council. The primary
purpose of all this? To help you address the immediate ministry challenges of
your transition.

of Momentum

Here is the tragic irony for many congregations in transition: Their
search process can be so prolonged that they lose essential ministry momentum.
This lost momentum then, in turn, jeopardizes their financial ability to find
and call a competent pastor. Just one hypothetical example: After a twelve to
eighteen month search process a congregation’s financial giving suffers and
they find they can no longer afford a full-time pastor’s salary and benefits

This new CORE ministry is called Congregations in Transition (CiT),
and we’d like to help you navigate a transition process often characterized by
challenges that could put your church’s health and future stability at risk.
However, it is not just about minimizing risks, it’s about capitalizing on
ministry opportunities. That’s right, opportunities. Opportunities to
mobilize your lay leaders, renew your church’s spiritual life, and embrace the
full potential of what God has in mind for your congregation and its mission.


So if any of the above scenarios resonate with what your faith community
is facing, contact Pastor Don Brandt, or CORE Executive Director, Pastor Dennis
Nelson. Coach training is scheduled in early April, but CORE is already signing
up a limited number of congregations. Any and all of our thirty-two written CiT
resources are available to you; at no cost and with no obligation. (Or if
that’s too many, we can email you some samples.) Also, Dennis and Don are
available to answer any questions.

We hope to hear from you. Never underestimate what God can accomplish in
and through your congregation; even in this time of transition.

Please contact either Don Brandt at or Dennis Nelson at