If you're reading this, then PLUM might be the miracle that you've been praying for!
Here is a personal account, which may help you to make your decision...
"A few years ago, our pastor decided to retire, but God blessed us with a really great solution to our dilemma! Our solution may also be YOUR solution! Here’s our story:
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden (3102 Sherwood Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15204) is a smaller congregation and, in 2009, our (semi-retired) pastor still worked part time, so that we weren’t without a pastor. But we feared that, once our pastor decided to fully retire, we would have trouble being able to ‘call’ a new pastor (because we couldn't afford to pay the minimum salary that the Synod would require us to pay). So, on April 22, 2009, we attended the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod’s ‘Conference 6 Collaborative Partners’ meeting, which was a gathering of the Synod’s churches who, like Trinity, had been asking the Synod for ideas on how to keep our church from closing. About a dozen churches were represented, with over one hundred people in attendance. Just before the closing of the meeting, two pastors (Rev. Beth Siefert and Rev. John Gropp) gave a brief talk about the Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), which was their cooperative ministry of three full-member churches and two one-year trial membership churches. They explained how PLUM had three pastors who traveled to, preached at and fulfilled the pastoral duties of those five churches, while all five of the churches pitched in to pay the three pastors’ salaries. The churches were happy to have three pastors – at less cost than hiring just one full-time pastor. Also, the pastors liked PLUM because they were getting the Synod’s recommended salary! We (Trinity, Sheraden) loved this idea! So, we started planning on how we could start our own group of churches. We even tried to think of a name; something like West End United Ministries.
At our May 11, 2009 Church Council meeting, those who had attended the Synod's meeting gave a report about the meeting, what we learned and our idea about forming a partnership with other West End churches. Then, our pastor announced that we had good timing, because he had decided to retire following the last Sunday in August (2009). That was just three months away! Needless to say, that announcement created a renewed sense of urgency to our planning.
We attended the second Conference 6 meeting (on May 28, 2009) with the goal of finding suitable matches for our planned West End United Ministries. However, after the meeting had ended, we decided to talk with the PLUM pastors...and discovered that PLUM was looking for more churches to add to its group! PLUM was a ready-made organization, with the staffing and organizational structure already planned out. All we had to do was join them and then we would have three pastors to replace our one retiring pastor. At a Special Congregational Meeting on July 12, 2009, we voted to join PLUM (for a one-year trial membership) on the first Sunday in September, 2009. We were able to replace our retiring pastor with three pastors, for less money and without having any gaps in our pastoral ministry. Our prayers were answered! We liked PLUM so much that, nine months later, we voted (unanimously) to join PLUM as full-time members. (From what we've heard, every PLUM congregation has voted unanimously to join PLUM (except for one person)! That's quite a recommendation!)
It is now 2017... Eight years have passed since we first discovered Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM)...and we are so thankful that we found them! Trinity (Sheraden) - my church - was the sixth church to join PLUM. In May, 2014, two churches (who were one-year trial members) voted to become full-time PLUM members, while two more churches voted to join PLUM on a one-year trial basis! In August, two of our churches made the decision to merge their congregations, which gave us a new total of ten churches in the PLUM organization. Then, on Feb. 26, 2017, another church voted to join PLUM for a one-year trial membership. PLUM now has FOUR ordained pastors and an Intern, who provide the pastoral care to these eleven churches. All of the pastoral care is covered by the pastors, but each church gets to keep its own identity. We love it! The pastors are very outgoing and we get a little variety, because the pastors rotate between the churches. We NEVER have a gap in pastoral care, like we used to have when our pastor was on vacation or out-of-town. And we have NUMBERS, now! Each church also gets to host a joint event (attended by the other PLUM churches), such as a joint Reformation Service, joint Easter Vigil Service, joint Epiphany Service, etc. Just think how exciting it is to have people from eleven churches all attending one of your services. It’s great to see a full church again! And you should hear the choir! Also, many of us like to visit the Worship Services at the other PLUM churches. It’s really exciting to see how the other churches do some things differently. We keep finding great ideas that we can bring back to our own church. We now have a renewed sense of ‘future’ that we haven’t had in many years. Instead of worrying about survival, we can now concentrate on how to build our ministry and expand our mission. It feels great!"
So, if your church does not have a pastor, your pastor is planning to retire or you have an Interim pastor, then we would highly recommend that you consider joining PLUM. You get immediate pastoral coverage (from FOUR pastors!) and you can ‘try it out’ for a one-year trial period. Also, your salary costs should decrease, since you would only be paying for less than one-half of a pastor’s salary (eleven churches paying the salaries of four pastors)! If you decide to join PLUM - and later decide to drop out - PLUM only asks that you give the group a one-year notice, so that the other PLUM churches have time to adjust their budgets.
The people in our PLUM congregations are so impressed with what PLUM has done for us, that many of them have offered to visit any interested church (such as a Church Council meeting) to tell you all about PLUM and how it has benefitted our churches. For more information, feel free to contact the pastors directly or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your congregation members about PLUM!
What is PLUM? Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM) is a cooperative ministry comprised of eleven ELCA congregations in the Pittsburgh Area. The purpose of PLUM is to provide pastoral support and joint activities shared by the member congregations. PLUM currently has ten full-member congregations and one one-year-trial membership congregation. The Ministry was founded by Rev. Beth Siefert and Rev. John Gropp in 2004. Recently, Rev. Paul Koch and Rev. Melba Dibble (who started as our first Intern) have been added to the pastoral staff. The member congregations share in financial support of the pastoral staff and in joint worship/outreach/fellowship activities - yet they maintain their independence and individuality as they minister to those in their respective communities. PLUM provides a means by which small, struggling or pastor-less congregations can continue to exist and minister to their communities. It is hoped that PLUM can be a model for other churches who need a way to survive while rebuilding their congregations
If we join, do we have to do only PLUM stuff? The answer is NO! Although we have many joint PLUM (group) activities, you always have the choice of whether or not you want to participate in any of them. Also, if you do events in your community - or even with other churches in your area - you are still free to continue doing those (or even new) activities! We WANT you to continue to provide a service to your community - that's the whole reason that PLUM exists. Lately, in the Catholic church, their leadership has been closing struggling churches, which forces its parishioners to attend a different church...but, then there's no one to minister to that abandoned community! PLUM was created to prevent that from happening to our smaller Lutheran churches! PLUM wants you to be the active, growing, beating heart in your community.
Will we have to move our Worship Service time? The answer is...probably. In order for our pastors to be able to preach on Sunday mornings to eleven churches, they must 'stagger' the Worship Service times. The Sunday morning Worship Service times are 9:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Our four PLUM pastors and our Intern (and several Sunday 'Supply' pastors) go to the PLUM churches that have 9:15 Services. Then, once those Services are done, the pastors travel to the PLUM churches that have the 11:15 Services. Before we joined PLUM, my own church had a 10:30 Worship Service. Once we joined PLUM, we moved our Worship Service to 11:15, to fit into the PLUM Worship Schedule. Although changing our Worship Service time had us a little nervous, we made the change with no problems at all. Even the people who were always 'late' to the 10:30 Service, were still late to the 11:15 Service!
If you have more questions, please contact one of our PLUM Pastors. They would be more than willing to answer all of your questions!
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773