Churches Develop Congregational Senior Housing to Expand Ministry in Age Wave, According to Ecumen's Newest Whitepaper

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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation in Sandpoint, Idaho provides model for creating successful aging communities.

Any congregation could do this if there's a significant need for services. - Aging services provider Ecumen, one of the country's largest non-profit senior housing companies, has released its newest whitepaper describing how churches are preparing for the age wave and expanding their ministry by developing congregational housing that promotes successful aging.

"A New Wrinkle on Aging - Congregational Senior Housing", written by Eldr Magazine journalist Kay Harvey, articulates the story of the congregation of First Lutheran Church in Sandpoint, Idaho, who, when gazing at the open land and mountain view at their place of worship, envisioned housing and care for the senior members of their church and community.

"For decades, a senior housing development on this beautiful land, incorporating the vision of our congregation, was simply a dream percolating in our minds," state Rev. Dave Olson, First Lutheran Church of Sandpoint's pastor. "It seemed, however, that it was a dream just beyond our reach and we all feared that it was simply beyond our capacity to do something even modest."

Good fortune shined on Rev. Olson, however, as he found the website of Twin Cities-based Ecumen, and researched its senior housing development track record. Ecumen, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), helped refine the vision allowing First Lutheran Church to aspire for something far larger than they ever had in mind.

One of Ecumen's first steps in the senior housing development process is to conduct a preliminary market study and pre-development plan. Through Ecumen's careful pre-development research and planning, First Lutheran Church of Sandpoint saw their vision evolve from a restrictive nursing home model, to a full scale catered-living community, complete with independent living, full assisted living services, memory care, multi-generational activities, and easy access to both community and church events.

The buzz around this new development is being felt all throughout the community of Sandpoint, as within 60 days of the start of construction, individuals placed deposits to pre-lease all 60 of the building's apartments, a good indication that Luther Park will quickly fill to full occupancy.

Olson sees First Lutheran Church's partnership with Ecumen and the ELCA Mission Investment Fund, which provided the bulk of the project's financing, as a model of opportunity for other congregations. "The learning for us has been the possibilities out there to meet this incredibly significant need in our communities with the senior population growing," he says. "Any congregation could do this if there's a significant need for services."

For further information on the vital details necessary to create a premier development, please visit Ecumen's site and request "Senior Housing Development Tips: Key Things to Consider Before Entering the Senior Housing Market."

About Ecumen:
Ecumen ( is based in Shoreview, Minn., and is one of the largest non-profit senior housing, services and development companies in the United States. The name Ecumen comes from the word ecumenical, which in turn is derived from the Greek word for home: "Oikos." Ecumen's mission is to create home for older adults wherever they choose to live. Ecumen is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and has 4,000 team members. Ecumen writes about news and ideas that are shaping the future of aging services and senior housing at its Changing Aging blog:

Eric Schubert
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