Testimonials from the 2011-2013 Participating ELCA Congregations






Rapid Improvement, the energy reduction company partnering with LRC in the ESI program.

“Based on our experience with a range of similar projects, the Lutherans Restoring Creation's Energy Stewards Initiative is off to an excellent start.

It has set a solid foundation in its first year. The program both challenges and supports congregations to take actions that reduce financial and environmental costs while educating their members.     The bi-monthly webinars help keep the congregations on track in moving through the Action Table. Most congregations would not be taking these actions if it were not for the organized steps of the program. And the success achieved to date by those who are engaged is quite clear. To date, the 10 congregations in the pilot have lowered their energy use by at least 10% compared to the energy used in 2011, the year before the program began. Collectively, their energy bills are $15,500 lower in the past 12 months compared to 2011.

The participating congregations have become a community of learners who support each other in making a positive difference in their churches and their communities.”

Warren Gaskill

Managing Partner, Rapid Improvement Associates, LLC

Sun Prairie, WI

Liaison with Lutherans Restoring Creation




First Lutheran Church, Decorah, IA

“I enter the energy data every month or so onto the utility meter section. I have participated in the webinars and have shared with other ESI participating congregations what First Lutheran has been able to do.

            I have found it very helpful to use the site to track our energy costs in comparison to previous years. Our church underwent a major energy-saving initiative, putting in a new boiler system and zoned temperature control which has resulted in large savings in natural gas costs (over $10,000 savings over the last 3 years). It has been helpful to see the charts on the site and very exciting to see our Energy Star rating.

            “First Lutheran worked with two Luther College greening interns during the summer of 2012, to help us disseminate this information to the congregation. They worked on bulletin boards, newsletter articles, and a Sunday sermon, as well as more generally on Creation Care Sunday School curriculum. (They were also in charge of a community garden to support the Food Pantry at First Lutheran, which brought together several volunteers from the community to work in the garden.)

            “In addition to that, our church is doing some smaller insulation projects as part of our participation in the ESI program and in cooperation with a federally-funded energy-savings program. I will be entering that on our action plan upon completion. We are working on many fronts to bring the concepts of the "greening of the church" to the congregation, coming at it from many angles, with hope for the future as our central focus.

            It takes all sorts of people with varied interests to make things happen in a church. We are seeing the results of much work by many people over several years. LRC and ESI have helped us bring things into focus and to celebrate victories, large and small!”

Connie Barclay, Energy Steward

First Lutheran Church, Decorah, IA



Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Arlington Heights, IL.

“ESI has helped our congregation focus on energy and water use in a systematic, organized way. We've long been concerned about being good stewards of God's creation. ESI gives us some important tools to quantify how we are doing and where we can improve.”

            “Since we had an energy audit and major lighting improvements in 2003 and have had a Green Team for many years, Our Saviour's was already pretty energy efficient and well engaged environmentally. Participating in ESI has prompted us to look at our energy and water usage and target some opportunities for further improvement. We have a more thorough understanding of our facilities and practices. Most importantly, ESI participation allows us to routinely network with other congregations to share ideas and best practices, which should benefit all of us who are involved.

            “The ESI program is run by environmental champions who are committed to seeing strong environmental practices spread nationally across the greater Lutheran church. This forum should be an excellent vehicle to spread green ideas from the initial participants to a much larger group of congregations. When green practices become commonplace throughout the ELCA, we can truly walk the talk as Christian stewards and make a significant difference.”

Ken Westlake, Energy Steward

Our Saviour Lutheran Church

Arlington Heights, Illinois



Saint Andrew Lutheran Church in Racine, WI.

“This program has led to lowering of our energy usage in many ways. In 2008, we had an energy audit (free) with the state energy company and make significant reductions with retrofitting of lights. When this ESI program came along, we were ready to move to the next level. We entered our energy data and began tracking it beginning in the last four years.

            “Every other month, I participate in the webinar and then work with our property folks to chart the steps we can take to follow the actions suggested by the table we are studying for that two-month period. We have adjusted thermostats, replaced light bulbs with CFLs and are moving to replace these with LED lights, closed off a few rooms not in use, put motion sensor lights in hallways and bathrooms, eliminated unnecessary lights, unplugged an unused freezer, increased insulation around doors, streamlined our scheduling of event to enable us to turn down heat on times the building is not in use, adopted an electronic newsletter, and a lot more.

            “We also walked around room to room looking for small and large actions we could take and then plan for the changes. It is amazing what difference a number of small actions can add up. It was very encouraging to see how our energy usage compares with others on the Energy Star platform, with which ESI is automatically connected. We now qualify for Energy Star certification with a rating above 90%.

            “We have more to do on our heat and electricity, but we are now starting to enter the water-use data and work with the ESI action tables related to water.

            “I also met with our church secretary to go over ways in which we could green the church office. And we came up with some new ideas. It is interesting to see how many efficiency and conservation actions in general relate to our energy use. ESI now has an office checklist for congregations to use. 

            “Saint Andrew has a lot of greening activities: a huge garden that provides a key source for the local food bank, a farmers market and harvest festival that raises funds for hunger programs, celebration of the four week Season of Creation in worship, recycling center, and much more. The ESI program has done a lot to keep us on track in saving all the energy and water we can in order to lower our ecological footprint.”

David Rhoads and John Praeger, Energy Stewards

Saint Andrew Lutheran Church

Racine, WI



First Lutheran Church, Decorah, IA

I have found the ESI online resource to be easy to use and navigate. The summary, real-time graphs of energy and water consumption are vital for communication with our congregation. The action table is chock full of great ideas. The webinars have also been quite helpful. Whenever we've had a question it has been quickly answered by staff.

            Our congregation took some major steps to reduce energy consumption just before we joined the Energy Stewards Initiative. What the program gives us is a way to inform our congregation about the fruits of their major financial investment. We are working currently on ways to communicate that information.

            This is a practical and effective resource for congregations to exercise better financial and environmental stewardship of their facilities. It really is something all of our congregations should be doing.

James Martin-Schramm

First Lutheran Church

Decorah, Iowa



University Lutheran Church, East Lansing, MI.

After an invitation from Kim Winchell, our synod’s Diaconal Minister for Earthkeeping, to join the ESI pilot project, our Earthkeeping group made the decision to participate in the project. Our church had just incorporated “practice stewardship of God’s creation” into our mission statement and we had a number of green measures already in place or in progress, so we agreed. We wanted to track our gas, electric and water usage and we wanted to see what other congregations were doing to “practice stewardship of God’s creation” and be able to have some interaction with them about the greening of their facilities and congregational practices. ESI enables us to do this thru the webinars, the profiles of the congregations, the Action Table data, and ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

·         One benefit of this project for our Earthkeeping group, facilities team and, to a lesser degree, the congregation, has been to put the focus on our actions that we are about practicing stewardship of God’s creation in actions small and large.

·         Another benefit is that the Action Table has provided a great resource to see the foresight and progress our church has made thru the years in trying to provide and maintain a facility and user practices that demonstrate stewardship of God’s creation. It also points out that we still have areas to work on.

·         The online platform has been beneficial to see specific, organized data on our church as well as that of the other congregations in the project. The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager provides data that we have input in a useful, understandable, visual manner.

·         The webinars allow participants to learn from each other by providing a means for sharing specific experiences that are relevant for other congregations as well.

·         The mentoring available thru David Rhoads and Warren Gaskill in both the webinars and via email are very helpful and immediate.

·         As a new member to this congregation, I have learned a great deal about our building, how the organizational structure of this congregation works and how to get things done, and generally, how nice and helpful people are.

ESI is as good as you make it in taking advantage of its offerings. It is definitely on the right track. One of my laments is that we haven’t involved the congregation very much. I think that is coming but we’re not there yet. One drawback is that the project and our congregational data doesn’t seem to be accessible for all congregational members to look at without registering them, which could be worked on to create interest among members.  A positive resource in many of our congregations is the knowledge/expertise of members who might serve as consultants for other congregations in such areas as water conservation, heating/cooling, and insulating.

            My role as Energy Steward has consisted of filling out the initial paperwork and getting the signatures and OK for us to participate in the program, meeting with our facilities chairperson and facilities engineer to collect information for the Action Table, taking a tour of our church with our facilities engineer into all the nooks and crannies of our church to look at the heating and cooling systems, etc., recruiting and signing up participants for the webinar that featured our church’s Earthkeeping actions, maintaining our congregational Action Table, reporting to our Earthkeeping group and urging others to get into the ESI site and explore it, writing an article for our newsletter and several bulletin inserts, posting ESI info on the Earthkeeping bulletin board, supplying our church secretary with the Lutherans Restoring Creation’s 52 Sundays of Earthkeeping-related scripture lessons to be included in each of our Sunday worship bulletins, occasionally checking with the person entering our energy and water usage in ENERGY STAR.

Sharon Hardy, Energy Steward

University Lutheran Church,

East Lansing, MI