Churches, such as First Lutheran Church in Sandpoint, Idaho, and their senior housing development partner Ecumen, see aging as an opportunity to help people live better and expand ministries. The two recently collaborated on Luther Park at Sandpoint, a new senior housing community that opened in December 2008. Ecumen, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and one of the country’s largest non-profit senior housing, services and development companies, led development of Luther Park of Sandpoint and now manages it for First Lutheran Church, which owns Luther Park. In addition to being physically connected to the church, Luther Park of Sandpoint provides a range of housing and service options from independent living to assisted living and specialized memory care all at one location, lessening the need for a person to move when he or she needs more services. With Ecumen’s catered living service, residents purchase services a la carte as they want or need them rather than purchasing one-size-fits-all packages.
“We saw a greater purpose for the vacant land adjacent to our church than simply selling it to the highest bidder,” said Pastor Olson. “We wanted to build upon the Great Commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself and the Great Commission of spreading Jesus’ word and work. That led to our congregational vision of creating this community that will keep seniors vitally engaged in our church, will nurture multi-generational relationships, and will help us realize new revenue streams that will support and help us to expand our ministry.”
“For churches that own vacant land, senior housing can be a very rewarding use of that space,” said Steve Ordahl, senior vice president of business development at Ecumen. “Quality senior housing greatly expands a sense of community by fostering purpose and service to others, and it can bring new members into the church and its ministry.”
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