By Sarah Reinsel
“Christ laid down His life for us. We love in deed and truth.”
Under this theme, in 2022, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of National Mission (ONM) announced the Million Dollar Life Match. The program made $1 million in matching fund grants available to support LCMS congregations in providing beginning-of-life care for their local communities.
Now, the ONM has made an additional $1 million available, to be distributed over the coming triennium in grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. The expansion was first announced at the 68th Regular Convention of the LCMS in July.
“Congregations of all sizes are making a tremendous difference in their local communities with the help of Million Dollar Life Match grants,” said Deaconess Dr. Tiffany Manor, managing director of Human Care and Ministerial Support for the ONM. “Lutherans are showing with our words and deeds that we love because Christ first loved us. This expansion is an opportunity for creativity and the development of new efforts that teach, speak up for life and care for our neighbors in body and soul.”
Reflecting on the genesis of the program, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said, “Knowing Roe v. Wade was about to fall, I knew the critics would be screaming: ‘You only care for babies when they’re in the womb.’
“Having been part of the pro-life community in the LCMS and beyond, I know this is false. The LCMS alone has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance, and much of that for children and mothers.”
Eligibility for the grants is expanding in two key ways. Previously, applications were only open to LCMS congregations, with an emphasis on beginning-of-life care for women, children and families.
Now, in addition to congregations, LCMS districts may apply. Furthermore, in addition to beginning-of-life care, advocacy and education projects are now eligible for matching-fund grants.
Education projects focus on teaching people of all ages about the sanctity of all human life, beginning at conception. For example, a congregation or school that uses the LCMS Looking at Life curriculum and resources would be eligible to apply for a grant to help continue these efforts.
Congregations and districts can also get involved with advocacy projects that speak up for the value of all human life. Such projects often support events like local marches for life or “Lutheran Days” at state capitals, where people can meet with their elected representatives and advocate for life.
The Million Dollar Life Match grant process will operate on an annual cycle, with a new round of grants awarded each year of the triennium. The online application will open for congregations and districts each year on Jan. 1, with applications due by Feb. 15. Awards will be announced in May, with reports on the projects due Oct. 1.
“Generous saints from across our church body have supported this grant program with financial gifts that make it possible for congregations to expand their local efforts in human care, advocacy for the sanctity of human life, and teaching about God’s creation and the value of all human life. We give thanks to God for this partnership in the Gospel,” said Manor.
There are many ways to use a grant. Congregations and districts can get directly involved with their neighbors through outreach efforts like Breakfast with Baby events, which offer breakfast, fellowship and free baby items to pregnant women and families with young children.
Congregations and districts may also partner with LCMS Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) or local pregnancy centers by sending volunteers, donating baby items and giving financial support.
Applications for grants in 2024 will open Jan. 1, 2024. To apply, visit lcms.org/serve/grants/life-grant.
Four phases complete
Since the Life Match began in 2022, LCMS congregations have dedicated $1,577,133.36, matched by $1 million from the ONM, to projects that support and promote the sanctity of life. These projects have served over a half-million people, with more than 7,000 congregation members serving as volunteers.
Over 140 grants were awarded in the first four phases of the Life Match.
“Lutherans are volunteering, active and engaged in sharing God’s Word so that others come to know that our Lord values every single life that He creates and that Jesus redeemed,” said Manor.
Throughout the first four phases of the Life Match, congregations carried out projects that directly cared for families experiencing challenges at the beginning of life, supported foster care and adoption in collaboration with local agencies, partnered with RSOs, and supported local pregnancy resource centers.
For example, Benediction Lutheran Church in Milwaukee partnered with the RSO A Place of Refuge, a maternity home, to carry out renovations on the upper level of the home. Redeeming Life Ministries, another RSO and maternity home located in Florida, is partnering with Immanuel Lutheran Church in East Dundee, Ill., to open a second maternity home in East Dundee, with the help of a Life Match grant.
“Notice in the Gospels that when Jesus is confronted by people in need of help and mercy — even if He seems at first to put them off — He always acts,” said Harrison. “His greatest act of mercy is the cross. As people who receive Christ’s mercy, we cannot but be merciful to others. The Life Match is just another tool to make that happen.”
Posted Oct. 4, 2023