Compassionate connectionss

"First Lutheran Church's location in the heart of downtown provides us with the unique opportunity to compassionately connect with those in need."


By Katherine Olson, Director of Caring Ministries

Our church’s location in the heart of downtown provides us with the unique opportunity to compassionately connect with those in need. Our church is often a point of contact for many who find themselves in need of crisis support and are not sure where to turn. These “walk-in” individuals are drawn to seek help from the church because, as one young woman told me last summer, “Mom always said that when you need help, go to church. God’s people are there to help.” 

Do you have a special sense of concern for those who are struggling to find their place in the world? First Lutheran is seeking help from volunteers to help our staff compassionately connect with such individuals, for the need is often greater than we are able to effectively meet as staff alone, while still performing the duties of the jobs entrusted to us. This is particularly true in the warm summer months when our church experiences an increase in “foot traffic.” This new ministry, pairing volunteers with people in need, will be known as “Compassionate Connections.”

Two opportunities to connect to the Compassionate Connections ministry are available to you. Maybe you will be called to serve as a Compassionate Connections volunteer, or perhaps you’d like to donate supplies to support this venture through the “Kites of Compassion” donation drive. Either way, please pray for our church’s ministry in the downtown community, that we would live into the vision of “God’s people, there to help!”

Compassionate Connections Volunteer

Job Overview

Compassionate Connections volunteers will be available, at set times throughout the day, to meet with “walk-in” individuals who express a need for crisis assistance or prayerful conversation. From their work station located in the Welcome Center, these volunteers will compassionately listen to individuals’ needs and help them pursue options for assistance from our ministry and community partners utilizing a designated telephone and laptop computer. Volunteers will offer simple gifts of hospitality in Jesus’ name (a bottle of water, nourishing snacks, etc), provided by the church. Most importantly, our volunteers will share prayer and encouraging conversation with those who connect to this ministry. 

Compassionate Connections volunteers are asked to be available for a consistent “shift” of 2-4 hours per week, during the church’s normal business hours Monday-Friday (excepting vacation and other reasons for absence).

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Training Events – July 12 and August 9

Training events will be held this summer on Wednesdays, July 12 and August 9, in the Gathering Room of the church from 6-7:30 p.m. Both sessions will present identical content. Interested volunteers are asked to attend one of the sessions to get started in their role.

Those interested in attending a training event, or who have questions about this role, should contact Pastor Katherine Olson, or 339-1983, ext. 214. 

Gifts of Care

Prayer Shawls

Prayer shawls are given to those who need an extra measure of comfort, warmth and as an expression of God’s constant loving presence and care. Knitters pray as they knit each shawl. Contact the church office, (605) 336-3734, for more information.


Burden Bears

Burden Bears available for children and young adults. Burden Bears are intended for young ones who are experiencing difficult times in their lives, such as illness, loss of a family member, divorce, or other difficult life situations.  Bears can be obtained by contacting Heather Smith, Children’s Director, at 339-1983, ext. 238, or Jana Elkins, Parish Nurse, at 339-1983, ext. 234.


Meals from
the Heart

Meals from the Heart encompasses a hands-on mission of cooking, fellowship and hospitality. Volunteers meet monthly to prepare nutritious meals at the church. The meals are portioned and frozen. Members of First Lutheran are invited to deliver them to anyone in need. The hospitality of a delivered meal symbolizes a message of Christ’s love and acceptance through the heart of caring service and our commonality of food.


CD Ministry

We know that music has a healing power of its own. In the words of Martin Luther, “Music is one of the fairest and most glorious gifts to God…for it removes from the heart the weight of sorrow, and the fascination of evil thoughts.”

In 2009, First Lutheran Sue Severson was asked to produce a CD of inspirational music for some Cancer Care kits that the church’s Parish Nurse, Paula Bartels, was putting together. The first CD, published in 2010, was given the title “You Are Loved,” and consists of 15 hymn arrangements and original compositions performed on the piano by Sue. The title track was written to honor Sue’s dear friend Doreen Pospisil, an active member and fellow musician at First Lutheran Church who entered into eternal rest following a tough battle with cancer in July 2010. The cover of the CD features a beautiful cross nestled atop a piano. This unique cross was designed and handcrafted by Sue’s father, the late Elmer Sorensen, and is a familiar sight to many in our community.  The popularity of “You Are Loved” led to a second CD, released in 2013, entitled “Hymnprov: Hymn Improvisations by Sue Severson.”

Both compilations continue to be given out as gifts by the Caring Ministry department of First Lutheran and by former parish nurse, Paula Bartels, who keeps two CD’s in her purse all the time for chance encounters everywhere. Paula shared the following story with us as an example of how she utilizes these discs to spread the gospel in an easy way. One day Paula was at a funeral visitation for a friend and met someone in the receiving line, who shared that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was still suffering from her treatment effects and not doing well. Paula asked her if she liked piano music and quickly presented her with the gift of the CD when she said that she did. Both women left wiping away tears.

Sue’s father, Elmer Sorensen, supported this music ministry with initial financial support and also left significant memorial funds to keep this project going. If you would like to request a CD for a friend or neighbor who is going through a tough time (cancer, chronic illness, bereavement, relationship struggles, the list goes on), contact Pastor Katherine Olson, Parish Nurse Jana Elkins, or Executive Secretary Donna Jahr at the church and they will set one aside one of the Caring Ministry department’s CD’s for you to pick up from the information desk, free of charge.

These discs are meant to be given away freely and joyfully, in the spirit of Paula Bartels whose caring presence has reminded many others – friend and stranger - that no one suffers trials and tribulations apart from the loving presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are also grateful to Sue Severson and family for sharing their gifts and allowing this ministry to continue to bless others. However, we know that good music is something to be enjoyed in all times and circumstances. If you would like to purchase a CD for your own enjoyment or simply as a gift for a music lover, both are available at the Information Desk for $10.

Grieving with Grace

Grieving with Grace participants learn about the grieving process and are gentle with themselves as they work through the grief of a loved one’s death, together with others. Grieving with Grace sessions take place on the first Saturday morning of the month in the Gathering Room at First Lutheran Church. Social Time begins at 9:30, and the group sessions last from
10-11 a.m. Led by Pastor Katherine Olson, sessions include video clips on topics relating to grief, comfort from Scripture, prayer, encouragement, and access to additional resources for support. First-time participants are always welcome.Please join us for any or all of the following scheduled dates:

     February 3 – Growing Spiritually Through Grief
     March 3 – Living Beyond Grief
     April 7 – TBA

If you have questions about Grieving with Grace, reach out to Pastor Katherine at or 339-1983, ext. 214.

Prayer Chain

More than 100 people at First Lutheran Church participate in phone or email prayer chains. The prayer chain is for both those who wish to have a prayer or would like to pray for others. Call the church office at (605) 336-3734 or submit a request here.

Name *


Rev. Katherine Olson* Associate Pastor (605) 339-1983 ext. 214

Rev. Katherine Olson*
Associate Pastor
(605) 339-1983 ext. 214

Rev. David Houck* Visitation Pastor (605) 339-1983 ext. 234

Rev. David Houck*
Visitation Pastor
(605) 339-1983 ext. 234

Rev. James Christopherson* Visitation Pastor

Rev. James Christopherson*
Visitation Pastor

Rev. Roger Noer* Visitation Pastor

Rev. Roger Noer*
Visitation Pastor

Rev. Dennis Tranberg* Visitation Pastor

Rev. Dennis Tranberg*
Visitation Pastor

Rev. Dave Johnson Emeritus

Rev. Dave Johnson

Caring Ministries

Cheryl Satterlee Wedding Coordinator

Cheryl Satterlee
Wedding Coordinator


First Lutheran Church is always looking for volunteers. Whether it's working hospitality with our visitation pastors to delivering food from Meals from the Heart, we can work with you to find the best place for you!

Name *

Current Opportunities

Other Possible Areas
to Volunteer

Cooking Classes

Making Prayer Shawls

Meals from the Heart

Open Gym on Saturdays


Prayer Chain

Stepping into Health




Grieving a Loss During the Holidays

Breakfast, Presentation and Chapel Service
at First Lutheran Church
Saturday, November 18; 9–11 a.m.

All adults grieving the death of a loved one are invited to attend this special event. A free breakfast will be served in the church’s Gathering Room at 9:00 a.m. as John Hegg, licensed professional counselor and First Lutheran member, offers a presentation on the topic of grief, and gives suggestions on how navigate the holiday season while coping with the death of a loved one. The morning concludes with a prayer service in the chapel of First Lutheran as we honor our loved ones with a candle-lighting ceremony and encounter comforting words of hope through Scripture and music. 

This event is free and open to all adults, but advance registration is required.  Please stop by First Lutheran’s Information Desk, call (605) 366-3734, or contact Pastor Katherine Olson at 339-1983 ext. 214 or