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).

Click for complete description


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. 

Kites of Compassion

Donation Drive July 2-16

Visit the “Kites of Compassion” display at the Atrium Desk, throughout the first half of July to help our church gather supplies for our new Compassionate Connections ministry. These gifts of nourishing snacks and personal care items will be given away by Compassionate Connections volunteers as gifts of hospitality to those in need, on behalf of the church. It is important that we only collect a limited amount of supplies at this time (in order to ensure fresh supplies), so donors are asked to pick a “bow” from the kites which will have a specific item assigned, as well as instructions for drop-off.

If you’d like to donate but cannot pick up a bow in person, contact the First Lutheran Receptionist at 605-336-3734.

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. All sessions are open to first-time participants. 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. Please join us for any or all of the following scheduled dates:


October 7 – Responding to Grief

Note for November Grieving with Grace
In lieu of a typical session in November, we will hold a special Holiday Grief Breakfast and Worship Service
on Saturday, Nov. 19, 9 –11 a.m., with First Lutheran member, John Hegg as the speaker. 
More details will be announced soon!

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

Jana Elkins* Parish Nurse (605) 339-1983 ext. 237

Jana Elkins*
Parish Nurse
(605) 339-1983 ext. 237

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



What is the Parish Nurse?
We are encouraged to take care of ourselves—our body, mind, and spirit
—the best way possible, so we can serve Jesus the best way possible.

What is a Parish Nurse and What do they do?

A Parish Nurse is an Integrator of Faith and Health, helping to promote the understanding of the relationship between faith and healing.

A Parish Nurse is a Health Educator. The nurse promotes an atmosphere where, individuals of all ages, through a variety of educational activities, explores the relationships between faith, values, attitudes, lifestyles, and health. The nurse may educate one-on-one, with families, or in small group settings. In her teaching, she encourages the understanding to the connection of faith and wellbeing.

A Parish Nurse is a Personal Health Counselor. The nurse discusses health problems with parishioners, giving clarity and support. The nurse makes home, hospital and nursing home visits as needed.

A Parish Nurse is a Health Advocate. The parish nurse works with the client, faith community and primary health resources to provide whatever is in the best interest of the client from a whole person perspective, listening and advocating for the client. The parish nurse assists with health care assessments and decisions when requested or needed. This may include going with a client to a medical appointment to help them sort through their care plan, and ask questions. 

A Parish Nurse is a Referral Agent. The nurse assists with the network of the health care system, making referrals when necessary. The nurse works with community agencies, establishing resources and networks that assist with the well-being of the congregation.
A Parish Nurse is a Developer of Small Groups. The nurse facilitates the development of support groups and/or provides connections to existing support groups within the community. 

A Parish Nurse is the Coordinator of Volunteers. Christ called us all to be the disciples of his ministry. The parish nurse recruits, coordinates and provides education and resources for volunteers from within the congregation to serve in various health ministries.

What a Parish Nurse does not do:

  • The nurse is not a substitute for pastoral care, medical care, community health nursing or social agencies, but rather works in partnership with these services.
  • The nurse is not a provider of hands-on care, administer of medication, or responsible for diagnosing and prescribing healthcare, but rather an advocate for the continuity of care for the client to continue living the quality of life he/she so desires.

Who is the Parish Nurse?


Jana Elkins, RN, BC

Parish Nurse

Jana Elkins has been a nurse for 24 years specializing in pediatrics, geriatrics, forensic nursing, and now missionary and parish nursing. She has an extreme passion for God, for nursing and for holistic healing through the nurturing of the mind, body and spirit. She has served as a staff nurse in a variety of situations, from extremely remote and rural hospitals to large university hospitals, and as  a disaster relief nurse with the American Red Cross throughout the United States, Korea and Japan. For the past 16 months she has taken a hiatus from her work as a forensic interviewer and child abuse nurse to become a missionary nurse. Jana has solo hiked throughout Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico and Honduras, working in extremely medically needy rural villages and orphanages, and in 11 major U.S. cities serving the homeless and indigent populations.

Call the Parish Nurse if you…

  • Are uncertain how to connect with community resources such as home care, counseling, support groups, etc.
  • Do not understand something your doctor has told you or have questions about a diagnosis.
  • You or a family member are sick and you would like clarification about your illness.
  • Are dealing with a decline in health – vision, hearing, mobility, etc.
  • Live with a chronic health issue – COPD, diabetes, cardiac disease, etc.
  • Want to discuss moving to a retirement home or long-term care facility.
  • Need support for a healthy lifestyle change – smoking cessation, weight loss, mental health.
  • Need caregiver support/respite relief for the supporter.
  • Are going through a life transition such as loss of independence, family changes, divorce, adult care-giving, move to an extended care facility, etc.
  • Would like information on how to help someone who is struggling with health and wellness issues.
  • Would like to know more about integrating your faith into your healing program.
  • Would like to participate in the foot care clinic.
  • Would like a blood pressure screening
  • Need transportation to and from medical or dental programs, and/or church programs and services. (Project CAR)
  • Would like to request a prayer shawl for you or someone else in need.
  • Would like to pick-up a Burden Bear to give to a child or teen who is ill or has gone through a difficult transition.
  • Would like resources for health and healing.

Email Jana at
or call at 605-339-1983 ext. 237