Do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Our Mission & Vision


In the article, “Losing Faith: Why South Carolina is Abandoning its Churches”, reporter Sarah Ellis of The State, a local paper in Columbia, South Carolina, investigated the decline in church attendance and closing of congregations. From interviews of pastors and ministers across the state she received varying responses, however there were common themes from each interview. Trusting God, being relevant and an openness to change were the themes of restoration for a declining church today.

Our vision and mission is to help connect congregations, and members, in rediscovering and engaging their baptismal and evangelical identity

It is the belief of the South Carolina Synod that congregations and leadership must be encouraged, equipped, and supported in Holy Curiosity, i.e., to try new things. With the current data from Congregational Vitality Surveys and from interviews with congregations,  resources are needed to walk with congregations in rediscovering and engaging their baptismal and evangelical identity. A grounding in baptismal identity creates confidence to walk boldly with Jesus and proclaim to others God’s story, our story as evangelists.

Contextually Relevant

A challenge many congregational leaders face is the gap between their perceived context of ministry and the true context of ministry. The gap between perceived and true presents a false reality of who they are as a congregation and the community they are called to serve. Discovering their true context will open opportunities to discern strategies to becoming a contextually relevant congregation.

Baptismal Identity

It can be a struggle to live into our baptismal identity if congregation and members are not practicing the faith in which they are baptized. In conversation with pastoral leadership and congregational members, they have shared a feeling of inadequacy in preparing individuals within their congregations for ministry. Many have expressed a need for learning new methodologies to teaching and encouraging the Christian faith in the lives of their members. Providing opportunities to learn new practices and rediscovering a language of faith will support congregations in equipping their members to live faithfully into their Lutheran, Christian identity.

About The Rev. Brenda K. Smith
Rev. Brenda K. Smith is Program Director for Faith Practices and Book of Faith in the Domestic Mission Unit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America- Churchwide Office in Chicago, Illinois. In this role she works with other faith formation leaders, both lay and clergy, to create a culture of discipleship in the ELCA. Rev. Smith and another staff member, Rev. Dwight DuBois, coordinate the Book of Faith ministry of the ELCA; a ministry that has the goal that individuals and congregations will be intentional about opening the Bible and having conversations about the transformative power of the word of God. She also convenes the ELCA’s Spiritual Renewal Team that offers healing and prayer services; Lutheran revivals; and workshops on various topics for congregations, synods and other entities in the ELCA.

Prior to her current position Rev. Smith was pastor of New Hope Lutheran Church in Jamaica, New York for 13 years. Before answering God’s call to ministry, she was a pediatric nurse and taught pediatric nursing at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. She attended New York University where she received both her B.S. and M.A. in nursing. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.

In her spare time Rev. Smith enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching movies, reading and listening to Motown classics, especially any songs by the Temptations.

Generationally and Technologically Relevant

If there is an area within the congregations of South Carolina that needs focus and clarity, it is learning to be generationally and technologically relevant. Through our Communications Network we have uncovered a gap in how congregations relate to their membership. Interestingly this is not confined to younger generations but is inclusive of all ages. The majority of congregational members use smart phones, social media and other electronic means of communication and rely on the internet for up to date information. Unfortunately, a third of our congregations do not have websites, social media pages, E news, etc and if they do, they are not being maintained regularly or used to their full potential. The Communications Network has recommended that we begin to provide learning communities to help congregations communicate more effectively and to learn ways in which to share the Gospel electronically. Our Holy Innovation Project will provide these learning opportunities.


The South Carolina Synod Executive Staff recently participated together in a study of Diana Butler Bass’ book “Grateful”. The discovery from this study was the importance of putting our faith into practice daily. If this one resource of learning how to practice gratitude elicits a deepening relationship with God, imagine what other resources and practices may do in our congregations. Providing new and enlightening practices that deepen our relationship with God, one another and the world will be transforming in the lives of individuals and our congregations.

The South Carolina Synod is partnering with ELCA institutions, individual leaders within the larger Church, and working collaboratively with rostered and lay leaders. This collaborative approach is an effort to create an adaptive environment that will yield new insights and understanding of our baptismal identity. This will help increase Church vitality and while helping congregations and members to go out to spread the Gospel.

– Rev. Rick Carter

Who We Are

Our Team & Leadership

Currently we are in process of identifying facilitators for each learning module. We trust that God is leading the right people to fill these roles and we will continue to update our team member’s list. At this moment we are pleased to have the support and involvement of the Synod’s Congregational Vitality Team.

The Reverend Rick Carter

The Reverend Rick Carter

Director for Evangelical Mission service the South Carolina Synod

Richard Carter, M.Div., is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA), and currently serves as Director for Evangelical Mission in the South Carolina synod office. Before accepting his position as DEM, Pastor Carter served Amazing Grace and Crossroads as a Mission Developer. Both congregations are now organized congregations of the ELCA. In addition to being Mission Developer, Pastor Carter served the greater church as a Pastoral Therapist with the Methodist Counseling and Consultation Services of Charlotte, North Carolina. Other areas of interest include organizational and leadership coaching. He is the co-author of the Metanoia Process, a servant leadership coaching model for change, and a certified coach through Duke University School of Business in Leadership Coaching. He received his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Congregational Vitality Team

The Rev. Patti Sue Burton-Pye, The Rev. Emily Edenfield, The Rev. Karen Hawkins, Wendy Davidson, Jackie Burnett, The Rev. Jason Lee, Robert Epting, and Neal Fischer


Frequently Asked Questions

Who? will benefit any congregation. Those congregations that are in a season of openness to “holistic” transformation, i.e., a willingness to listen, learn, practice, and risk should avail the resources.

What? provides in person learning events and coaching for congregations of the SC Lutheran Synod. Learning events are designed to deepen individuals and congregations in a life of faith. Following each learning events individuals/congregations will have homework consisting of reading, spiritual practices, etc. and the offer of monthly coaching via Zoom. The learning events are: Contextual Relevance, Baptismal Identity, Generationally and Technologically Relevant and Praxis.


Learning events will be held throughout South Carolina.


Events are being planned and the information will be shared on the SC Synod website as well as

How Much?

Each learning event will be priced individually. Our goal is to make each event affordable to individuals and congregations.

Why Participate?

Because we are a church that walks by faith, trusting God’s promise in the Gospel and knowing that we exist by and for the proclamation of this Gospel. We proclaim Jesus crucified and raised from the dead for the life of the world. We echo Paul’s words, we are not ashamed of this Gospel ministry because it is God’s power for saving all people who trust the God who makes these promises. It is time for all of our Lutheran congregations to renew and strengthen our evangelism to be contextually, generationally and technologically relevant and effective. is a resource for our congregations to strengthen and renew their ministry practices.

Have a question about the project? Reach out to us below.

The Make A Way project is a collaborative effort between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the South Carolina Synod, local congregations, and leaders.