Leader of St. Andrew Lutheran, Mahtomedi, stepping down after 33 years
During Roger Eigenfeld’s long tenure, the parish grew from 1,000 to 9,000 members
The senior pastor of the fourth largest Lutheran congregation in Minnesota has announced his resignation, effective this month.
The Rev. Roger Eigenfeld, 64, who led St. Andrew Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in the northeast Twin Cities suburb of Mahtomedi, told Metro Lutheran, “I’m not retiring. I’m open to another call.”
In an early May conversation with this paper’s editor, the leader of the 9,125 member parish explained his readiness to step down. “I sense [St. Andrew Church] has undergone a culture shift. Not everyone shares my vision and my dream [for the congregation]. There’s been some retrenching. Some people want to slow things down.”
It was Eigenfeld’s vision that caused the former LCA parish, stuck at a membership of 1,000 when he arrived in 1972, to launch onto a growth trajectory that’s still going up.
When the congregation ran out of space in its crowded worship center, Eigenfeld told members to think big. The congregation spent $1 million and purchased 72 acres of land, a campus that’s larger than some small colleges own.
Surrounded by church members who brought to worship with them what Eigenfeld calls “the 3M culture of experimentation,” he pushed members of the congregation and his governing board to think outside the box, anticipate the future and share his vision for the congregation.
That included an ambitious program to involve members in small groups, so that intimacy would not be lost in the midst of a huge Sunday worship throng.
It also meant a daring new worship center, with the accent on glass and light, and including one of the largest church pipe organs in the United States.
One of the most recent ventures Eigenfeld encouraged upon his large flock may have been the most controversial.
Drawing from his experience, growing up in a parish school in the Wiscon-sin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the entrepreneurial pastor persuaded members to dedicate a good deal of their 72 acres for the site of a K-12 Lutheran academy.
At this writing, St. Andrew Academy offers classes to children through grade 4. But, admits Eigenfeld, “My detractors [in the congregation] really hated the idea.” Some of them, he says, would like to see the school closed and some of the acreage sold.
“We’ve built $39 million worth of buildings while I’ve been at St. Andrew Church,” he explained, adding, “Some people simply don’t share my vision. They want to sell off the land that was supposed to be for our high school.”
With so many creative ideas tumbling out of him and onto church council agendas, Eigenfeld admitted the money sometimes had a hard time keeping pace with his vision for the congregation. “My biggest regret is not having been able to develop a staff large enough to do the job that needs to be done. Money always follows the dream, but sometimes it hasn’t followed quickly enough.”
Another area of controversy was his initiative in launching The WordAlone Network, intended to keep the ELCA focused on confessional theology. He said he has no plans to go to work for WordAlone after leaving St. Andrew Church.
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Minnesota’s Ten Largest Lutheran Congregations
Mount Olivet, Minneapolis, 14,389 members. 5,775 (avg.) at worship. 10 clergy on staff.
Prince of Peace, Burns-ville, 10,500 members, 4,000 at worship. 5 clergy on staff.
St. Andrew, Eden Prairie, 9,556 members. 1,592 at worship. 5 clergy on staff.
St. Andrew, Mahtomedi, 9,125 members. 2,823 at worship. 6 clergy on staff.
North Heights, Arden Hills/ Roseville, 8,900 members. 4,000 at worship. 6 clergy on staff.
Zion, Anoka, 7,911 members. 1,439 at worship. 5 clergy on staff.
Shepherd of the Valley, Apple Valley, 7,598 members. 2,110 at worship. 6 clergy on staff.
Calvary, Golden Valley, 6,614 members. 2,287 at worship. 6 clergy on staff.
Lord of Life, Maple Grove, 6,592 members. 1,625 at worship. 4 clergy on staff.
Hosanna!, Lakeville, 5,387 members. 4,057 at worship. 3 clergy on staff
(Except for North Heights, which is independent, all are ELCA congregations.)