St. John’s Lutheran Church is an ELCA congregation established in 1856. In 1896 it first began to assign a congregational council member or elder of the congregation to care for those in need. Many of the congregation’s current programs for assistance are over thirty-five years old. As T.S. Elliott wrote, “We do not inherit a tradition. We work to be worthy of it.” 

St. John’s is a place where people come for help and assistance more than worship, prayer, church meetings, or classes.  Of the 800 people who come through our doors each week, 655 come for assistance of various kinds.

  • Six days a week about 30 or so people with serious mental illness gather in a day shelter for the mentally ill in Off the Square Club managed by Lutheran Social Services.
  • Seven nights a week about 40 homeless men sleep at St. Johns in Shelter 2 managed by Porchlight.
  • Each week about 10 women getting out of jail or prison meet at St. Johns for support as they get started again in life through the Women’s Backyard Mosaic Project managed by Madison Area Lutheran Council.
  • Each week about 140 people attend usually eight different anonymous groups for addictions to alcohol, drugs, food and other things.
  • Each week about 60 people come to the center for Bhutanese refugee settlement managed by LIRS. Many of these people are Buddhist.
  • Each week about 125 people come to receive financial assistance for housing, food, utilities, medicine, or transportation. We are able to help only about a third of those who ask for help. Another third are connected to other available resources. Last year we distributed $44,000. The average gift is around $26 dollars.

This means that:

  • People who worship at St. Johns are focused on its mission of helping those in need as it relates to every aspect of congregational life.
  • Many people consider St. Johns as a home or place to stay or a refuge.
  • A small worshipping community needs to raise a lot of money to help the people who come here. For the last few years, the income raised for all purposes both in the congregation and beyond averages around $550,000. About two-thirds of all money received goes to support caring for those in need with direct support, shelter, upkeep, meeting assistance, and gifts to partner organizations.
  • The congregation works with partners in downtown Madison who are focused on poverty, homelessness, and mental illness. Our partners and supporters include Porchlight, Lutheran Social Services – social ministry ministry, Grace Episcopal, Good Shepherd Lutheran, Madison Area Lutheran Council, First United Methodist, First Congregational Church, Advent Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, Dane County, Midvale Lutheran, and Luther Memorial.