Millie Lungren: Covenant Hospitality at Its Best

CHICAGO, IL (July 30, 2015) — The Covenant will lose a valuable resource on Friday. After 39 years, Millie Lungren is retiring. Millie is probably best known in the Covenant as director of the Covenant Resource Center.

0729 millieOver nearly four decades, Lungren estimates that she or her staff fielded more than 50,000 requests for information, in addition to fulfilling orders for resources and materials to Covenant churches. In recent years, she has overseen ministries of prayer, disabilities, spiritual direction, and later adults.

Lungren graduated with a master’s degree in library science from Emporia State University in Kansas and returned home to California, where she was determined to work as a children’s librarian. But drastic state and local budget cuts all but eliminated that possibility.

“That’s when I changed my prayer to ‘God, I’ll go where you want me to go.’”

A short time later, David Noreen, then executive secretary of Christian education, called. Alva Johanson, the denomination’s director of resourcing services, which included development of the C.E. Resource Center, was planning to retire in a year. Noreen wanted to know if Lungren would work for a year with Johanson and then take on the ministry of the C.E. Resource Center. She laughs and says, “And to think I came to Chicago for just a two-year commitment.”

In 1986, Evelyn Johnson became the executive director of Christian education and discipleship. Her first board-directed task was to close the C.E. Resource Center in light of lack of funding. But she said, “Just know this is not the end of the story,” Lungren recalls.

That closure birthed the concept of an interdepartmental resource center, with each department sharing in the funding. That enabled further collaboration as well as a centralized response service, both in terms of shipping departmental resources and personal consultation. Lungren describes the new Covenant Resource Center as “a sort of triage” for getting help. Prior to this, “People would call and not know who they needed and would get transferred from one department to the next. More often than not, they didn’t know exactly what they were looking for, so we helped them determine their need.” Over the years, Covenanters would advise others who had questions about curriculum or other resources, “Call Millie.”

If Lungren or her staff didn’t know the answer they would try to track it down, which might include connecting them with a specific department within Covenant Offices, a regional conference office, another church, or a Covenanter who could help. “It was really fun,” Lungren says. “It was resourcing in that broad dimension. It went way beyond providing print materials.”

In 2012 the Covenant Resource Center was closed because churches and conferences had easier access to resourcing through advanced technology. Lungren shifted to assume new leadership responsibilities in the areas of prayer, spiritual direction, disabilities, and later adult ministries, which she has carried out with the same enthusiasm as her earlier ministry work.

It’s given her the opportunity to exercise her hospitality gift in new ways. Helping guide the disabilities committee is but one example. “One goal of the committee has been to help churches get a vision for what it means for all to belong and be included,” she says.

Lungren also is a spiritual director—another means of extending welcome. She received her certificate from the C. John Weborg Center for Spiritual Direction at North Park Theological Seminary. “I didn’t know where it would lead, but the entire experience was hugely transformational for me.” Spiritual direction has grown in the Covenant thanks to efforts of many individuals. The development of the Association of Covenant Spiritual Directors was approved this spring. Along with regional spiritual direction networks, the association will provide additional support and connection for directors.

Lungren fears it might sound trite, but she believes her spiritual gift of hospitality enabled her to do her ministry well. “It’s looking at hospitality in the broad sense of helping people feel connected to the whole,” Lungren explains.

As for retirement, she says that “at least initially, I’d like to do a little more spiritual direction. I know God has something for me, but I don’t know what that is—and that’s OK.”

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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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18 Comments

  1. Dear Millie, I’ve been trying to send you a” comment”, but they reject me. I had 2 members of the
    Computer Helpers trying to help me, but no luck! I just wanted to say I keep seeing this picture of you as a little girl sitting at the “come as you are breakfast” at the table at you mom’s house. Then I remembered the Faith at Work conference and all the other times I met you at various Covenant conferences. I am so proud of you! Thank you for all the times you helped me. Thanks for all the special times I remember in Kingsburg. Blessings on you! Love, Shirley

  2. I thought I was retired, too. DON’T BELIEVE ‘EM! As Craig Groeschel said at a leadership summit a couple years ago, “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.” Like all the others on this comment list, I also have thoroughly enjoyed your service, and even just hearing your voice on the other end of the line. It was an affirmation of who you really are whenever I could see you face-to-face at Midwinter. So, keep going, girl, wherever the Lord leads you next.

  3. Millie was a great ambassador for the denomination and especially helpful in directing people to as many options as were available for individuals and churches. I’m sure you will find many ways to be a blessing to others in your next steps of your servanthood journey; thanks for all of your help to me as a colleague in ministry and for being a friend to me and so many others.

  4. Congratulations Millie!! You have been such an important part of my ministry over the years in the local church as well as in the Christian Education Consultant program in Northwest Conference. I couldn’t have done it without you! You have truly been a great asset to the entire Covenant family. Thank you for all your care, support and friendship. I pray for God’s richest blessings for you in retirement.
    Nancy King

  5. Millie has been a true gift to the Covenant. I had the privilege of collaborating with her over the years as Communications and Covenant Bookstore worked closely with Millie and her staff to serve our Covenant churches, institutions, and individuals. Closure of the Resource Center followed closure of the bricks-and-mortar bookstore a few years earlier, both victims of advancing technology, which continues to serve the church well. Still, there is nothing quite like the personal touch, and that will be missed. As we used to say, when you don’t know who to call, you call Millie and her team. Millie has always displayed the kind of demeanor and attitude that is so characteristic of the life of a servant of Christ. She is a gem, and I will always treasure the memories of that time in service together. Blessings to you, Millie, in whatever venture God has in store for you.

  6. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with Millie for the past five years. I have so appreciated her knowledge of the Covenant and her willingness to find the answers to people questions. Millie has been a blessing to the Covenant and will continue to impact the Covenant through her servant’s heart and willingness to partner with people through spiritual direction.

    Cheers to a happy retirement!
    Jorden J. Meyers

  7. Millie, I have been so blessed by your friendship and amazing hospitality, which, by the way, is totally a God-given gift! I’m excited to see where God is leading now! He has such good gifts for His children and you certainly are a gift to me and to our whole Covenant family! Love always, Karen

  8. Thank you, Millie, for all the caring support you’ve given through your ministry.
    Blessings,
    Chet Nelson

  9. Dear Millie,
    Congratulations on your retirement and completing many productive years of ministry in and for our denomination with such love and grace! You will be missed! I will long remember the many times you helped me when I needed a resource or a new idea, someone to brainstorm with me or a friend.
    Blessings as you begin the next part of your life’s journey!

  10. In going over my e-mail I came upon the news of your retirement. Thank you,Millie, for your years of service to God & thus to all of us in the Covenant church. But even more than that, I thank you for your ready smile & warm greeting whenever we met. May God bless you in your retirement – knowing He will lead you into another area of service suited to your infectious, warm & loving personality!

  11. Maybe trite, but certainly biblical and absolutely true–“Well done, good and faithful servant!” Thanks, Millie!!

  12. Millie,
    You have provided such excellent service to the ECC for so many years. Thank you. I remember connecting with you for the first time way back in the 1980’s when I was green and fresh out of seminary. You were so helpful then as I am sure you continued to be throughout this fine career. I hope you enjoy retirement and remember you will be the same gracious gift of God wherever the road leads. Blessings!!!
    Chris

  13. Millie – Enjoy being re-treaded and re-fired(up) for whatever new directions and dimensions lie ahead of you. Great to work with you in a variety of ways over the past several years, especially in the area of disability ministries.
    Joy, for your journey ahead,
    – Jim

  14. Congratulations Millie! 39 years of ministry to the Covenant – that is awesome. Know that you have been greatly appreciated, even if the “thanks” haven’t always been expressed to you personally. I’m impressed by the flexibility and openness to change that you’ve exhibited over the years too, as you stepped into new roles of leadership and service. You may be retiring from your position at Covenant Headquarters but I’m sure you won’t be retiring from ministry and service! God bless you as you enter this next phase of life, Millie.

    Dan Johnson
    Hilmar, CA

  15. Millie has been an amazing behind the scenes resource for the Covenant. Thank you for highlighting her gifts and contributions. May her retirement years be blessed!

  16. Whenever I’ve thought of Millie Lungren two words have come to mind, “gracious” and “caring”. As an active pastor and conference superintendent I often had occasion to call Millie for one resource or another and she never failed to meet the needs I presented to her. Since having retired I haven’t had the need to “call for help”, but I’ve not forgotten the gentle lady with the always present smile who was always willing and able to help.
    Congratulations on your retirement, Millie! May our Lord continue to bless you and use you in his vineyard.
    My best wishes, always,
    George Elia

  17. Dear Millie,
    Congratulations on your retirement! Was just browsing today and saw this article. Retirement years are great – especially when one discovers they are just as productive and perhaps even more productive.
    We have not chatted for a long time; however, you are in my heart so, I think of you often. I miss you! Congratulations dear Millie Lungren. We will meet again.
    Grace,
    Anna Marie

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