“This Cannot Be Ignored” | Meet EI Donor, Lisa Brenninkmeyer
As you might assume, the majority of those who reach out to Eden Invitation have an experience of same-sex desires or gender discordance. However, there are also quite a few people who contact us looking for resources or hoping to support our mission. And although these people may not personally fall somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, there is always a story behind why they want to connect with us. In most cases, that reason is a person.
For Lisa Brenninkmeyer, the Founder and Chief Purpose Officer of Walking With Purpose and longtime EI supporter, it was her (then) tween daughter who initially helped her realize the importance of this work. Initially, she thought her daughter might be experiencing same-sex attraction. But as their conversations continued, she realized that her middle schooler’s concern was actually for a classmate and friend.
“I recognized, in conversations with my daughter, that this was, for her, probably the most important issue to be addressing; there was all of this fire in her belly, but it wasn’t for her,” Lisa says. “It was for one of her best friends who had come out to her. They’re in a Catholic school and (my daughter) just sobbed to me about the jokes kids tell and the way things are discussed in religion class. (Her friend) was devastated and really suffering with mental health issues. There she was, as an eighth grader, trying to reconcile all of this with her family’s faith. She was like, ‘I don’t know what I think about all of this. I don’t know about the Church and our faith if this is how my friend, right here, feels.’”
These early conversations with her daughter brought about a conviction in Lisa as to the urgency and necessity of addressing this issue within the Church in a way that was both truthful and loving.
“I think Eden Invitation is addressing one of the most significant needs in the Church today,” she says. “I really believe that for this next generation, Gen Z, if we don’t get this right for their friends, we’re going to lose the whole generation. I 100% believe that.”
As Lisa quickly came to realize, conversations on these topics—as well as creating communities of support for those with an experience of same sex desires and/or gender discordance—is vital, not only for those who have the experience, but also for their loved ones. Millennials and Generation Z are leaving the Church in record numbers, and for many of them, this is a major factor.
“If you care about the new evangelization, if you care about reaching the next generation for Christ, if you care about retaining young people in the Church, this cannot be ignored,” says Lisa.
“I was talking to a pastor about Eden Invitation and he said, ‘I don’t think there’s anything more important for the Church today than to figure out how to do this well, how to meet this need well, how to talk about it in a way that doesn’t alienate and is still true.’ Eden Invitation is doing a phenomenal job of that.”
Lisa has found that Eden Invitation plays a unique role in supporting our brothers and sisters in the Church with an LGBTQ/SSA experience. The more that she learned about our virtual and in-person communities, the more she realized that this was the type of movement she wanted to support.
“It is critical that we care for people, that they have a home in the Church, they’re on mission, and they’re needed and valued,” says Lisa. “Everybody needs to have a place where they know, ‘This is home. This is my safe place. This is a place where I can unload what’s hard in my life, and also have accountability and challenge to live a better life.’”
As someone who has spent her life in ministry, Lisa recognizes the importance of creating spaces where people know that their experience is understood.
“No matter what your unique heartache is, we all need that place where people are like, ‘Yeah, I know. I’m in this, too.’ It means you’re not alone and I’m not alone, and everything is easier,” Lisa says.
“It has to be someone with the experience, it’s the street credibility,” she adds. “They (at Eden Invitation) know what they’re talking about. They know what offends, they know what brings hope. What I have found to be effective in ministry is when you connect with someone who understands (your) pain point because (they) have been there.”
Lisa encourages others to consider the significance of donating to an organization such as Eden Invitation in the early stages of its growth and development.
“There is something incredibly impactful about investing in a startup,” she says. “I think a lot of us are putting money into things that have been tried and are well-established, but they haven’t had the effect we really want it to. What I love about Eden Invitation is that it has been proven to be effective, and it’s also something that hasn’t really been tried in the Church before; it’s cutting edge.”
“Eden Invitation is small enough that, minus your investment, it might not be able to make it,” says Lisa. “There are other ministries you can give to that are pretty well-endowed and whether or not you give doesn’t determine whether or not they do their ministry. Eden Invitation is something where (your support) is immediately going to have an impact on whether or not this can really flourish.”
When it comes to supporting Eden Invitation, for Lisa, the choice is an easy one.
“Our culture is moving and changing at such a fast rate,” says Lisa. “We need to be able to really pivot and ask ‘What are the needs?’ We also need to know that we’re giving to something that is orthodox and keeping in line with the Church. That’s the beautiful thing with Eden Invitation; I don’t know that anybody else is doing what they’re doing.”