Lutheran Development Group rebuilds communities near our city's churches through real estate development, community initiatives, ministry investment, and church engagement.
At LDG, faith compels us to ask, "Who is my neighbor?" We live in a time when many of us can choose our neighbors. Acting with the best of intentions to provide better opportunities for us and our families can leave us isolated from our neighbors of greatest need, making resources many of us take for granted, harder for these neighbors to access.
We love our neighbor by working for:
Years of disinvestment left many City of St. Louis communities unbalanced. Caring neighbors live alongside episodes of crime. Beautiful homes stand near vacant buildings. Once vibrant storefronts stand shuttered along with the jobs they once provided. Children walk past all of this on their way to school. How can we show God's love to our neighbors in these communities?
LDG started as an idea in 2013, as a way to connect the resources of Lutheran congregations and organizations with the needs of their neighborhoods.
Messiah Lutheran provided a jumping off point for what would soon become LDG with the East Fox Homes affordable housing development. Messiah combined their resources with the expertise of others to meet the need for affordable housing in their community.
Lutheran Development Group, a Registered Service Organization of the LCMS, now works to provide churches with the capacity and knowledge to invest in and have a meaningful impact on their neighborhoods.
We focus on real estate development, community service, and church engagement.
We believe that comprehensive revitalization is beyond the ability of any one organization, but not beyond organizations and community working together.
The history of the neighborhoods we serve is entwined with Lutheran history in St. Louis. The area historically known as Dutchtown was the core of German Lutheran immigration in St. Louis.
The first St. Louis location of Concordia Seminary was on South Jefferson Ave. See a historical map of the area here.
Many of the oldest Missouri Synod churches are located in or near these south St. Louis neighborhoods.
Want to learn more about Lutheran history in the area? The Concordia Historical Institute has many resources. Visit them here.
These neighborhoods were established in the mid 19th Century, therefore many of the buildings we renovate are over 100 years old, if not much older. Further complicating our efforts, typically these buildings were vacant or abandoned prior to renovation. LDG is working to bring financial resources back into these communities with safe, affordable homes and increased educational and economic opportunities.
By creating affordable housing, expanding the capacity of neighborhood organizations, supporting educational opportunities, recruiting job creators, resident informed planning, and remediating blight; we hope that the neighborhood can be a strong, stable, and sustainable home for the households living there now and for generations to come.
Go and do likewise. - Jesus
Go and do likewise. - Jesus
‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator[a] shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Chris Shearman is the founder and Executive Director of Lutheran Development Group. Chris has a history of dedication to South City. Chris and his wife Dana have lived in Compton Heights on Saint Louis’s near south side since 2004 having renovated a house there for their family. Chris has been involved in community development through real-estate investment, entrepreneurship, and organizational volunteerism. After two years in downtown loft development, Chris and his wife, Dana, opened Gelateria Del Leone, a community focused cafe. They soon moved the business to South Grand, where Chris became active in the management of local organizations including Messiah Lutheran Church, the Greater Gravois Initiative, and the local South Grand Community Improvement District.
Lucas Delort is Community Development Manager for Lutheran Development Group. Lucas received his Master’s in Social Work in 2016 from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, where he studied social and economic development, affordable housing, land ownership issues, and racial and economic justice in community development. Prior to working at LDG, Lucas completed practicums at Rise Community Development and Northside Community Housing; assisted on the Civic Tech and Data Collaborative Initiative; and worked as a research assistant for the Consumer Council of Missouri, where he assisted in developing the legislation recently signed into law by the City of St. Louis that increases accountability measures for payday lenders.
Lucas is restoring a home in Gravois Park, one of LDG’s core neighborhoods of development. As an active member of his community, Lucas sees his work as important both professionally and personally. He also serves on the board and the housing committee for Dutchtown South Community Corporation.
Lauren Verseman is Project Manager for Lutheran Development Group. Lauren received a JD from Washington University School of Law, where she met LDG through the Urban Revitalization Clinical Practicum. Lauren went into law school thinking she would be a public defender, but quickly became fascinated with property, housing, and how law shapes place.
In addition to the JD, Lauren holds a master's degree from Sciences-Po in Paris, France and a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. Paris is beautiful. Los Angles is...ok. St. Louis is home.
Megan Barz is the Community Coordinator for Lutheran Development Group. Megan graduated from Concordia University Nebraska in 2018 where she studied psychology, behavioral science, and urban ministry. Prior to graduating, Megan interned with LDG where she piloted a youth employment program focused on blight remediation in South St. Louis. Through this, Megan quickly became interested in community development and affordable housing. Megan recently moved to Benton Park West and looks forward to making St. Louis her home.
Andy Sell will be the Small Projects Manager for Lutheran Development Group. Andy, Betsy, and family grew up in St. Louis County, but have lived in St. Louis City for 6 years and developed a heart for the city. Andy was a life-long member of the Lutheran Church of Webster Gardens, where he and Betsy met, and recently transferred membership to Messiah Lutheran Church to focus on community and ministry within the city. Andy has been working in construction for 5 years, built houses in Mexico with Casas Por Cristo seven times, and served at Webster Gardens as Interim iServe Director, leading the Home Makeover project to gut and renovate a South City apartment. Andy is excited to work with Lutheran Development Group to help meet city housing needs in the name and love of Christ.