Empowering Faith through Financial Leadership: Linda O. Norman and the Mission Investment Fund

Linda Norman preaching

When Linda O. Norman MDiv ’06 recalls the making the decision to attend LSTC shortly after earning an accounting degree as an undergraduate, she remembers, first and foremost, how unsure she felt about her choice. “I struggled a lot because I didn’t know if coming to seminary meant I was saying, ‘I’m going to be a pastor,’” Norman says. “I thought it meant I had to be sure. And I was assured mostly by my mentor, who said, ‘Linda, it is okay to start a journey. It is a journey of discernment. It’s not just a journey of academic preparation to be a pastor. It is okay to come and be in a community of discernment, and that’s legitimate reason to go to seminary.’”

Today, Norman, weaves the threads of faith and finance into a tapestry of impactful leadership, using her ministry to connect individuals and congregations with the financial resources they need to succeed. As the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Mission Investment Fund, Norman’s journey reflects a profound intersection of vocational calling and public leadership, showcasing the power of connection in advancing the mission of the church.

This power proved to be a profound blessing of Norman’s time at LSTC. Studying for her MDiv created the context for her to succeed in intergenerational ministry post-graduation, to be sure, but it also provided strong relationships with leaders in the Church and academia, who have continued to shape her path. “The other day, I started to make a list of my mentors in seminary,” Norman recalls with a smile, quickly listing off names including Dr. Linda Thomas, Dr. Ralph W. Klein, Dr. Albert “Pete” Pero, Dr. Kadi Billman, and Pat Bartley. “And when I got to about seven people, I told myself ‘Linda, you have to stop making this list because there’s so many people!’”

For Norman, life after LSTC provided further opportunities for working in ministry and using her expertise in financial settings to support the mission of the Church. “When I came out of seminary I worked at Bethel Lutheran Church on the west side of Chicago, mostly around children’s ministry, and I also worked full-time as the controller for the ELCA foundation,” Norman says. “Since then, my real journey in leadership has been at the intersection in faith and finance in national ministries even more so than congregational ministries.”

After working for the ELCA Foundation first as a controller and then as CFO, Norman was called to working with the ELCA as controller and treasurer. After eight years of successful and impactful leadership, Norman was chosen to lead the Mission Investment Fund (MIF), first as a Vice President of Administration, then as CFO and Vice President of Administration and today as Executive Vice President and CFO. “The opportunities to work in growth-oriented environments really attracted me to the Mission Investment Fund,” Norman reflects, highlighting MIF’s commitment to nurturing communities and ministries and providing people with resources and pathways for progress even in economically challenging times.

At the helm of the Mission Investment Fund, through her steadfast commitment to empowering communities, Norman embodies the potential of faith-inspired stewardship in shaping a more just and compassionate world. “By connecting congregations with the resources they need, we have been trying to figure out ways to build just resilience in our communities… so that they can continue to survive and serve,” Norman remarks, illuminating MIF’s endeavors to foster financial wellness and inclusivity in congregational settings and more broadly. Sometimes those endeavors are focused on special projects; sometimes, they’re oriented towards survival. Norman recalls, for example, the three hundred ELCA ministries that MIF and the ELCA Federal Credit Union were able to connect with PPP loans during the pandemic, when traditional banks not only turned down offers of support but provided no avenues for further inquiry to congregations in trouble. Today, those ministries are thriving and happily serving their communities.

As Norman looks towards the future, she envisions a tapestry of interconnected communities, united in their pursuit of justice, equity, and solidarity. “We are trying to build this formal alliance with the ELCA Federal Credit Union… and focusing a lot on our ecumenical partnerships,” Norman shares, underscoring MIF’s commitment to fostering collaborative endeavors that transcend denominational boundaries. For students considering LSTC and the path of vocational discernment, Norman offers sage advice rooted in her own journey of faith and leadership. “It is okay to start a journey… It is a journey of discernment, not just a journey of academic preparation,” Norman emphasizes, echoing the sentiment of divine invitation that guided her own footsteps first into the sacred corridors of seminary and then into the world of impactful leadership.

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