On 14 November 2021, the Lutheran Laypeople’s League turns 100. From humble beginnings, an embryonic idea of Ben Koch to support the work of the church has become a substantial financial and administrative body. It has underpinned much of the mission, ministry and day-to-day operations of the Lutheran Church in Australia.


The Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL) of Australia came into being mainly as a by-product of one person’s activity in the life and work of the Lutheran Church – layperson Ben Koch. Koch’s activity in ELSA (Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia, later Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia – ELCA) policymaking, educational programs and mission expansion also involved him in the problems of the church’s financial position. He wondered how the money situation could be improved.

The conviction grew that a large endowment reserve used in loan funding of church expansion programs would cut down interest loss and increase flexibility in planning and outreach.

On 14 November 1921 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Adelaide, the LLL was officially formed. Koch was elected president. The head office of the nationwide movement was to be in SA.

During the triennial convention of the ELSA at Lobethal in 1923, members of the LLL resolved to ask the Convention for sanction of the inauguration of the LLL and approval for the continuation of the movement. Sanction and approval were given.

By June 1922, the LLL had received £570 from 24 contributors. Circulating capital by 1929 was over £4000. This amount fell well short of Ben Koch’s initial target of £20,000, but it was still a significant amount, given the economic circumstances at the time.


Post-World War II was a growth time in church planting and home missions around Australia. The United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia (UELCA), which had numbered 28,602 members in 1939, grew to 63,233 by 1966; the ELCA grew from 27,154 to 51,875.

Most of the church and school building activity, which underpinned this growth in church planting in the ELCA, was provided by the growing resources of the LLL.

The increase in LLL funds in this period is not explained simply by the changed economic situation. Other factors were its tradition of service, promotion by local congregational collectors, and regular deposits by children, especially in Lutheran day schools. The work of Ben Koch in visiting parishes was another factor.

After years of discussion, the union of the ELCA and the UELCA took place on 29 October 1966. The Lutheran Church of Australia was born. The role of the LLL in this new church was constitutionally clarified as that of the Church Extension Department of the LCA.


In 1972, Theo Koch was the executive officer. He joined the LLL in 1953. He took the roles of secretary/treasurer and then became executive secretary upon his father’s death in 1963.

Already in 1973, an LLL Tract Mission Fund was created to enable tract distribution. The directors of the LLL believed supplying tracts not only benefitted recipients but served to remind people of the purpose of the LLL.

When Theo Koch retired in 1987, Richard Bartholomaeus was appointed executive secretary.

Despite economic problems, deposits in the LLL exceeded $50 million in 1991. In 1994 another milestone was passed when deposits exceeded $100 million.

The LLL had administered church worker pension matters in the ELCA. It was asked to continue to administer the new LCA Pensions Fund and Church Workers Retirement Fund. The LCA Superannuation Fund commenced on 1 January 1987 for pastors and lay workers. The LCA Staff Superannuation Fund commenced in 1988 for Lutheran school and aged-care employees, and other staff in Lutheran Church organisations.

In the mid-1990s the business name of the League was changed to the LLL. The popular name Lutheran Laymen’s League was changed to ‘The Lutheran Laypeople’s League of Australia’.

In 1996, the LLL reached a new milestone with the breaking of the $8 million barrier in benefits to the LCA.


The LLL launched a website in April 2002 (LLL@Home). By February 2004, total funds under LLL management had reached $500 million for the first time and by 2005, the LLL was administering the central treasury of the LCA.

LLL computerisation provided another avenue of service for the LCA. The program known as Regular Electronic Giving (REG) allows members to give their weekly offering via electronic transaction. In 2006, around 1890 people in 252 congregations of the LCA were contributing around $324,000 per month.

In 2005 a school banking portal was created and the LLL donation portal was also launched. The latter allowed credit card donations and payments to LCA registered entities.


Richard Bartholomaeus retired in 2008, after holding the position of CEO for 22 years. In this time … deposits grew from $12 million in 1977 to $430 million at 30 June 2008. Loans went from $8 million to $267 million. On 1 September 2008, Allen Kupke was appointed LLL CEO, only the fourth person to take this role.

The LLL Board identified the need to apply for a financial services licence because the LLL was handling non-cash transactions. This licence was granted in 2009.

The LLL also applied to become an Authorised Deposit-taking Institution (ADI) and accept bank status and oversight. This would provide greater security for depositors. The LLL was granted authority to operate as an ADI, effective from 1 February 2019. After nearly 98 years of operation, the LLL moved more formally into the banking world, operating as a charitable financial institution, one of the few in Australia.

February 2020 was another milestone for LLL account holders, with the launch of its long-awaited mobile banking app.

In late 2020, the LLL’s fourth CEO, Allen Kupke, retired. During his tenure as CEO, Allen Kupke oversaw the growth of deposits from $560 million in June 2009 to $1.28 billion at 30 June 2020. He was succeeded by Ross Smith.

This story is adapted from excerpts of The Challenge of Change: An expanded history of the Lutheran Laypeople’s League – 1921-2021. Depositors can order a copy of the book free of charge. See page 5 for details.


1921 – Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL) is constituted at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Adelaide SA (14 Nov)

1965 – Moves from 70 Pirie Street, Adelaide to 54 O’Connell Street, North Adelaide

1966 – LCA forms from the union of the UELCA and the ELCA

1979 – Commences the practice of giving of communion sets to all seminary graduates

1981 – Moves to 175 Archer Street, North Adelaide

1983 – LCA Property Provident Fund (LCA Insurance) begins

1987 – Lutheran Tract Mission is established from a merger of LCA Tract Mission and Life at Best

1988 – Lutheran Tract Mission extension built and dedicated

1995 – Changes name from Lutheran Laymen’s League to Lutheran Laypeople’s League

2002 – LLL@Home internet banking is launched

2011 – Undergoes a rebrand and logo change from ‘Christians Working Together’ to ‘Finance with a mission’

2016 – Authorised Deposit-taking Institution (ADI) application lodged with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)

2019 – LLL begins operating as an ADI under licence conditions granted by APRA

2021 – LLL celebrates 100 years of service to the Lutheran Church

100 years

2021 marks a milestone in the LLL’s history.
It is our 100-year anniversary of serving
our supporters and the Lutheran Church
in Australia. It is right and proper to give
thanks and praise to God as we see what
he has achieved through the hearts and
hands of his people. We would like to
acknowledge and honour our founder Ben
Koch and all directors and staff who have
faithfully served LLL over that century.

Please join us for the LLL 100 Year
Thanksgiving Service, to be held on the
eve of our centenary anniversary:

Saturday 13 November
10am ACDT

Streamed live, the service will be
held at Bethlehem Lutheran Church,
Adelaide, and available to view
on the LLL’s Facebook page.
A recording of the service will be
available after the event for those who
are unable to view the livestream.

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