Ministry by the numbers
Where do you serve God’s people?
I’m currently the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church. We are a dual-site ministry which means we have worship locations in two places, Black River Falls and Cataract, Wisconsin (15 miles south of Black River Falls, 10 miles north of Sparta) in the Western Wisconsin District.
What were the primary influences on your decision to enter the public ministry?
Both my parents were teachers in the public ministry in California and Wisconsin. I also have many family members who serve or served in the public ministry as pastors or teachers. Growing up I was also blessed with teachers and congregation members who felt that I had the gifts to serve in the ministry. I received a lot of encouragement. One thing that I also remember as a child is thinking how “cool” my uncle (who was studying to be a pastor) was because he had a motorcycle — and if he could be a pastor and still be “cool,” then maybe it was something I could do too!
How long have you served Faith?
This is my first assignment out of the seminary, I graduated in 2004. However the scope of the assignment has changed in the five years that I’ve been here. I was originally assigned to a dual-parish which is two separate congregations that share a pastor. Both congregations were located in the Cataract area – a small unincorporated township. In the last couple of years, those congregations merged to form Faith and have also reached out to the people of Black River Falls through a satellite worship location.
Tell us about your current ministries.
At this writing Faith has about 125 souls between the two cities. We have a church building in Cataract that has been in that same location for over 110 years. In Black River Falls, we don’t own a worship facility so we have been worshiping in the high school library for the last two years. We do have plans to build in Black River Falls in the near future and are executing a land search. We don’t have an elementary school or an early childhood program, but our future planning for Black River Falls has an early childhood program in mind as a definite outreach possibility.
What are some of the challenges you are facing as a congregation?
Every congregation has challenges, but we were faced with two congregations, four miles apart in an unincorporated community. How were we going to reach out? Some of the members were already driving from Black River Falls but were finding it very hard to encourage someone to visit the church when it was a fifteen mile drive out into the middle of the country. When the decision was made to reach out into Black River Falls with Sunday morning worship that meant we would have to make some major changes in Cataract.
A merger was the best of the choices but a merger meant that one building in the Cataract area was going to have to be given up. It’s hard to give up a place that you’ve called your church home for your entire life. It’s hard to change the way that things have been done for almost 80 years in the name of outreach. It is also hard to establish yourself in a new community while worshiping in a temporary location. But God continues to bless our efforts.
What are some of the blessings?
The blessings seem to multiply weekly! In just two years we’ve already doubled the number of worshipers in Black River Falls. We regularly have visitors — even in our temporary facility. We’ve been blessed with the financial resources to begin looking for land with the intention of building there in the near future.
In Cataract, there were two groups of people sharing the same small community, the same faith, the same pastor, but not the same congregation. It’s a tremendous blessing to see those new relationships formed and strengthened as the two have become one.
Please share one (or two or three) outreach/evangelism stories.
Three years ago, prior to starting worship in Black River Falls, we held a series of four Bible studies in a local community room of one of the banks. We advertised it in the local paper and on the radio and had a great turnout. A married couple attended all four of the classes and didn’t return for two years. One Sunday after we’d started worship services in Black River Falls, who shows up but that married couple from the Bible studies! They began attending worship regularly, took the Bible information classes, and have become members.
There are countless more stories, but you would probably have to edit for length!
How has your theological education prepared you for your service to others?
You don’t fully appreciate what you are learning until you actually can get out and use it. That’s so true of the education I received both at MLC and the seminary. There are many things that I wish I could have learned better now that I’m out in the real world. And that’s why I’m thankful for the offerings given at Summer Quarter. I’ve been able to use the courses I took at the last Summer Quarter as the foundation for two different Bible studies this past year as well as a conference paper. My solid theological education enables me to answer the questions that people have concerning God’s Word. Or, if I can’t answer them, I know where I can go to find the answers!
For more information visit Faith’s Web site.