Chad White: “I love my ‘job’!”

My name is Chad White, and I serve as a staff minister at Holy Word Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas. I have been serving in this call since April of 2002. Wow! It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 14 years! God has blessed me with a wonderful, very supportive wife and ministry partner of 21 years, Cindy. He has also given me my three beautiful children, Emma (17), Bryant (15), and Danni (12).


My family, Christmas of 2015. From left to right: Bryant, Chad, Danni (front), Cindy, and Emma.

How did I become a staff minister? Good question! I am what people often call a “second career” called worker. In other words, I started my career going to college to be an electrical engineer at UW-Madison, and then working for IBM and Motorola for several years before God redirected me into life as a staff minister. While working at Motorola here in Austin back in the late 1990s, I served as secretary to our church council and then as an elder while also attending various Bible studies. As an elder I got to see and work with people on a more intimate basis, helping them in their walk with the Lord. Through these experiences, spending more time in the Bible, and the encouragement and mentorship of Pastor Don Patterson, God’s grace changed my heart and led me to consider the possibility of full-time ministry. Over the next couple of years I continued to speak to Pastor Patterson, my wife, church leaders, and friends about being a called worker. Then, in the spring of 2002, God provided a unique opportunity for me to leave my job as an engineer and work full-time at Holy Word as a staff minister. It was a major change in my life and the life of my family but one that I never regret and something I thank God for regularly.

love-my-jobOver the next 10 years, I had the wonderful privilege of serving Jesus full-time in my church while also taking classes towards my synod certification in staff ministry. I took on-line classes and also traveled to MLC almost every summer for on-campus classes. I can’t thank God or my church enough for providing that education for me. It opened new windows for me into the world of called ministry. I met some great professors and was able to not only learn from them in class but also spend time together with them in social settings outside of class. Their encouragement to me was invaluable. I also met other incredible, gifted people seeking full-time ministry. Lifetime friendships were formed with those people whom I still turn to today for guidance, encouragement, and comfort as we do ministry together, but in separate places, sometimes across the globe. Most importantly, my education prepared me to serve God’s people in the ways I needed. I was much more confident in teaching the Bible after my Bible and doctrine courses. I can also remember going into ministry situations after taking my professional classes (i.e., youth and family ministry, caring and counseling) and being able to directly apply what I had learned. It was awesome!

What do I do as a staff minister? Well, that’s a good question too, and the answer to that question for every staff minister can be different, depending on the congregation and setting. Here at Holy Word, God has called me to serve in many different ministries, and those ministries have changed in the years since I started. Originally, I was largely involved with outreach to the community, like following up with church visitors, leading faith-in-action teams, and organizing for evangelism events, including a large outdoor Easter sunrise service. As time went by, I also got involved with family ministry (premarriage courses, marriage counseling, parenting classes/ counseling) and youth ministry (the teen group at our church, mission trips, district teen activities, youth Bible camps). My call has also included visiting shut-ins and people in the hospital, prison ministry, teaching Bible studies, leading and serving on assimilation teams (we call them “connection” teams here at Holy Word J), presiding in worship services, various administrative duties, and even preaching occasionally when needed and with guidance from the pastoral staff.

Hard at work at the community outreach event in the Spring of 2016.

Hard at work at the community outreach event in the Spring of 2016.

What would I say are some of the highlights of being a staff minister? For one, I feel like I have the dream job. I really do! I get to do something I love, serve Jesus full-time. I get to work with others who love Jesus and want to serve him too in a grace-centered environment. And on top of it, God has graciously allowed me to make a living doing it. How could you ask for more!? I honestly get to tell people, “I love my ‘job’!” Second, I love working with people and helping them grow as disciples of Christ. I believe there is no greater experience than to share the truths of God’s Word with people and then sit back and watch God work. Sometimes it’s not always in the way we think or in the timing we desire, but it’s always what’s best. That gives a lot of peace and contentment in my work. And there’s no greater good that you can do for someone than to help them grow closer in knowing, trusting, and serving their Savior. A cool side benefit is that while ministering to others you often get ministered to in return, equally or even more. Finally, I would say it’s a tremendous joy to work with other Christians every day. I am blessed so much more than I deserve with a great staff at Holy Word, an incredibly gifted and supportive wife who is also basically a full-time called worker, and many faithful, Christ-centered lay leaders. To be able to work with them every day is such a refreshing change from much of my experience in my secular job.

To someone who is considering full-time ministry, whether you are young and still in school, or are already deep into a secular career, I would say give it a fighting chance. If you’re young, full-time ministry may seem like a lot of schooling, work, and stress for little pay. If you’re older with a family and career, full-time ministry might seem like too big of a change. Whatever your hesitations, give full-time ministry a fighting chance. Dig deep into God’s Word. Consider the amazing sacrifice and gift that Jesus gave to you and ask how you might best serve him with your life. Consider God’s promises that he can overcome all challenges and obstacles. Consider God’s promises that he will provide for all your needs as you seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Jesus gave all of us the great commission, “Go and make disciples . . . ” For me, the best way to fulfill that commission was to become a full-time called worker. I love it! God has blessed me in SO many ways through it!

Staff Minister: Mike Mundstock

“Here am I, send me!” After graduating from Shoreland Lutheran High School in 1980, I chose to attend Dr. Martin Luther College to become a teacher in our WELS schools. I was ready to serve and become a teacher, sharing God’s Word with children. I made it through three years at DMLC and proceeded in another direction. I dabbled in the computer world and then became a letter carrier with the US Postal Service. Tugging at the back of my mind, however, was this feeling of wanting to serve in the ministry.


Here I’m pictured with four Kingdom Worker volunteers – VBS: Paul in Athens, July 31, 2009.

During my time in secular work, I was active in our church’s ministry, serving on different boards, leading youth groups and teaching Sunday school. While my family and I were at St. Mark’s in Green Bay, Wisconsin, our congregation, led by Pastor John Parlow, called a staff minister to serve. Mike Pfeifer was called to serve alongside Pastor Parlow and the lay volunteers. It was an eye-opening experience for me. This seemed like a new ministry position that I might like to take on. It would mean something different almost every day, and you wouldn’t be locked into a classroom structure. Pastor Parlow and Staff Minister Pfeifer encouraged me to take on the challenge of becoming a staff minister.

My wife and I talked about how we would make this work. Our three young children at the time would all be in school full-time in the fall of ’98. My wife was ready to re-enter the classroom as a teacher and went to MLC for recertification classes. I made inquiries to MLC to see what it would take for me to become a staff minister. It had been 15 years or so since I had been at DMLC, and some of the classes would count towards my degree. I have to tell you, the next few paragraphs led me to totally trust God and his words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

While my wife was at MLC in July, the principal of Trinity- Belle Plaine, Minnesota, resigned. Trinity leaders asked her if they could put her on a call list, because they knew I wanted to head back to school. We talked about the opportunity and decided to trust in God and see what happens. The next Sunday she received the one-year call to serve as the grade 7-8 teacher. We had to let them know quickly so they could make plans. In a matter of weeks, we decided to take the plunge and put our home on the market, move the family to Minnesota, put in for a transfer with the post office, and sign up for classes at MLC.

staff-ministryBy August 8, Cathy and the kids were in Belle Plaine and I was in Green Bay awaiting a transfer. We weren’t ready for me to go full-time as a student, but MLC had night classes and they were the ones I needed. I was able to transfer to Shakopee, Minnesota, and take the night classes. The classes went well and the year was winding down. Cathy received a call to teach at St Paul-Arlington, Minnesota, just up the road. She accepted and I became a full-time college student in the fall. It was exciting being in the classroom again and being the “old guy” in class. In 2001, I was assigned to Cape Coral, Florida, for my internship year in staff ministry. The family and I moved to Florida, and Cathy was called to be a preschool teacher at Abiding Love. God’s hand was once again leading us and providing. In May of 2002, we went up to MLC for Call Day and graduation for placement. I was assigned to Deer Valley- Phoenix, AZ. I have served here since my assignment. We were able to finish up in Florida in June and drove across I-10 to Phoenix.

I was called as the youth and family minister for Deer Valley. My duties include Sunday school (Kids for Christ), YES Group (Youth Excited to Serve-teens), Junior Youth Group (grades 3-5), evangelism, technology, and other duties. I love serving God’s people in the many hats that I wear. Over the years, the role has morphed into different aspects of ministry, but that is what I love about staff ministry. We’ve been trained in several aspects of ministry, and while we may not use them all at the same time, eventually God will use us in different roles.

Staff ministry allows the congregation to mold their staff to meet the needs of the congregation. There are music ministers, nurses, administration ministers, outreach, youth and family, college campus, senior ministry with nursing homes, and even prison ministry. Sharing the gospel in any one of these formats is exciting and rewarding.

As the need for pastors increases in our church body and the availability declines, I would hope we could see the excellent use of staff ministers in ministry. One question to ask when evaluating what a congregation needs: Do we need someone to preach, or do we need someone to do ministry? (This is in reference to calling a second pastor.)

I’d like to encourage all of you who are on the fence about serving in the public ministry. Talk to your pastor, spouses, fellow Christian brothers and sisters and ask them if they could see you in the ministry. Evaluate your gifts and pray. Be careful what you pray for, my friends. We have an awesome God who uses fishermen, tax collectors, musicians, doctors, and even a former mailman to share his good news with the world. You may be next.

Staff Minister: Matthew Werner

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I remember the very first time that someone asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As a tiny child, I confidently answered, “I want to be a pastor.” I have always wanted to be a called worker. However, the kind of ministry that I wanted to be involved in shifted dramatically. I wavered from pastor to teacher and back again. By the time I was in high school, I discovered another option, staff minister. I was exposed to staff ministry at a summer camp in Wautoma, Wisconsin. I had spent my whole life attending Camp Phillip, and I loved it. When I learned that some of the year-round workers were staff ministers, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Leading a Bible Study at Camp Phillip during a Spring Teen Retreat.

Leading a Bible Study at Camp Phillip during a Spring Teen Retreat.


I am currently serving as a staff minister at Grace Lutheran Church in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It is impossible to talk about Grace Lutheran Church without including its school. The church and school have a rich history, dating back to 1882. I was called to serve the homebound members of Grace, to minister to the youth of the congregation, and to coordinate fellowship opportunities for the congregation. I work alongside Pastor Jeffrey Duquaine, Pastor Chadwick Graham, and Mr. David Fulton as a part of Grace Lutheran’s senior leadership team. My ministry is always changing to fit the needs of the congregation and school.

“I was baptized, confirmed, and married at Grace.” It still surprises me how often I hear this statement. Some members of Grace wear this as a badge of pride; for others the only way to find out is by looking at old church records. God’s children are one half of what makes being a staff minister so special.

As I drive through the city of Oshkosh I am frequently reminded of saints past and present. A joy in my ministry is visiting homebound members. A portion of these visits is certainly social; I hear many different stories, stories about the history of the congregation or what it was like to work at the local dump. But the driving factor behind all of these visits is means of grace ministry. It is refreshing to visit Christian brothers and sisters who yearn for the gospel. It is a humbling experience to hear such gratitude for such a simple service.

The congregation’s dedication to Christian education has shaped the way in which my talents are used on a daily basis. Depending on the time of year, I spend 2-10 hours a week engaging with the students who attend Grace Lutheran School. These interactions range from catechism class to the playing field and many places in between. Coaching is one small example of the ministry surprises that I have experienced. I had no idea that I would be coaching soccer and basketball, but for the past four years that’s exactly what I’ve done. Coaching is a unique opportunity to help young athletes apply the Word of God.


My son Levi’s baptism – (from left to right, back row to front row) Greg Hohenstern, Heather Hohenstern, Baby Levi Werner, Ashley Werner, Matthew Werner, Antje Braatz, Stevie Werner, Pastor James Werner, Caden Hohenstern, and Ella Hohenstern.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a fire?” At Grace, I would substitute the word fire with meal, maybe even potluck. Lenten meals bring together Christians from all age groups; the bus arrives from WLA, the disabled taxi service pulls up to church, and adults scramble to make it to church from their jobs. Sandwiched between church services is the midweek meal. The cafeteria is overflowing with people from every generation. Most evenings during Lent, I leave church with my face hurting from smiling so much.

When I am asked today, “How do you like your job?”, I have the same confidence that I had when I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I am blessed to be able to call staff ministry my job. Every day God uses me to proclaim his message of salvation to his people. This is the other half of what makes staff ministry so great. I am equipped with the powerful and effective Word of God.

On a given day, I may have the opportunity to proclaim Christ’s love and forgiveness to a 10-year-old who is crying under a coat rack because she feels overwhelmed with guilt and then a few hours later to share the Lord’s Supper with a 90-year-old lady who desires nothing more than to be in heaven with her Lord.

Roles & Responsibilities

  • Minister to the homebound
    • Visit each homebound member once a month
  • Youth ministry
    • Teach a weekly Bible study
    • Provide a monthly fellowship activity (open gym, game night, movie night)
    • Provide youth with an opportunity to go to a youth rally each year
    • Path to Victory basketball camp
  • Fellowship
    • Church picnic
    • Lenten meals
    • Easter breakfast
    • Thanksgiving meal
    • Brewer game
    • Adult volleyball league
  • Member ministry
    • Teach Bible classes
    • Monthly devotions for church organizations
  • School ministry
    • Grade 5-6 confirmation
    • Coach soccer
    • Coach basketball


Staff Minister: Brandon Steenbock

Picture a small congregation in the suburbs of Seattle. There is one pastor, three teachers for Pre-K through grade 8, and a layman as our youth leader. This is where I grew up, and the youth leader was my dad. I loved being at church and youth group, and I loved the relationships I had with the people there. They were family. After graduating high school I spent a year at public university and then took a year off, all the while getting more involved at church – leading youth group, doing liturgy, and organizing fellowship activities.

Here I am with the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church youth mission team to Raleigh fueling up for a day of canvassing. Many of our teens become coffee drinkers on mission trips.

Here I am with the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church youth mission team to Raleigh fueling up for a day of canvassing. Many of our teens become coffee drinkers on mission trips.

One evening I told a friend that I’d love to just do that all the time, but that I didn’t really want to preach or be an LES teacher. He told me about staff ministry. This led me to MLC and eventually to Call Day, when I was assigned to one of the largest churches in the synod.

It certainly was a culture shock to go from what I expected ministry to look like, based on my small church upbringing, to what my ministry would actually be like. I was called to be minister of family and youth, with hundreds of families and more youth than the total membership of the congregation I came from. Needless to say, the Lord was challenging me.

It’s been ten years, and I am still blessed to serve at St. Paul’s.

Picture taken at Christmas for Kids. We brought the kids to Bethlehem, and all crew members were dressed as townspeople, shepherds, angels, and we had Mary and Joseph to help tell the story. I was the owner of the stable where Jesus was born.

Picture taken at Christmas for Kids. We brought the kids to
Bethlehem, and all crew members were dressed as townspeople,
shepherds, angels, and we had Mary and Joseph to help tell the
story. I was the owner of the stable where Jesus was born.

As family minister I am responsible for all the programs that assist our families in raising disciples of Jesus. This includes all of our children’s ministries, and I’m thankful to have a group of volunteers who serve as our children’s ministry team to help coordinate Sunday school, Wednesday school, Christmas and Easter for Kids, and VBS. It also includes youth activities, with a couple youth nights each month, retreats, summer mission trips, and quite a lot of one-to-one ministry to teens – texting, talking, counseling, or just going out for coffee, all for the sake of being a Christian friend and mentor to them.

Equipping parents to have strong marriages and lead their families spiritually is the most important part of family ministry. For this reason, in 2013 I achieved my master’s degree in family life education. This helped me develop skills in pre-marriage education, marriage counseling and enrichment, parenting, and financial management. I provide a variety of opportunities for couples and parents to plug into classes, workshops, and counseling to help them grow in these areas.

Like most called workers, my ministry isn’t limited to the things that fall under my title. I teach confirmation class, visit shut-ins and the hospitalized, lead Bible classes, organize special events, and serve as advisor to various committees, boards, and the council. A few years ago I took on all of the technology management for our church building, including our web and social media presence, an ever-expanding opportunity for us to reach people with the gospel. Our worship space includes a projection screen, a sound system that can handle a full praise band, cameras for recording and streaming, and an assisted listening system. It takes a full team to manage all of these elements, along with an advisory committee to oversee everything, and I work with them to establish priorities and set the budget.

Brandon with his wife, Nikki, and boys Athan (right) and Paladin (left).

Brandon with his wife, Nikki, and boys Athan (right) and Paladin (left).

There is always more ministry to be done than I can find the time for, and this is why it’s a blessing to work on a team. I serve alongside three pastors, another staff minister who serves as our church administrator, a full-time office secretary, a full-time custodian, a part-time bookkeeper, and a part-time cemetery manager. We have dozens of volunteers in our building each week, helping with various aspects of the weekly ministry of the congregation. I love sitting down with couples for pre-marriage sessions, getting to know them and helping them see how their marriage can be a picture of Christ and the church. Even marriage counseling, which is so often a difficult and heartbreaking process, is something I really enjoy, because I have seen how the gospel can reunite couples who thought all hope was gone. I have hopes of developing an area marriage workshop in the next year or two.

I’ve often said that my favorite thing to do in my ministry is mission trips. We take our teens to mission congregations throughout the US and Canada, and provide manpower for canvassing, VBS, and sports camps in situations where the congregation has lots of opportunity but not enough people to make the most of it. We’re working on the next step, which will be to take teens to a mission in Costa Maya, Mexico, to teach ESL and share God’s Word in an area that is hungry for the gospel. As I spend time with teens on these trips, I see the power of God’s Word at work. Sometimes the work our teens do bears immediate fruit, and we see someone come to understand God’s love for the first time. Often, we are planting seeds. But I see the teens themselves changed by their experiences, matured and built up to be more confident in sharing their faith with others. Many are inspired through these experiences to begin training for the ministry. Even when they don’t, they come away more equipped to serve God with their lives. It’s a joy for me to be a part of that maturing process for them.

I left my small home church in Washington State to become a staff minister in hopes that I would get to spend all my time at church, doing youth work and teaching God’s Word. I certainly get to spend a lot of time at church, and I get to do so much more than I bargained for. I’m amazed, humbled, and thankful that this is the life God has given to me.


Staff Minister Brian Davidson

“What exactly do you do?” I tend to get that question a lot. Most of the time, it comes in the context of a conversation about my call as a staff minister at St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What is a staff minister? What does a staff minister do? Is that program even around anymore? Yes, it is still around, and doing quite well. I will attempt to answer the other questions for you as well.

2011 Staff Ministry Profiles

Can you imagine what would have happened in the early church if the apostles would not have opened the window to letting others participate in ministry? How quickly would the church have grown if each apostle felt that he, and only he, could take care of the widows, do all the preaching and teaching, and help settle disputes? They knew that they couldn’t do it all, so they assigned people who had the gifts and abilities to help them. That is staff ministry.

I see staff ministry as a level between ministry by lay members and pastoral ministry. I don’t know that I have ever spoken to a pastor who has said, “I really feel like I have it all under control. There is nothing our church could do better. There is not a single person that I don’t reach out to as well as I could or should.” Such an attitude would be unfortunate; any called worker will tell you that there are endless things to do and people to see, but not enough time. Lay members help our pastors in many ways, but sometimes the need is greater than what a volunteer minister can handle. This is where a staff minister comes in; he or she is called, either full-time or part-time, to help fulfill the needs of the ministry of a particular congregation or calling body.
My life as a staff minister has changed and evolved almost every year to adjust to the needs of the ministry as well as to the gifts and abilities of our people. For three years, I taught 5th and 6th grade catechism classes in our school and was the director of the Sunday school program. I have helped teach Bible information classes, start our first high school youth ministry, and develop a ministry to people with disabilities.

One of the biggest responsibilities I have involves outreach to the community. Before I came to St. Marcus, the congregation had started an after-school program called Wandani for kids in the inner city of Milwaukee. “Wandani” is a Swahili term that means “companions.” I became the director of the youth outreach efforts, which are directed at children who are neither members of our church nor students in our school. Last year alone we had over 200 children like that come through our doors without those connections to St. Marcus. We offer tutoring programs, basketball, karate, a youth center, and mentoring.

My specific duties with this program are to coordinate and train volunteers, lead devotions, and basically do anything else that needs to get done for the ministry to be successful. I have vacuumed many floors, cleaned many toilets, and scraped gum off the gym floor, all in the name of Jesus. I have also hugged a child who desperately needed it, disciplined another child who needed that more, and built relationships with both children and volunteers that will remain for the rest of this lifetime, (Just ask my wife; she was a volunteer at Wandani when I met her!)

St. Marcus has recently asked me to become the leader of the rest of our community ministries as well, which includes a food and clothing pantry, parish nurse program, and the Deacons program, where we collect old furniture, bedding, kitchen supplies, etc., and distribute them to families in need. It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is. But with so many ministries happening all at the same time, I act mostly as a volunteer coordinator, empowering lay people to do most of the “ministering.”

The community ministries constitute the biggest portion of my time, but coming in a very close second would be music ministry. I had no plans to be involved in music ministry when I was being trained as a staff minister at MLC, but the Lord had it in his plan. When I started my internship at St. Marcus, the congregation was just about to start a new worship service that was to be completely different from the “normal” Sunday morning services. The pastor who was to lead the service, Pastor Jim Skorzewski, wanted the worship music to be led by a band, but they did not have a lead singer. Hesitatingly, I said, “I have done some singing before,” to which he replied, “… Really?” I told him we could try it out and see if he liked it, and if he didn’t I would try to find someone else. Little did any of us know what the Lord was about to do.

I passed the “audition” period, and the band that emerged as a result is called Koiné, a Greek word that means “common.”
The Sunday night worship service at 6:30 pm has grown to an average weekly attendance of 150-200 people, 80% of whom are between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. Koiné has released two CDs, which have sold approximately 10,000 copies, and is currently recording a third. We have visited well over 100 different churches in our synod, spanning from Kennewick, WA, to Ottawa, ON, to Charlotte, NC, sharing with them many hymns from our Lutheran heritage, played with a new and vibrant feel.

So, what exactly does a staff minister do? It has been my experience that no two staff ministers do exactly the same thing. Each one uses the gifts, abilities, and opportunities that the Lord provides them, and their congregations, to serve his people. Why? Because “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). You may ask, “Isn’t that really what every Christian should do?” My response would be, “Yes…I just get paid for it!”

Brian Davison is a staff minister at St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For more information about St. Marcus or Koiné, go to or

Staff Minister Brent Bitter

quoteAfter five years of learning, I graduated from Martin Luther College in 1998 equipped with a degree in education and trained in parish ministry through the Staff Ministry Program. I awaited Call Day with great anticipation, eagerly looking forward to discovering what role God had for me in his church.

President Olsen announced my call from the podium: “Brent Bitter, staff minister, exploratory mission, Jacksonville, Florida.” I had lived almost my entire life in the heart of Wisconsin surrounded by long-established WELS congregations. What did it mean to be called to an “exploratory mission”? And what would my responsibilities be in such a setting?

Pastor Phil Hoyer, my new teammate in the ministry, briefly greeted me after the Call Service. He had accepted the call to lead the exploratory efforts in Jacksonville just weeks before Call Day at MLC. He had spent half of his 19- year ministry in the mission field and was excited to begin this new venture with a partner.

I hurried to receive my call package from the South Atlantic District President, Pastor John Guse. As I perused the call materials, I discovered that my assignment was to assist with “outreach to the unchurched; training lay members for service; teaching, visiting the sick; administrative work and other ministerial duties as directed by the pastor and mission board.” I didn’t know what specific duties my call would entail, but I was thankful to serve under the direction of an experienced mission pastor and a District Mission Board experienced in starting new congregations. Pastor Hoyer and I began working as a ministry team in August 1998. The congregation was named Victory Lutheran Church with the mission of “Winning Souls for Christ and Coaching Christians for Life.” Now all we needed was people!

In these early stages, being a staff minister at Victory Lutheran Church meant knocking on doors and making phone calls; developing brochures, tracts, newsletters, and invitations; and also managing a prospect database. We canvassed thousands of homes in our area as we searched for people who were not attending a Christian church. We’d invite them to participate in a Bible Information Class that Pastor Hoyer led at a nearby elementary school each week. Our first class had five participants. After six months of making contacts, we celebrated our first worship service on February 21, 1999, in a conference room at the University of North Florida. We diligently worked to maintain relationships with the prospects we discovered through mailings, phone calls, and visits. We averaged around 40 people in attendance each Sunday during our first year of worship.

Victory has come a long way after nearly ten years of mission work. The congregation operates a beautiful 7,600 square foot facility located on six acres of prime real estate. We average just over 100 people in worship each weekend, and we have 145 souls in our membership records.

As the congregation has changed, the role of the staff minister has changed too. The duties of the staff minister have regularly been modified to suit the needs of the congregation.

At some point in my ministry, being a staff minister at Victory has meant knocking on doors, making telephone contacts, following up with worship visitors, coordinating mass mailings, publishing a monthly newsletter, presenting children’s sermons, leading Vacation Bible Schools, creating a church website, leading Adult Bible Studies, teaching Bible Information Class, coordinating fellowship activities, leading the Sunday School ministry, teaching confirmation class, organizing small group ministries, leading our youth group, coordinating a Lutheran Pioneer program, assisting with weekly worship, visiting hospitalized members… and other privileges as directed by the pastor and District Mission Board.

Being a staff minister at Victory today is distinctly different than it was ten years ago.

The congregation recently altered my call to focus on reaching out to the community through the development of a preschool ministry. As the years pass by, the needs of the congregation will continue to change and the role of the staff minister will change with it.
This venture of a pastor-staff minister team to establish a home mission was a new approach by the District Mission Board and, after ten years, still remains a one-of-a-kind strategy. The team approach to mission work in Jacksonville has been an expensive endeavor, but it has enabled our congregation to touch more lives in more ways than just one called worker, the pastor, could have done alone. I’m thankful to have served in this mission congregation for nearly ten years. Lord willing, I’ll serve Victory for years to come in whatever capacity is needed.

Mr. Brent Bitter serves as staff minister at Victory Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

Deaconess Marilyn Miller

Marilyn MillerFor many years I sat in the worship services and Bible classes hearing the call to serve God with my time, my talents, my treasures, and with every part of my life. When I was choosing a career some years back, being a called worker meant being a pastor or a teacher. Becoming a pastor was ruled out by nature, and I’m not known for my talents as a classroom teacher. Where did I fit in? I had a pastor tell me that the church needed committed lay people as much as it needed called workers. This satisfied me somewhat, so I went about building a career in the business world.

Decades passed. God blessed me with a very successful career. He also gave me many wonderful opportunities to serve him in my local congregation as well as in other organizations. But I still heard that nagging voice and I wanted somehow to do more. Just as I personally had changed and matured over the years, so had the opportunities for formal service in the church taken on a new look. In the spring of 2005, I decided to do something drastic – I quit my job. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was finally answering that prayer.

He very quickly led me to the staff ministry certification program at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota. I was thrilled to sit in the classrooms, studying the Word of God and learning the other skills that I would need as a staff minister. I had already learned many of those skills in the business world, but the approach and the motivation is so very different in the church. After two semesters on campus I found myself back in my home congregation in Houston, Texas, doing a semester of internship. A whirlwind 16 months after beginning my training, my home congregation extended a call, asking me to serve as their deaconess.

Since January 2007 I have served as a deaconess at Abiding Word Lutheran Church in Houston. Abiding Word is a 38-year-old congregation in the northern suburbs of Houston, and it has about 600 members. They have 80 students in their K-8 Lutheran elementary school and 45 children in preschool, ages 18 months to pre-K. It is being served by two pastors and a deaconess, 5.5 called teachers, a called preschool director and about a dozen preschool workers. God has greatly blessed Abiding Word with continued growth, and they plan to add two more called workers beginning with the fall semester.

My call is divided into two major areas: facilitator of ministry and organization/administration. The responsibilities in the call are quite broad, but they fit my talents and interests very well. This is one of the wonderful benefits of calling a staff minister: the call can be structured to fit the unique gifts of the worker.

The facilitator of ministries category covers three major areas of responsibility: evangelism/outreach, special ministries, and women’s ministries.

Of primary importance to a congregation is organizing and maintaining prospect files and calling on prospects and visitors. Little things like sending a welcome card and making a personal call to those who visit a worship service can make a significant impression on those looking for a church home. A bi-monthly newsletter is used to maintain regular contact with the prospects. We also reach out to unchurched school and preschool families. Each week the ministry staff assigns the member and prospect calls that need to be made, thus making it possible to sit face to face to share God’s Word with a significant number of individuals.
Special ministries responsibilities include the development of dependency/support groups, managing our needy assistance program, family ministry, and also hospital and shut-in visitation. One of our success stories is the formation of a caregivers’ Bible study that has expanded into a wonderful support and prayer group. A number of the women seeking counseling have commented that they very much appreciate being able to share their concerns and get spiritual advice from a woman. Even though they agree that the pastor would give them excellent counseling, some feel more comfortable talking with another woman.

The women’s ministry at Abiding Word is very large and very active. A few of their many programs include women’s Bible studies, an annual women’s retreat, the new member assimilation activities, assistance for needy members in the form of food and visitation, altar guild, regular contact with mission families, and prayer meetings. They have more than 30 different active programs. The deaconess is the advisor to the women’s ministry, prepares the Bible study and devotion material, trains other women to lead Bible studies, provides leadership training, and is a coach and advisor to the women’s leaders.

The second major area of my call is organization and administration, which is divided into two major activities: church business manager and technology officer.

The church business manager to-do list is extensive because very little had been done in this area. Initial focus was on writing a staff policy manual and now writing board/council handbooks and job descriptions. Once completed, these handbooks should make the council and boards operate more efficiently and more consistently. It is expected that the learning curve for new members will be significantly reduced. Documenting the highly technical and precise procedures for some positions, such as treasurer and financial secretary, will be invaluable as new men take over these roles. As the human resources contact, there are wages, benefits and salaries to administer and budget.

For a creative break in the day, the website and electronic sign on the front lawn are always in need of updating and programming. Not only do these provide valuable communication to our members, they are also our image to the world.

My call is likely more inclusive than that of many staff ministers. However, it was designed to meet the expanding needs of the congregation as well as my unique gifts, and it works well for us. Previously, some of the things that fill my day were being done by the pastor, some were being done to a limited degree by volunteers, and many were needs not being addressed at all.
Staff ministry provides a way for many of us with skills and desires other than preaching and teaching to serve the Kingdom on a fulltime basis. At the same time, it provides a trained resource to address the many changing needs of our congregations as they reach out to a changing world.

Marilyn Miller is a certified staff minister serving as a deaconess at Abiding Word Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas.