Grants encourage pastor-layperson partnership

Grow in Grace, the institute for pastoral growth at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., has awarded $500 grants to two congregations to encourage pastors and lay leaders to grow together in carrying out the gospel ministry entrusted to them.

Since 2014, a retired pastor and his wife have provided funding and the direction for these grants.

More than 20 congregations offered proposals this year; the grants were given to Lamb of God, Columbus, Ohio, and Peace, Aiken, S.C.

Lamb of God is holding a facilitated retreat for council members and other key members of the congregation. Its proposal reads, “The main focus will be to strongly define our goals and mission for the ministry we have before us; to refocus our efforts to where our strengths and abilities are most productive and our workers feel most useful; and to increase the open honest communication that will be necessary to be willing workers in the harvest.”

Peace is starting a leadership program for its congregation. The proposal states, “We have three levels of discipleship here. Peace 101 is our membership course. Peace Academy is regular and ongoing doctrinal study. And Peace Lutheran Institute is our inaugural program to raise up the next group of leaders to work, minister, and lead in our church. This year we are piloting the program to see what works best and grow it into a sustainable ministry that year in and year out is producing leaders at Peace.”

Past recipients even have looked beyond their own congregation. Zion, Akaska, S.D., received a grant in 2014 to hold a councilmen’s retreat for its entire circuit.

Prof. Richard Gurgel, director of Grow in Grace, says these grants connect well with the institute’s purpose to help pastors grow in their faith and in their callings as pastors, husbands, and fathers. “No doubt, vital to that growth is that the pastor doesn’t have the sense that he’s at this alone,” he says. “It’s encouraging congregations to share the joys and the challenges of ministry and not simply to look to the pastor to take care of everything.”

Gurgel says Grow in Grace is also hard at work preparing for the next Celebration of Ministry retreats, being held April 18-20, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas. Pastors and wives celebrating their 3-, 10-, 25-, and—new this year—35-year anniversary in the ministry will gather to reflect on these key ministry milestones, to be encouraged in their faith, and to prepare for the years ahead.

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