Staff ministry training program turns 25

This year, the staff ministry training program at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., celebrates its 25th anniversary. 

Launched in 1993, the staff ministry training program prepares its students to serve as specialized workers at WELS churches, schools, and parasynodicals. Upon graduation, staff ministers can be called to assist with youth and family ministry, evangelism, homebound and hospital ministry, Sunday school and Bible studies, music and worship, administration, and more. 

Rod Bollinger, staff minister at St. John’s, Oak Creek, Wis., says, “We are sort of ‘Jacks of All Ministries.’” Bollinger fulfills many roles including family counselor; Sunday school superintendent and teacher; confirmation and Bible class teacher; prison minister; and others. 

In the four-year program, MLC’s staff ministry students are given a background in theology and trained in skills like counseling and leadership. In a five-year version of the program, students can earn a second major in elementary education or parish music. Students are also required to intern under an active called worker to gain field experience in staff ministry. 

Jim Boggs, youth and family minister at St. John, Lannon, Wis., believes staff ministry gave him the opportunity he was looking for. He notes, “As someone who wanted to be in the full-time ministry but didn’t have the pull to be a pastor or teacher, I was very grateful for this option.” 

Sarah Enstad graduated from the program with a second major in elementary education and now teaches at Crown of Life, Hubertus, Wis. She is passionate about MLC’s staff ministry curriculum, saying, “The essential skill from my training I use on a daily basis is building and nurturing relationships. This concept was at the core of nearly every class I took.” 

Kristen Koepsell, coordinator of music, elementary education, and fellowship at Cross of Christ, Boise, Idaho, also treasures the bonds staff ministers can create. She describes a memorable moment with one of her students, illustrating how God can work through staff ministers to make connections and provide comfort:  “A student grabbed me around the waist and said quietly, ‘I love you.’ I don’t think it was really me. It was the Holy Spirit showing him that church was a safe place where people cared about him.” 

Looking ahead, Dr. Lawrence Olson, director of the staff ministry program at MLC, says the program will continue to grow in service to the people of WELS: “The scope of training offered in the program is unique to WELS. We will maintain that thoroughness as we move forward, and we will adapt according to our congregations’ needs.” 

To learn more about MLC’s staff ministry training program, visit Also, watch the March 27, 2018, “Together” video update at for an interview with Levi Nagel, minister of music and worship at St. John, Milwaukee, Wis. 


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Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

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