Q: I see at the end of this column that you no longer are identified as the executive director of the Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support. Did you leave that position?
A: Well, I confess that, contrary to my “Pressure Points” policy, this month I made up the question.
Almost three years ago, I took early retirement from my position at the LCMS International Center — half time with the Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support (CMGS) and half with LCMS Health Ministries. A month or so later, I accepted a call to Concordia Seminary, where I am now serving. But, at the commission’s request, I continued as its executive director on a part-time contract basis. Now Rev. David Muench (see related story) has accepted the CMGS’ call and begins this month as its first full-time executive director. So I am, as they say, history. Welcome to David!
But much more important than my situation is what the Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support is and does.
Very few church bodies have anything like the CMGS. Its constitutional mandate is to facilitate and encourage the vocational development, continuing education, and personal well-being of the workers of the church, and even to develop some of those opportunities.
Examples of that work of the CMGS are:
- the newly available “Let’s Talk It Over: 10 Conversations on Supporting Church Workers” (see related story);
- the Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) initiative for newly placed pastors and their spouses and families;
- “Paths to Growth,” a resource for helping congregational leaders and church workers plan for continuing education (now available in DVD format);
- “Welcoming New Teachers,” a CD workbook for new Lutheran school teachers; and
- “Coaching Principals,” an innovative pilot project for Lutheran school principals to give them an opportunity to have a coaching experience.
You can learn more about the work of the CMGS at its Web site.
I think one of the most important contributions of the CMGS has been its willingness to advocate within our church body for the needs and concerns of the workers of the church. No other entity in the LCMS can claim to be as unambiguously and single-mindedly in support of worker concerns.
It is always a significant danger for organizations (like congregations and denominations) and their leaders to focus on mission, vision, organizational survival, current problems, or “bricks and mortar,” and not on the growth and well-being of its workers, their spouses, and their families.
When any organization is imbalanced in this way, it undercuts the very things it claims to promote and compromises its effectiveness.
In the extreme, calling workers of the church to lay their own health and well-being on the altar of organizational sacrifice is not consistent with the values and ethics of the people of God gathered at the foot of the cross.
At the same time, church workers carry a responsibility of faithful service, exemplary duty, and energetic participation in their vocation and calling — a stewardship of their lives. Lloyd Rediger’s Fit to Be a Pastor is a good read about this. Other workers of the church will need only to read themselves into the pages of this book.
As for me, I expect to continue my own personal advocacy on behalf of our workers. I expect that “Pressure Points” will continue to be a voice for such values.
Next month I will go back to a reader question.
Rev. Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D., is an associate professor of practical theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted July 11, 2005