by Roland Lovstad
“We envisioned a training center that would partner with the Missouri District, a center that would touch areas of rural and small-town ministry but also assist professional church workers and lay leaders wherever they need assistance in ministry.”
That’s how Dr. Ralph Geisler describes the Saint Paul Institute for Education (SPIFE).
Geisler, a veteran LCMS evangelism executive, is the interim director of the institute. Requests from rural and small-town congregations for help with leadership training are growing, he says. SPIFE’s training modules help these congregations focus their ministry on “reaching rural America for Christ,” he adds.
While its educational modules in rural and small-town ministry are offered in many heartland districts, Geisler says the institute also provides “practical” modules in evangelism and outreach, family life, congregational services, college and high-school leadership, and stewardship, as well as special programs for professional church workers.
The idea of rural and small-town resources began in the early 1990s when Geisler served with the LCMS Board for Evangelism Services. In 2001, while serving as a mission and ministry facilitator with the Missouri District, Geisler teamed with Rev. Keith Christiansen, then development director at Saint Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, Mo., to refine and build leadership training for congregations.
“We started with listening posts in the Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska Districts,” Geisler says. “That’s where we came up with the modules we are currently using. We found a niche and the districts began to respond. In the future, there will be many more.”
Located on the campus of Saint Paul Lutheran High School, SPIFE uses the school’s remodeled Biltz Hall as a training center. The institute’s Schroeder Memorial Leadership Center includes 30 motel-style rooms (19 double and 11 single rooms), four conference rooms, and a kitchen, and it is equipped to handle training and meetings for groups of 20 to 50 people.
For more information about SPIFE and its offerings, see www.SPIFE.org or call (888) 463-5127.
Concordia, Mo., is about 50 miles east of Kansas City.