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Free in Christ: Congregational staffing

“Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). Read how congregations today utilize different forms of ministry.

It was a good problem to have, but still one to be remedied. By God’s grace and power, both the church and preschool ministries at Victory, Jacksonville, Fla., were experiencing exciting growth. However as the number of students and families served through the preschool continued to grow, it became more difficult for the preschool director, Anne Grotefend, to balance the responsibilities of being the full-time director as well as serving as the lead teacher of the three-year-old class. Victory’s leadership decided to pursue additional staffing to remove some of the administrative responsibilities from Anne’s plate.

At the same time, our growing congregation had many “green light” opportunities around it. From campus ministry at the nearby University of North Florida to increased Bible study options to expanded youth ministry offerings, there were myriad gospel opportunities the congregation wanted to pursue. However, it lacked the manpower to carry them out with excellence.

people sitting at tables and bowling
Staff Minister Jarrett Mielke (center, front) at a Bible study for the core group of Victory’s mission efforts to start a second campus in St. Johns County, Fla. Mielke also works closely with the congregation’s youth ministry.

Thus, the congregation began discussing how it could meet these needs. It proposed adding another pastor to start new ministries or expand lightly addressed opportunities. However, another pastor wouldn’t necessarily help with preschool staffing challenges. Members also proposed adding a co-director to the preschool staff, but that likely would not allow expansion of the church’s ministries.

Victory needed someone with training and gifts in both educational and congregational ministries, so the congregation began discussing staff ministry. It ultimately extended calls to five gentlemen, some who were already serving as staff ministers and others who were currently serving as teachers or principals but had interest in potentially serving as staff ministers.

When those calls from the field were all returned, Victory eventually requested a graduate assignment from Martin Luther College and was blessed when Jarrett Mielke was assigned in 2023 to serve as staff minister at Victory.

Over the last year, the congregation has seen Jarrett’s gifts put to good use, both in the roles it called him to carry out as well as in some unexpected ways, like becoming the new website guru. Now, as I prepare to transition into a new ministry as dean of students at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, I’m working with Jarrett to take on some of my responsibilities, like visitation and Bible studies.

The addition of a staff minister has been a wonderful blessing for Victory’s ministry and for God’s kingdom. It’s another opportunity to marvel at God’s wisdom, providence, and timing as we carry out his Great Commission in Jacksonville and beyond!

Troy Schreiner

Learn more about Victory’s ministry.

St. Peter, Schofield/Wausau, Wis., is a large congregation with nearly nine hundred baptized souls. It carries out gospel ministry on multiple campuses and has also been blessed with a Lutheran elementary school as well as an early childhood ministry (Key to Life Childcare Center in Weston). I praise God for the many opportunities he gives our congregation to serve him and proclaim the saving message of the gospel.

However, several years ago, the pastoral and lay leadership recognized that we were missing opportunities for gospel sharing with a wider audience of people, both members and nonmembers alike. But what could be done? We wondered, and we took it to the Lord in prayer.

I praise God for the many opportunities he gives our congregation to serve him and proclaim the saving message of the gospel.

As he always does, God heard and answered our prayers for extra help. Jim Ellenberger was a member of St. Peter who was interested in gospel service in the church. He enrolled in the Congregational Assistant Program at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., and began taking doctrinal courses. Some were taught by his St. Peter pastors, while others were led by MLC professors.

four men standing in front of church
St. Peter, Schofield/Wausau, Wis., has many types of called workers serving the congregation’s two campuses, including two pastors, a vicar, and a deacon: (left to right) Kevin Schnake, pastor; Jim Ellenberger, deacon; Jeffrey Mahnke, pastor; and John Wenzel, vicar. Ellenberger studied for his role through the Congregational Assistant Program at Martin Luther College. Learn more about that program at

While he was studying and learning, the congregation gave Jim opportunities to become involved in the means of grace ministry at St. Peter. This was much like the vicar-year experience for students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Jim accompanied a pastor on visits to homebound members to observe how the pastor conducted a devotion and gave elderly members the Lord’s Supper. Jim participated in parts of the worship services and helped with the liturgy. When the church celebrated Holy Communion, Jim was trained to distribute the bread while speaking those special words of our Savior, “Take and eat. This is my body which is given for you.” All of this was valuable experience and practical training for Jim. It took a few years (there is a lot to learn), but he eventually passed all his courses and graduated from the program. He was more than ready for service in the church!

Our congregation then called Jim to serve as a deacon. In this role, Jim regularly (about once per month) presides at Sunday worship services and teaches one of the adult Bible classes. He sets the monthly schedule for the visits to homebound members done by both pastors and the vicar, while also conducting a share of them himself. He helps distribute the Lord’s Supper. Jim attends the regular meetings of the Outreach Ministry Board and the Coordinating Council too. Jim has also been working with the vicar to expand the congregation’s presence into some area nursing homes to bring the residents the saving message of Jesus Christ. Finally, Jim helps with St. Peter’s outreach events and programs since he is passionate about evangelism.

The Congregational Assistant Program did a great job in preparing Jim for service at St Peter. As a result, God is being glorified, his people are being nurtured in their faith, and the lost are being found. Perhaps someone in your church, like Jim, could prepare for service too!

Jeff Mahnke

Learn more about St. Peter’s ministry.

From watching my parents who are both Lutheran elementary school teachers, I knew early on that classroom teaching wasn’t for me. As a young woman, I also knew that being a pastor wasn’t a path available to me. But as a high school senior, I didn’t know that full-time ministry could take other forms. So I decided to pursue a career in counseling, studying psychology at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee. During winter break of my final year, God showed me a different option by sending me a staff ministry call! That was my introduction to staff ministry: training and full-time service for areas of ministry neither in the classroom nor the pulpit.

teacher in classroom with children
Staff Minister Kristen Koepsell coordinates the music ministry at Cross of Christ, Boise/Nampa, Idaho, as well as handles church administrative duties. Her duties vary from playing piano for church to coordinating logistics for activities to conducting Sunday school music time.

In my first call to St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., I served as a staff minister for worship: coordinating, supervising, and directing most aspects of worship ministry. A large part of that involved music: recruiting and equipping musicians of all ages, collaborating with the pastor on song choices and liturgical options, maintaining a music library and copyright compliance, and playing worship music myself, among other things.

Weekend worship involves more than music though! I also coordinated the hospitality, altar care, visual arts, and AV tech ministries. One of the advantages of staff ministry for a congregation is having a staff person focused on one specific area of ministry. Because St. Andrew chose this path for staffing, it was able to expand its use of visual arts in the worship space, participation of member musicians of all ages, use of worship songs from different eras of the Christian church, and opportunities for members with widely varying gifts to contribute to the worship ministry.

In 2012 I accepted my current call to Cross of Christ, Boise/Nampa, Idaho, to serve as staff minister for music and elementary-level kids’ ministry. The music side of things looked very similar: involving members with musical gifts, building the congregation’s repertoire of worship songs, and accompanying worship services. Kids’ ministry involved enhancing the Sunday school program and starting monthly youth group-type activities for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade to help them build connections with one another and with non-parent adults in the congregation and to strengthen their connection with Jesus.

With changes in pastoral staff several years ago, my role shifted to its present state. I continue to coordinate the music ministry (now at two campuses) but have traded kids’ ministry for church administration: communication of all kinds; supporting pastors, church council, and ministry teams; logistics for activities and events; volunteer management; and supervising two part-time office administrative assistants. Believe it or not, keeping things organized and on track delights me just about as much as working with the kids!

Preaching? Not for me. Teaching in a classroom? Not for me. Full-time ministry? Absolutely for me, and I thank God for setting me on the staff ministry path!

Kristen Koepsell

Learn more about Cross of Christ’s ministry.

Read more from Koepsell, including a snapshot of what a typical day looks like for her as a staff minister.

A day in the life

Kristen Koepsell directing adult choir on Easter SundayWhat does a day in the life of a staff minister look like? Here’s a sample day from Kristen Koepsell, staff minister at Cross of Christ, Boise/Nampa, Idaho—all actual tasks from her recent to-do lists.

8:57 a.m. Text from member looking for teen boy who can play piano for B-roll footage for a work project.

9:02 a.m. Finalize Sunday bulletin drafts; hand off to the pastors.

9:32 a.m. Update staff meeting agenda.

9:40 a.m. E-mails & texts: choir update, remind parents re: kids’ choir invitation, confirm Wednesday rehearsal time, tell Skip that Lee wants his accordion, vacation Bible school budget question, connect with Carrie re: PreK accompanist for upcoming Sunday.

10:06 a.m. Write communication & arrange volunteer sign-up for blood drive (three weeks), deliver to Mandy for print & e-mail.

Kristen Koepsell cleaning the church10:27 a.m. Brainstorm leaders for vacation Bible school activities. E-mail invitations & pertinent info & materials (what needs downloading?).

11:40 a.m. Lunch!

12:15 p.m. Staff devotion & meeting (my stuff: updating staff photos, volunteer appreciation, restarting every-member visits, song lyrics for pastoral review).

1:34 p.m. Meeting follow-up: contact Justin re: Zapier questions, update ministry calendar with marriage workshops, send new announcements for this weekend to Lacey, remind pastors re: member visit availability.

2:07 p.m. Reset classroom 7 from growth group to choir rehearsal.

2:20 p.m. Worship music planning for 7/7 (get to Pastor B today) and 7/14. Confirm Josh playing 7/7.

Kristen Koepsell leading Sunday school music time for toddlers4:46 p.m. Home for dinner.

5:45 p.m. Rehearsal – Tim & Mandy.

6:15 p.m. Choir rehearsal (Andrea helping with sectionals).

7:20 p.m. List out tomorrow’s priorities.

??? Bedtime!

Author: Multiple authors
Volume 111, Number 07
Issue: July 2024

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This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Free in Christ

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