Again and again, we hear that one of the greatest blessings in the North American Lutheran Church is the annual Pastors Conference.
Each year has seen a significant increase in participation, but attendance is still at less than half of the number of certified pastors in the NALC.
Certainly, scheduling conflicts and other issues keep some pastors from attending. However, many do not attend because congregations and congregational leaders are not supportive and willing to provide time and finances so that their pastor will participate.
We hope, increasingly, NALC congregations will realize the great benefits that will come, not only to their pastor, but also to their congregation when he or she attends the annual pastors conference. This couldn’t be more so than this year when the theme is, “Discipleship, Leadership and the NALC Pastor.”
It has become clear that two aspects of pastoral ministry neglected in the last 20-30 years are discipleship/disciple-making and leadership.
Although we acknowledged our Lord’s Great Commission (Matthew 28) to go and make disciples, there was no intentionality about it in congregations because, even as pastors, we were not prepared for disciple-making in seminary, contextual education or pastoral formation.
At the same time, seminarians were taught to be professional pastors and “care-givers,” so to speak, but were rarely formed to be pastoral leaders who were mature in the faith (Ephesians 4:13), ready to effectively serve as part of a congregational leadership team.
Many realize we have re-teaching and re-forming to do, with regard to NALC pastors, resulting in the theme of this year’s conference.
At the conference being held Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, Bishop John Bradosky will offer two keynote presentations on discipleship and leadership, addressing topics ranging from practical pastoral advice to the need for improved preaching in our congregations. Dr. Jim Nestingen again will offer two sessions on “Preaching in Lent, Holy Week and Easter” and there will be workshops dealing with practical aspects of pastoral ministry, discipleship and leadership.
There will also be a meeting of the ministerium at which the Bishop and pastors will discuss ongoing work being done by the NALC Structure Task Force, the Church and Ministry Task Force, the NALC Life-to-Life Discipleship initiative and other important concerns. A highlight of the conference is always a service of Holy Communion with Bishop Bradosky preaching and presiding, with the renewal of ordination vows and time for intentional, personal prayer for each pastor.
Newly added this year is the opportunity for pastors interested in learning more about what it means to be “coached” in the NALC, to participate in a preconference seminar 7-9 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29.
Discipleship coaching in the NALC is a way for a pastor to engage in three years of regular mentoring by a trained coach, who will assist the pastor in personal and professional reflection, assessment, goal-setting and accountability. The evening seminar will be at no additional cost to pastors attending the conference.
In addition, those participating in the coaching seminar who sign up to begin coaching will receive a scholarship to cover the cost of the first three months. Those who wish to participate in the coaching seminar should register by contacting Maddie Benson in the NALC Ohio office at [email protected] or 614-777-5709 by Jan. 15.
If you are a member of an NALC congregation, a church council member, or other congregational leader, please take the initiative and encourage your pastor to attend the 2018 NALC Pastors Conference. Make sure that the council approves the pastor’s participation, allocating funds for travel, hotel and registration. Clarify that the pastor is not using vacation time for this conference, as it is an expectation that all NALC clergy participate as part of their responsibility to the congregation and the church as a whole. Expect that the pastor will report to the congregational leadership upon return, indicating how the conference has benefitted the pastor and will benefit his or her leadership within the congregation.
The more our NALC pastors are maturing in faith, being formed as disciples and disciple-makers, increasing their skills as preachers of the Word of God and becoming more effective members of the congregational leadership team, the stronger will be congregations of the NALC — and the North American Lutheran Church as a biblical, confessional church body.
Please support and ensure your pastor’s participation in the annual NALC Pastors Conference! It will be a blessing to your pastor and your congregation!
To register or for more information, please visit: NALC Pastors’ Conference.