By Pastor Eric Carlson, Assistant to the Bishop, Southeastern Iowa Synod
I had a great conversation with a friend in Detroit this summer during my participation in the ELCA Youth Gathering. My friend serves on the staff of another synod and we often compare notes and learn from each other. This friend asked me, “What are some of the greatest resources in your synod?” At first, my mind went to the resources provided by the Office of the Bishop…all the support “we” provide for congregations and their leaders. But as I started to list a few of those resources (for which I am grateful), I saw one of the youth directors from our synod walking with her crew on the other side of the street, and without hesitation, I pointed to her and said to my friend, “She is one of our greatest resources.”
I am humbled by and thank God for the caliber of those who serve as non-rostered staff or volunteers in our congregations.
I’m going to pause here. I think the world of our rostered leaders. Don’t get me wrong. That is for another blog entry, today I’m writing about our non-rostered leaders.
Over the past couple of years, the Southeastern Iowa Synod has been developing a network for those who serve in the areas of children, youth and family ministry in congregations. Though we certainly have clergy and lay-rostered individuals who make up the network, the majority are non-rostered “program staff.” We meet twice a year, and as the room fills up, I am overwhelmed by the wealth of intellect, passion, creativity, dedication and joy these individuals possess. Among those who gather are artists, musicians, professional curriculum developers, writers, public speakers, dancers, visionaries, philosophers, teachers, techies…and these are gifts they possess beyond their “job descriptions.”
In the midst of this rich diversity, they share a couple things in common. They love Jesus, and they have heard God’s call to serve the local congregation in a powerful way. Here are a few things I hope we all pay attention to when we consider these rich resources among us.
- Pray for these staff members and volunteers. Pray for strength, courage and wisdom in the work to which they are called.
- Be intentional to thank those who serve in these roles.
- Do not take their service to the church for granted.
- They are leaders! They bring great insight as to God’s mission in the world and the purpose of the church. Engage them in the big conversations about life and faith – not just what they have been “hired” to do.
- Pay attention to their individual gifts beyond their job description. They just may surprise you.
- They may not have formal education in theology and/or their field; their experience, instinct, networking and passion hold great value.
- Encourage them to get connected to others who share in this work. Provide time and space for them to attend local/synod/churchwide meetings and events. This will ultimately enhance their ministry in the congregation.
Finally, thank God for being the church together; clergy, lay-rostered, non-rostered, full-time, part-time, volunteers, youth directors, children ministry coordinators, musicians, educators, custodians, office staff, and accountants. We are, indeed, in this together.
Pastor Eric Carlson serves as Assistant to the Bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod. Born in Ottumwa, Iowa, Pastor Carlson is a graduate of Luther College, Decorah, IA, and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. He has served parishes in Mason City, IA, Stoughton, WI and most recently at Windsor Heights Lutheran in Windsor Heights, IA. His responsibilities on behalf of the Office of the Bishop include serving as the staff liaison for the Commission for Vocation and Faith Formation and the Commission for Global Relations, Synod Assembly Planning, Constitution Committee, and he assists the bishop with overall strategic planning. Eric, his wife Beth, and their children, Greta and Benjamin, reside in Clive and are members of Faith Lutheran Church in Clive.