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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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City pastor, country pastor

Seminarians get a dose of rural ministry

For ELCA pastors much attention has been given to diversity and multiculturalism. But what about the traditional mismatch of city mouse and country mouse? ELCA seminaries are working intentionally to help new pastors bridge that rural-urban culture shock.

Steve Tjarks (left), pastor of St.
Steve Tjarks (left), pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church, Pender, Neb., shows Gordon Pace, a student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, a parishioner’s feedlot operation. Much of livestock agriculture involves feeding cattle on contract for outside owners, who buy the cattle and have them shipped to the feedlot. When the cattle aremarket-ready, buyers purchase them for packing plants, where they’re processed into beef cuts.
“The ELCA is still a rural denomination,” said Mark L. Yackel-Juleen, a rural pastor who serves as executive director of Shalom Hill Farm, an education and retreat ministry near Windom, Minn. “Despite the fact that seminaries are in cities and many of the people studying at seminaries are from cities, a majority of students will do rural ministry when they graduate.”

Yackel-Julee beats the drum for a required course in rural ministry at all ELCA seminaries, most of which offer rural electives (see "Rural ministry resources"). One that specializes in this ministry is Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. It appeals to people with a heart for small town and country communities. And the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago has worked with the ELCA Nebraska Synod for several years, using its January session as a time for focus and immersion.

Rural immersion in the Nebraska Synod is a project of its rural ministry task force and is a credit course at LSTC. In January 2006, 10 seminarians and instructors visited Nebraska congregations, learning about local ministries and living with host families to gain a better understanding of rural life.

“We view this as a way to help the synod address the shortage of pastors for rural areas,” said Tom Miller, a one-time chair of the task force. “We hope that when these students have completed their education, they will be enthusiastic about rural ministry and willing to consider a call to a rural churchopportunity.”

In a Web journal, seminarian Jordan Miller wrote: “I have been able to talk with rural clergy, lay leaders and farmers to get different perspectives on the challenges and joys of rural ministry and have been greatly encouraged by what I’ve heard.


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