Concordia University Wisconsin has launched a new program that aims to meet the needs of the Church by training called workers who can play a vital support role to pastors in congregations.
Students who complete CUW’s undergraduate Director of Church Ministries program will be eligible to receive a call to an LCMS congregation, where they can serve alongside pastors and aid in various pastoral responsibilities, such as visiting shut-ins, leading Bible classes, organizing Vacation Bible School programs, and the like.
At the helm of the DCM program is Rev. Dr. Kurt Taylor (’88), who began his new role last week. Taylor brings 24 years of experience as a parish pastor and also serves as Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. He previously served as senior pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Waltz, Michigan.
“There’s an issue of a growing pastor shortage within the Lutheran Church, and pastor burnout is a very real concern in many congregations,” Taylor says. “This new program will help prepare graduates to point people to the cross of Christ. That responsibility isn’t just limited to the pastor.”
The DCM program replaces the Lay Ministry program at CUW, which was led by Rev. Dr. John Oberdeck before he retired this past summer. Oberdeck’s departure provided a natural opportunity to assess the efficacy of the program and determine if there were ways it could be enhanced to better meet the needs of the Church, says Taylor.
“We were doing a lot right with the Lay Ministry program,” Taylor says. “The DCM program is like turning a corner.”
Taylor says it was Oberdeck who gave perhaps the most fitting biblical comparison for the DCM program. Just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands to ensure the Israelites’ defeat over the Amalekites, so too will Concordia’s DCM graduates lift up the hands of the oftentimes overworked and overburdened parish pastors.
The DCM curriculum focuses predominantly on theological studies. Students who enroll can also expect to be prepared for the educational, administrative, and Christian caregiving skills that may be required of them so that they graduate both “theologically and practically competent,” says Taylor.
Students who enroll in the DCM program can specialize in one of five areas:
There’s an issue of a growing pastor shortage within the Lutheran Church, and pastor burnout is a very real concern in many congregations. This new program will help prepare graduates to point people to the cross of Christ. That responsibility isn’t just limited to the pastor.
- Youth Ministry, for those who seek to work on faith formation among youth;
- Evangelism, for those looking for expertise in relational ministry and competence in administering evangelism programs;
- Pre-deaconess/Social ministry, for women looking to continue their deaconess studies at one of the LCMS seminaries or men looking to focus on Christian caregiving and service;
- Mission, for those looking to share the Gospel abroad; or
- Parish teaching, for those looking to support congregations’ educational efforts, such as VBS or Sunday school programs.
CUW’s Director of Church Ministries program is different from the Director of Church Outreach or Director of Church Education programs offered at other universities in the Concordia University System, although there are similarities among them, says Taylor.
“Concordia Wisconsin has a tremendous reputation in the LCMS, and this is our way of training folks to be professional church workers apart from the pastoral ministry,” Taylor says. “Both the pastoral and DCM ministries are legitimate, and both are useful.”
— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at email@example.com or 262-243-2149.
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