Church Worker Communities

Editor’s Note: Articles from Set Apart to Serve, the LCMS’ church work recruitment initiative, are hosted here on The Lutheran Witness site. Visit the “Ministry Features” page for regular content on church work recruitment and formation.

Tertullian was an early church father in North Africa at a time when the Roman Empire was persecuting Christians. In his defense of Christianity (A.D. 197), Tertullian describes the Christian church: “We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by a unity of discipline, and by a bond of a common hope … ‘See,’ they say, ‘how [Christians] love one another.’”[1]

Christians love one another because we are the community of Christ, baptized into His death and resurrection. In the LCMS, we are “joined together” in fellowship (koinonia) to support one another and to work together as we seek to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, the members of His body, and the world which stands in need of the Word and the impact of His redeeming love (LCMS Bylaw 1.1.1).

These words are more than a bylaw; they describe the baptized in Christ in community with Him and with one another. St. Luke writes, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship,to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). St. Paul writes, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). Also, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you … because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3,5). “Fellowship”and “partnership” describe the community, or life together (koinonia), in which the baptized in Christ live.

This life in the community of Christ is especially exemplified among our church work students and ordained and commissioned church workers. Instruction and certification for LCMS church work vocations[2] takes place at our Concordia universities and seminaries. It is integral to their formation that church work students meet in communities.

John Trinklein, a pre-seminary student at Concordia University Irvine, says the pre-seminary community is “like a big friend group. As upperclassmen, we reach out to the new pre-sem students and bring them into our community. Official events in the pre-sem program include several dinners where pastors invite the students for a time of conversation around pastoral ministry. We also gather informally for fellowship, sing hymns, pray together and read Scripture.”

Jason Church and the other pre-seminary students at Concordia University, Nebraska (CUNE), meet every week for Bible study. They also meet at the end of year for BBQ at the home of Dr. Brian Gauthier, the director of the CUNE pre-seminary and pre-deaconess programs. All the church work students (over 250) gather once per semester for a church worker luncheon, where students share their study focus.

Robert Finch, a pre-seminary student at Concordia University, St. Paul, is instrumental in leading the pre-seminary club called “Appetizers and Theologianizers.” Finch states that “pre-seminary, deaconess, and other church work students meets weekly to read the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and other primary works of theology, equipping the students to understand their identity as Lutherans and encouraging them to confess their faith boldly and confidently with love and gentleness.” Finch states that lifelong relationships are built that strengthen the LCMS church worker community for years to come.

Gina Bertaina is a DCE student at Concordia Irvine. Bertaina describes the DCE community at Irvine: “At the start of the year, Professor Dupont has the DCE seniors plan a retreat for the DCEs, which helps build our community while also having us dig into the Word.” DCE students are often in the same classes, “so there’s time to bond both in and out of class.”  

Olivia Johnson, the LCMS and church work admissions counselor at Concordia Nebraska, says that the DCE students at CUNE have Popcorn Friday weekly for casual conversation and enjoy a mid-year conference where the interns return to campus and share their experiences. One community-builder among the DCEs is when practicum students present a learning experience to the campus in the spring that is designed to “enhance Bible engagement.”

Lutheran teacher student at CUI, Trevor Leitz, states that the church work student communities are very closely knit. Trevor’s suitemates are DCE and pre-seminary students. This makes for a wonderful opportunity to build bonds and community for a lifetime. Trevor states, “The church work programs at CUI are great because we all have a community of friends to do life with here at school, which will last long into our adulthood.”

Community is also built into pastoral formation at both seminaries. Seminary community is shaped, first, in the chapel, gathering as a community in Christ being fed Christ’s life-giving Word. Studying together, in and outside the classroom, with professors and peers, also builds future-pastor and future-deaconess community.

Kyle Moellenhoff, pastoral student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, states, “I see seminary students build community by simply working, playing and eating together. This is mostly informal — students and their families have dinner together, get together for coffee, and play games together.” Moellenhoff says that there are also opportunities for prayer and ministry discussion built into the seminary curriculum and small groups (“Winkels”).

Our ordained and commissioned workers are a part of many communities, knit together by a common confession, a unity of love and encouragement, and a common hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These include pastor Winkels, Lutheran Educators Association (LEA), National Association of DCEs, Concordia Deaconess Conference, district church work conferences, formal and informal gatherings and meetings, and many more. Our church workers gather in community for the purpose of spiritual, personal and professional growth through the study of God’s Word, theology and practice, and professional development.

When I was a pastor in North Dakota, five of us area LCMS pastors met weekly for study and conversation. Over several years, this community of pastors formed a strong bond of love and fellowship. We participated in deep theological conversation and shared our personal lives with one another. When we disagreed, our love and respect for one another caused us to deal with one another gently as baptized brothers in Christ. Our community permeated into the community of our congregations.

Luther writes, “God is superabundantly generous in His grace.” Luther then lists the means of grace: the Word, Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and the Power of the Keys, and “the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren” (SA IV). Conversation and consolation in the Word of God, as it applies to each vocation and speaks to each other’s faith and life — this is the benefit and joy of these vocational communities.

And for what purpose? To benefit the church, God’s people, by strengthening, encouraging and continuing to form wise, learned and compassionate servants of the Word, fixing all eyes on Jesus, for the faith and life of all God’s people.

To learn more about church worker formation and being a part of a church worker community for the sake of serving the Lord full-time in His church, visit

[1] From The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3: Tertullian (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1994), 46.

[2] The eight current LCMS church work vocations are: Pastor, teacher, deaconess, director of Christian education, director of Christian outreach, director of family life ministry, director of church ministries, director of parish music.

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