Nebraska District Invests Heavily in Healthy Relationships

April 27, 2018 | Posted by Demian Farnworth

Editor’s Note:

To celebrate the opening of the 2018 Kaleidoscope Fund grant proposal process, we are sharing the 2017 recipient’s stories over the next two months. See all 2017 stories here as they are published.

-LCEF Editorial Team

Since the first century, the mission of the Church has been simple: tell people about Jesus and His love for them. The fruit of telling people about Jesus is seeing them in a relationship with God and with those in a congregation.

That simple truth, stated by Rev. Richard D. Boring, mission executive of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) Nebraska District, drives the district’s new program, Leadership Development That Leads to Reproduction.

The effort began when the district bought LCMS Every One His Witness (EOHW) kits for their circuit visitors. Rev. Richard L. Snow, president of the Nebraska District, walked the circuit pastors through the kit and encouraged them to share it with the pastors in their circuits and then their congregations. Boring later led the district staff through the kit over a two month period.

The district is getting ready to send out a survey to get a formal measure of the results, but Boring said the responses that have been reaching him have been positive and encouraging. “We wanted to get these kits into everyone’s hands–laity, pastors, school teachers–everyone,” he said.

There was one obstacle to overcome: at $129, the kit might be financially out of reach for some individuals and congregations.

That’s where LCEF’s Kaleidoscope Fund enters the picture.

In late 2017, after applying earlier in the year–and praying–the district learned they would receive a Kaleidoscope Fund grant so the district could offer scholarships to congregations to cover half the cost for the EOHW kits.

Developing healthy relationships

The next focus is to gather district principals and pre-school directors and walk them through EOHW. The goal is to have them then walk the teachers in the school through the program, who, in turn, could walk the parents through it. That is really what it looks like when leaders reproduce leaders, Boring said.

Boring is quick to point out that it is the “power of the Holy Spirit who plants faith in people’s hearts. We are just seeding.” That seeding can’t occur “if we are not connected and in a relationship with each other.”

A couple years ago, as Snow was coming in as president, he set a strategic plan with a major focus on three critical relationships:

  • Relationship with God. Are you spending enough time with God in prayer, devotions and worship?
  • Relationship with one another. Are you building and deepening relationships within the body of Christ?
  • Relationship with the community. Are you developing connections with unbelievers in your community?

As Snow started serving as president, he found it common for church members to be so busy after Sunday services that they didn’t take time to build solid relationships with each other at church or during the rest of the week, relates Boring.

“We can get so busy and need to be an encourager … but how do we encourage and connect them with God?” You can’t show mercy to people whom you don’t know or see, Boring added.

Developing healthy people

Evangelism, while its role is essential, is only one part of this multi-faceted approach. Another essential role, implied in the district’s mission statement, “is working to provide encouragement and equip our leaders for the work God has called them to do.” This portion of the initiative is being referred to as leadership learning communities.

“We started last September with twenty-two pastors, plus President Snow and me, who meet in the district with me and president Snow twice a month,” Boring said. The learning communities are led by Vanessa Seifert of Seifert Leadership Consulting. In addition to face-to-face meetings, she sends daily emails and gives each participant one-on-one coaching once a month to help them on important issues they choose to work on, like developing a healthy emotional life, exercising daily, overcoming procrastination and so on. Some have chosen to focus on managing their time better or improving their devotional life.

“It takes about 3 weeks to develop a behavior,” Boring pointed out, “so it’s crucial they are being reminded and encouraged every day until that change sticks.”

For some of these pastors, most of whom have been in the ministry for five years or longer, this is an opportunity to take part in a process of change that brings their wife and congregational leadership alongside them to be prayer warriors, encouragers and supporters of changes they are making.

Another way the grant is helping strengthen leaders is by supporting weekend-long marriage retreats for pastors in the learning community. Led by Rev. Dr. Justin Hannemann, executive director of GracePoint Institute for Relational Health and assistant to the district president for church worker care, these weekends are designed to improve communication and connection between pastors and their wives, allowing for even greater support as they work to make these changes.

“The district is very grateful for this grant and the impact it will make on the Church,” Boring said. “And you guys have that vision to encourage the congregations to make it possible.”

Focusing on healthy relationships, healthy church workers and leadership growth in the name of Jesus Christ is heard is exactly the kind of ministry the Kaleidoscope Fund was created to support.

Congratulations, Nebraska District for loving on!

President Richard Snow and Nebraska District circuit visitors work through the Every One His Witness materials during their fall retreat. LCEF Kaleidoscope grant funds provided each circuit visitor a kit to use with the pastors in his circuit. Credit: Rev. Christopher Asbury
Demian Farnworth
Senior Content Writer for the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.