Last week I participated in the Institute for Congregational Ministry Retreat. ICM is the major component of First Call Theological Education for ELCA rostered leaders in the Northeast. It is required of all rostered leaders in their first three years of ministry. This is also known for those of us who went to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia as “Baby Pastor School.”
I honestly did not hear too many good things about this retreat – I heard that one of the things that participators really enjoyed was the night time activities. However, I enjoyed the retreat much more than I thought I would. I was able to see seminary classmates that I have not seen since graduation. I was also able to hang out with one of my favorite people in the whole world – who also happens to be my daughters Godmother (or baptismal sponsor).
I really enjoyed the speaker Mark Allen Powell. He talked about the Book Christ and Culture. This was a book we read in seminary and I can’t say that I really enjoyed the book when we read it. It is a tough read and it was one of those books that we had to read quickly and then talked about it in very vague terms. This time as a pastor in a church trying to identify itself, I really took in what Dr. Powell was saying about how churches relate to the world. I think as a church it would be good to talk how we as the church relate to the world. I wonder how people in the church on 370 see themselves and if it is not something that is consistent with our theology as ELCA Lutherans then can we change that? What do we do to change that?
The work shops that I really enjoyed were about money. The first was one that dealt with Clergy Taxes — now this is a very confusing thing but I think I am starting to understand it some. However, with that being said I am going to find myself a good accountant that deals with clergy taxes. Especially this year since I worked three different jobs in three different states and one job (my current one) is in ordained ministry.
The other workshop that i really enjoyed was about personal and church stewardship. We looked at our financial history (including childhood) where we as pastors are financially and where we want to be. When you talk about money as a pastor you think about your congregation as well. How do we encourage those who are sitting in the pews to think of their personal stewardship as giving thanks to God for what God has blessed us with instead of thinking it as giving to meet the budget, or thinking that whatever I have in my pocket after a busy weekend I will give to the church. I think for Lutheran’s it is difficult to talk about money and the church, because it is not a should or should not question — our theology does not ask that question, that is a question the mega church down the road asks. Our theology is talking more about our response to what God has given us, but it is not a guilt type thing. For Lutherans it is always a yea…..but. type thing.
I am not sure what the next two years will bring me as I attend this event but I know next year I will not be dreading it as much as I did this year and I will be excited to see what happens.