I have proposed to the Council of Deacons that in September of 1982 we add a new full-time minister at Bethlehem. The conviction guiding my decision is that we should add staff, not merely to cope with a present situation, but also to spearhead particular ministries. This means we must have a sense of direction in order to know what ministries to pursue. A sense of direction is gained from three sources: 1) the trajectory in which God has already put us; 2) the potential for fruit in the future; and 3) the guiding principles of Scripture.
My sense of our direction is that the growing edge of our church will be the 18–35 age group for the foreseeable future. This is our trajectory; since I became pastor over 90% of all new members (about 98, not counting the Laotians) have been under 35. The reason for this, and the reason we may expect it in the future, is that these are the people who do not yet have roots and are looking for a place to settle and gain a sense of place.
By and large, older people are in a particular church because they grew old in it, not because they switched churches or were converted late. That will continue to happen. In a couple of decades the 35-year-olds will be the 55 plus. The future of Bethlehem depends on maintaining the trajectory of the past year-and-a-half, supplemented by efforts in every age group to win their contemporaries to Christ.
Another trajectory within this larger one is that our ministry to students and the ministry from students has increased dramatically in the last year-and-a-half. Glen Bloomstrom had built a solid core of people which now average around 90 in Sunday School during the school year and around 35 in the summer under Tom Steller’s leadership. We have just begun to tap the potential of outreach and ministry to the University at our doorstep.
My conviction is that there is no other conference church that can minister to the University of Minnesota better than we can. No other church has greater responsibility to do so because of our proximity, the quality of Tom Steller’s discipleship labors, and the character of our preaching and worship. College students are not a fruitless drain on the church. They are a reservoir of future leadership and present service in our church. It is crucial that a church like ours win college students for the Lord and for the local church.
Therefore, my sense of our direction over the next five years suggests that we should call a minister who would focus his efforts especially on the student-age segment of the 18–35 age-group. This person would replace the college/career intern. In addition to spearheading growth in young adult ministries, this person should probably be willing and able to help us in the wider educational efforts of our church. There are three general responsibilities of a C.E. director:
- teacher recruitment and training;
- program organization (e.g. kid’s clubs);
- philosophy and curriculum development.
I foresee these three needs being met in the following way:
- the new minister would be involved in teacher recruitment and training (for junior high through adult);
- a part-time children’s worker (who would have the status of an intern) would oversee the kid’s clubs, organize new summer programs, and help recruit and train teachers for kids below junior high age;
- the C.E. Board would develop philosophy and curriculum in conversation with pastoral staff.
Thus by replacing the college/career intern with a full-time minister, 1) we free up an intern position to be filled by a children’s worker; 2) we gain needed help in teacher recruitment and training; and 3) we press for expansion in the growing edge of the congregation.
I have recommended to the Long-Range Planning Committee, the Deacons, the C.E. Board, and the Trustees that we move toward adding this position in September of 1982. My recommendation includes that we give primary consideration to Tom Steller as the new full-time minister. In a future Star [Taste & See article] I will be telling you what leads me to value Tom’s ministry so highly.
At present the Trustees are pondering the financial implications of this for next year’s budget. The C.E. Board will be discussing the details of the proposal at their next meeting. The Deacons are behind the idea and behind Tom Steller. Please make any of your suggestions to the appropriate board. If the boards come to agreement on this, a proposal will be brought to the church at the annual meeting.