On Sunday, July 20, I had the privilege of announcing some pretty exciting news at the beginning of our worship services.  And that was the news that Pastor Michael Feldmann had accepted the call we extended to him to serve as our Associate Pastor specializing in youth and family ministry.  I know I don’t have to tell you that his positive reply was a long time coming.  How long?  Oh, about a year and 7 months!  So is it any wonder that the congregation in both services erupted in spontaneous applause when I made that announcement?  And although, as of this writing, we do not know exactly when he and his family will be arriving, we at least know that they are coming.  In his letter of acceptance he indicated that it would be sometime after mid-September, but the exact date has yet to be determined.

So as we eagerly anticipate that day when he will be officially installed as our Associate Pastor, I thought I might use this month’s newsletter article to more or less prepare us for that time.  And the one word that came to my mind more than any other as I thought about that was the word SUPPORT.  Pastor Mike is going to need our support…in more ways than one.

To begin with, and perhaps most obviously, he will need us to support the work that he does here.  It is our hope and desire that he will bring new and fresh ideas into our ministry as he begins his work with all ages of our youth and their families.  But a pastor can only do so much.  If he plans activities and events, only to have few, if any, show up, needless to say, that’s going to get pretty discouraging real fast.  So please support his efforts.  Volunteer to help when asked (or even when you’re not asked).  Offer words or cards of encouragement to him and commend him for jobs well done.

Then secondly, let us support him with our patience.  Moving to a new congregation can be somewhat intimidating for a pastor, especially when it comes to learning peoples’ names.  Please remember that you only have 4 names to learn with this soon-to-arrive family: Pastor Mike; Jessica, his wife; Faith, their 4 year old daughter; and Heath, their 2 year old son.  He, on the other hand, has the names of over 500 people to learn!  So if he doesn’t remember your name the first or second or third time you come through the line on Sunday morning, be patient with him.  Cut him some slack and just kindly remind him who you are.

Also be patient with his progress here.  Salem Lutheran Church is a unique congregation, especially when it comes to our youth program.  The class of 10 that I confirmed this year represented 7 different school districts.  What that means is that many of our youth only know one another from church.  So to somehow form them into a cohesive group that enjoys doing things together and interacting with one another is one of the great challenges that awaits our Associate Pastor.  So please be patient and supportive of him as he works toward that goal.

Which brings up another way we can support him.  And that is with our prayers.  Please add Pastor Mike and his family to your prayer list if you haven’t done so already.  The transition from one congregation to another can be filled with all kinds of emotions for the pastor and his family.  There is sadness that stems from leaving your former congregation and all the friends you made there.  There is anxiety that grows out of entering a new congregation where many things are not as familiar as they were in the church you left.  There is excitement as you look forward to being a shepherd to this new flock that God has entrusted to your care.  There is a profound sense of dependence upon Him to help you do the right things and say the right things and not mess up too much. J There is concern about all that needs to be done just to get settled in and somehow balancing time at the church and time with your family. So please make it a regular practice to hold Pastor Mike and his family before the Lord in prayer seeking His guidance, comfort, strength, and direction.

Then I want to encourage you to also be supportive of his family.  Having experienced the ministry with 2 small children myself, I can recall the times members of our congregation would offer to babysit just so Marilyn and I could have a night out alone.  Please remember that Pastor Mike and Jessica do not have family nearby to give them an occasional and perhaps much-needed break from the kids.  That’s where we, their new church family, can come into play.  I’ll never forget one couple that did this for Marilyn and me when we were serving in Tuscola.  They told us they were going to babysit Bethany and Kim so we could have a night out together.  They even gave us their Chrysler New Yorker to use, which was the fanciest car I had ever driven, and paid the green fees for a par 3 golf course we played and then paid for a meal at a restaurant.  I’m not saying you have to go that far or do that much, but just showing support to the pastor’s family can invigorate the pastor for the work he needs to do.

And then one more way we need to support our new pastor is financially through our offerings.  I don’t normally get concerned about the offerings here because this congregation has always been so good at meeting its financial obligations without having to borrow money, unless it was for a major building project.  But last month when I saw in our newsletter that we were more than $20,000 behind our budget for this year, that caught my attention.  I don’t recall that ever happening before and I don’t have an answer for it.  I suspect it may be due to the fact that since we have not been having to pay the full-time salary and benefits for a second pastor for over a year and a half and our General Fund has developed a fairly sizeable cushion, some have eased up their giving.  I just pray that as we bring a new pastor on board we will all understand the increased financial responsibility this adds to our budget each week and that we will respond as we are able.

So these are exciting times as we soon begin another chapter in the life of this congregation known as Salem Lutheran Church.  God has been so good to us in the past and I eagerly look forward to what He has in store for us in the future.  As we support our new Associate Pastor in the ways I’ve just written about, I truly believe that the best is yet to come!