I can’t say I remember when I first began thinking about being a pastor. I just always had an “inclination” to be a pastor. Sunday’s were reserved for Sunday school and worship (except during the summer months when we would go camping every weekend). I loved learning the Bible stories at Sunday School. I remember marching around the church basement to “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Though bored by the redundancy of repeating page 5 and 15 from TLH Sunday after Sunday, I always found Pastor Scholz’s sermons engaging. (Maybe sitting in the front row right at the foot of the altar had something to do with that as well!) Singing in the Junior and Senior choirs … serving as an acolyte … serving as a teacher/helper at VBS … being a participant of a vibrant youth group with outstanding role models … preparing Bible studies for youth group … having a close friend studying for the pastoral ministry … all these experiences whet my interest in pastoral ministry. My parents and grandparents had a profound influence on my interest in the ministry through their godly witness and encouragement. I remember one night in particular. Like most high schoolers I was uncertain of my future vocation choices. My father sat me down at the kitchen table and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I responded saying, “I would like to be a DJ or a marketing salesman, or a pastor.” He asked, “What’s preventing you from going the pastor route?” I said, “It’s a lot of money which I (we) don’t have and I don’t know if I have the brains to be a pastor.” My father said, “If God wants you to be a pastor those barriers will be overcome.” A few days later I filled out the entrance application form for the pre-seminary program at Concordia College, Ann Arbor and a few months later I was moving to Ann Arbor.
Finances were an issue. Although a Canadian, I went to the pre-seminary program at Concordia, Ann Arbor and I went to Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Canadian dollars evaporated when converted to American greenbacks and I wasn’t granted a “green card” so I could only work on campus at minimum wage. But the Lord provided. I always had one or two jobs during school terms and when I got married my wife worked as well. Grants and scholarships provided by God’s people and Lutheran corporations (like Aid Association for Lutherans) were helpful. Redeemer Lutheran Church (Waterloo), my home congregation, had a healthy bursary fund (funds donated by congregational members to support sons/daughters of the congregation training to be church workers) and they provided me with probably $20,000.00 during my seven years of pre-seminary and seminary training! (And they provided similar financial support to the other men in the congregation studying to be pastors!) Concordia Theological Seminary had a dorm devoted to being a “goodwill” shop where we could get clothing and small household appliances. There was another area designated as a food bank where we got fresh produce donated by local farmers and congregations donated groceries. A government program provided us with eggs, milk, and other dietary necessities. I was adopted by one or two congregations through the “Adopt a student” program. Four hair stylists came to the seminary regularly and provided haircuts free of charge to seminarians, their wives, and children. When I was in the doctoral program at CTS, St. Peter’s Lutheran School waved their fees and allowed two of my children to attend which meant that the members of St. Peter’s were providing funds to cover my children’s tuition. One of the homes we rented was owned by a retired Lutheran couple and another home was owned by a Lutheran pastor. They charged us a rental fee that was far below what the market demanded.
Another significant challenge I faced along the way was my inability to master a language. My childhood experience with French was a disaster. In Latin class I fared no better. Greek was my “make it or break it” point. I decided that if I could not pass Greek, then I did not deserve to be a pastor. I spent four hours an evening, six days a week (I’m not kidding! Ask my wife!) memorizing conjunctions, irregular verbs and vocab. Not only did I pass Greek but I forced myself to minor in it and then when I was at Concordia Theological Seminary I forced myself to take as many Old Testament classes in Hebrew as I could so that I would have to wrestle with Hebrew. Oh, the afflictions we can bring on ourselves!
What did this journey through my pre-seminary, seminary, post-grad training teach me? You’ve probably heard the statement, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well … my seven years of schooling (and two years of doctorate study) taught me “that it takes a ‘village’ to raise a pastor.”
Sure, I was the one who spent hours studying for my courses and it was my wife and children who “sacrificed” a “normal” life but I am a pastor today because of the “village” …
- Because my parents, parent-in-laws, and grandparents raised me to know the Lord and made it their business to nurture my faith in the triune God;
- Because Pastor Scholz demonstrated a love and passion for pastoral ministry and gave me the opportunity to serve as an acolyte;
- Because my Sunday School teachers/Superintendents taught me God’s Word;
- Because my youth group friends encouraged me in my studies and shared the vibrancy of my faith through those turbulent teenage years;
- Because my junior and senior choir director(s) implanted God’s Word in my heart in the form of music;
- Because other congregational members prayed for me and donated money to a “bursary fund”;
- Because anonymous donors provided funds to grants/scholarships;
- Because professors taught me the depths of God’s Word;
- Because classmates encouraged me along the way when I felt like quitting;
- Because LWML groups “adopted” a student and his family;
- Because farmers donated fresh produce and other generous Christians donated tons of grocery items and household goods to the seminary food and clothing banks;
- Because four hairstylists donated their time and provided free haircuts to seminarians and their families;
- Because a congregation/school was willing to waive its tuition fees (which meant other people at St. Peter’s covered those fees);
- Because a Lutheran couple (who I never met) and a Lutheran pastor charged me below-monthly rent;
- And the list of “villagers” who raised this pastor could go on and on and on …
How privileged I am to be serving among these “villagers!”
Rev. Dr. Glenn E. Schaeffer
1 Timothy 6:12