Last month the 2016 Churchwide Assembly voted to gather all those serving as lay rostered leaders – deaconesses, diaconal ministers and associates in ministry (AIMS) into one lay roster known as “Ministers of Word and Service”, effective January 1, 2017. They will also be called deacons (which means service).

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Ministers of Word and Service serve the church in a variety of ways. 

They go through the candidacy process the same way pastors or Ministers of Word and Sacrament do.  They are called to work in congregations, schools, agencies and institutions.  They can be called by a congregation, synod or churchwide expression.

Here are the stories of some of our lay rostered leaders in our synod and how they view the changes.

Chaplain Sandy Anenson has served at Bethany Life Communities in Story City for 26 years.  In fact, she began this call before she was rostered as an Associate in Ministry.  She began working part time at Bethany and as her hours increased a pastor friend recommended she enter the AIM program.  She has served her entire call as an AIM at Bethany Life.

“I have always had a special place in my heart for the elderly,” she notes.

“My family was always particularly welcoming to our elderly relatives and I grew up among them.  I believe they are the saints of the church.”

Chaplain Anenson welcomes the new roster and likes the designation Minister of Word and Service.  “I’m not sure that anyone really understood what Associate in Ministry means,” she observes.  “Minister of Word and Service is much more descriptive of what we do.”

Denise Lindemann has recently finished a call as Chaplain at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.  She became an Associate in Ministry when the roster was first developed in the new ELCA as a way to serve the church and be in ministry.  She has served in various capacities, including as an interim parish leader, assisting with Lutheran Disaster Response in Iowa, supply preaching for different congregations, working with congregations with youth and education programs, and as a Board Certified Chaplain through Association of Professional Chaplains.

Ms. Lindemann is grateful for the change in the lay roster and is hopeful that this change will help congregations become more aware of what our lay leaders can provide to them and the larger community.

Diaconal Ministry appealed to Elayne Werges because though she felt called in many directions, from teaching to social work to congregational ministry, nothing quite fit until she learned about diaconal ministry.  “In my mind, it was a way to combine social work and faith,” she observes.

“It made my heart sing to be able to transition confirmation and youth ministry to include helping youth find where they fit into the life of the congregation by equipping and empowering them.”

Elaine is supportive of the new lay roster.

“I pray that it will clear up some confusion surrounding roles in previous rosters. And I pray that this roster will become better understood and used to the potential that it has. I continue to be thankful to be able to work with the amazing (former) AIMs in this synod as a unified roster. I feel like the unification of the rosters of AIMs, Deaconesses, and Diaconal Ministers into the new roster of “Deacons” removes walls and barriers to enable all of us to work together better for the sake of the Gospel.”

Associate in Ministry, Kristin Johnson, currently serves as Youth and Family Minister at St. Petri in Story City. She first felt called to ministry working with an organization called Young Life during her junior year of college in 1996. “I wanted to have an active role in the lives of children and youth; to uplift, support, equip and encourage them to grow in their faith.” At the advice of her father, an ELCA pastor, she entered seminary and got a Masters in Youth and Family Ministry.  My dad then encouraged me to take it a step further and be rostered in the ELCA as an Associate in Ministry. “The candidacy process was very helpful in my discernment about my Call to Youth and Family Ministry.”

Kristin has served the church in this way for more than 20 years.  She notes:

“The congregations I’ve served have benefited from me being rostered. Because I’m rostered, they have a system guiding how I and my congregation work together and what we should expect from each other. My congregations know that ELCA rostered leaders go through an extensive candidacy process and have ongoing expectations for continuing education and professional growth. My congregations have known that my education and theological training has been examined and certified, and I have promised to lead in accordance with the same doctrines and beliefs as the pastors who are ELCA Ministers of Word and Sacrament.”

Kristin appreciates the changes in the lay roster because they unify all the lay ministers and bring clarity to their roles in the church.  “But it doesn’t change what I do,” she notes.

“I am still a Minister of Word and Service, and I am still called to work with children, youth and their families. So I welcome the change, knowing that who I am and what I do remains the same.”

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.

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