6 Questions and a Cup of Coffee with
Since 1994, I have been following the developments in the field of brain research and education, with a special interest in brain health and its application to the church, the church school and the home.
I served the church as a Director of Christian Education for more than 30 years in four LCMS congregations. Together with my wife, Becky, we toured with our children full-time for 12 years as Fitz Family Ministries, a unique family ministry and entertainment/ juggling troupe. Late in my career I worked for Wheat Ridge Ministries as full-time Director of Congregation Engagement where I developed a series of health and wellness workshops that I led in various venues across the country. I now work two half-time positions: 1) as Executive Director of
ALOA, Adult Lutherans Organized for Action
, focused on encourAGING and equipping congregations for older adult ministry; and 2) with my wife in a health and wellness company,
1. Can you describe your call to ministry?
During all the years as Fitz Family I started each performance with our mission statement: "To encourage people to discover, celebrate and use their unique gifts in the Lord's service." I think that pretty much sums up what I've been about in all the various things I've done, both in full-time church work and in whatever else I'm doing as well. Currently, God has called me to lead an organization called ALOA with an important task: to encourAGE and equip congregations for older adult ministry.
2. What is the best part of your ministry now?
Judicatories in the LCMS and ELCA are not able to staff for creative and effective ministry with and for older adults due to budget constraints and yet it is a crucial ministry for the church for demographic reasons. There are 10,000 of us Boomers retiring every day, with the next generations adding similar numbers) and scriptural reasons (wisdom and experience to share, especially around their faith journey). My previous travels with Fitz Family and Wheat Ridge Ministries have prepared me with a nationwide network of contacts and my wife and my own experience with her parents in the last years of life have highlighted some of the critical needs and opportunities for that age group. I enjoy the challenge of helping people see new opportunities for ministry - almost any congregation in the country has as many 60 year olds around it as they have 6 year olds. The fields are ripe!
. Can you tell us a favorite Baptism story?
One of the many ministry opportunities I participated in was 'clown ministry'. It is a powerful ancient Christian symbol, but easily misused and so it has seen an ebb and flow of use in the church over the centuries. Very early in my ministry, I caught an upswing in the use of the symbol and got involved. While I was working at Hope Lutheran Church of the Deaf in Portland, OR, we had our second son, Isaac. I was a DCE (AIM) at the time, and the small deaf congregation's pastor had just taken a call. Since I signed and no other pastor in the area could sign, I became the 'pastor' for the deaf during that transition. My clown character was nonverbal, so for Isaac's baptism we did both the worship and baptism totally in the clown symbol. And our oldest daughter, Jenica, was very independent and two years old at the time (the birthday when we got them into their first clown face). She was determined to put on the makeup herself. It was quite the sight. I love the symbol of the clown face - white face of the death mask and then the colors on top to show our new life in Christ. It was a grand celebration! My mother was even there to hold Isaac during the baptism.
4. What are three things Christian educators should keep their eyes on?
First, I believe every church should always have an option available that builds biblical literacy in the people we serve. One of our biggest challenges in the North American Church is that we don't know our faith origin stories, and especially how they all fit together. We would never read any other book like we read the Bible: jump around randomly from chapter to chapter and ignore complete sections. That is why I used Crossways material at every church I served. Second, I was guilty of doing things FOR people instead of helping them do it themselves - one of the biggies was Confirmation and the overarching task of parents teaching the faith to their children. Third - affirm discipleship all along the life journey. I like the Milestones/Stepping Stones resources for that reason. Publicly affirming the call to discipleship at many stages of life is an important tasks. We are called to serve at every stage of life; there is no retirement from being a disciple. It is easy to ignore the older adults in your church and community. They have much to offer and have special and unique challenges that provide many opportunities to serve as Christ's hands and feet.
5. Can you tell us about some of your favorite resources?
My favorite resources include one from my very first call at Hope Deaf Church and a few that are tied to my current position.
First, I love the
Crossways! Bible study materia
l. They have a full range of options from a very short one day/six evening survey of the Bible (See Through the Scriptures) to a full- blown, two year survey course from beginning to end (Crossways), along with other short subject options. The material is highly visual with excellent leader and participant resources.
Second, I love three resources we have on our
ALOA resource page
under "Intergenerational" and "Independence to Interdependence": 1) Faith Stories - an excellent way to get young people and older adults talking together, and to give the older adult a digital copy of their life/faith testimony for the coming generations of their family; 2) Seniors in Transition - an excellent eight week resource to help older adults make a more pro-active decision about where they will live in the later years of life (a decision often put off until a crisis hits, which often makes the end results less than hoped for); and 3) "Being Mortal" - a powerful
by Atul Gawande that explores the challenges around the very last years of life and the thing none of us escapes - our death. There is a companion study guide usable by individuals, families, small group bible studies and large group studies.
6. How can we pray for you?
Prayers for the work of ALOA as we build our visibility and viability for stronger service to the church at large. Prayers for my wife, Becky's, health - she has 28 years of cancer history along with chronic heart failure and other health 'fallout' issues from the classic cancer treatments.
If you would like to recommend a Lutheran or others with a passion for lifelong learning for the "6 Questions and a Cup" column, please let us know!
Loving God, Creator of all times and places,
we thank you for the gift of summertime,
the days of light, warmth, and [if possible] leisure.
Give us that insight to see you as the Divine Artist.
Help us to realize and appreciate
that you are laboring to keep all in existence.
Warm our souls with the awareness of Your presence.
Let all the gifts we enjoy this summer
deepen our awareness of Your love
so that we may share this with others
and enjoy a summertime of re-creation.
Living Our Baptism
Apostles' Creed Photo Essay -
A way for confirmation students to creatively explore one of the creeds, which Christians use to proclaim their faith
Check out these and many other resources on our
CENetwork of the ELCA
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Christian Education Network of the ELCA
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