National Lutheran News

Shepherding the Shepherds stand alongside pastors

Pastors are called to be the leaders to their flocks. But a call to ministry does not protect them from conflict or struggle. And in these times, it is important for them to have someone to turn to for guidance — an area of ministry where Pastor Michael Brandt, founder and director of Shepherding the Shepherds, saw a major lacking. In response, he began Shepherding the Shepherds, a ministry that seeks to be a timely reminder to pastors and church leaders to regularly evaluate their lives and ministry, with the hope that they will do the same for others.

“If I am able to help a pastor through this ministry, the condition then is that if he is able, then the pastor becomes equipped to help another pastor,” Brandt said.

Shepherding the Shepherds partners with Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, an Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC) church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Brandt served as senior pastor from 1991 to 2007. Through this ministry, Brandt has helped several congregations in the Midwest, as well as in Southern California, using a peer-to-peer mentoring approach.

Building a Church Plant

When he was called to serve at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (AFLC), a church plant in Camarillo, California, Pastor Jim Johnson immediately went to Brandt, whom he had known for many years, to seek advice. As a result, Johnson became one of the first partners with Shepherding the Shepherds, a relationship that remains active today.

Johnson not only has received guidance in daily ministry, but also in major congregational initiatives. Working side-by-side, Johnson and Brandt outlined the congregation’s purpose and partnered with key members and church leadership to build consensus.

Notably, Brandt encouraged them to create the radio program, “Soul Break,” a 15-minute talk show airing weekdays during lunch on a local radio station. “Mike helped me establish a plan and build a consensus with our leadership team to start the program,” Johnson said. “With his guidance we soon had a peace from God to move into that kind of ministry.”

Running a Christian Ministry

CEO of LifeLight Communications Alan Greene works with Shepherding the Shepherds because “one of our greatest challenges in leading a team of people in ministry is keeping the balance of faith, calling, and the practical side of running an organization.” LifeLight Communications, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, evangelical music, campus, and outreach ministry, has sought mentoring and staff and leadership development.

Brandt has offered LifeLight spiritual guidance, as well as the experience of how to deal with diverse staff and a large number of volunteers.

“This is a greatly needed ministry,” Greene said. “Most people leading ministries today are in a place of great need for someone to come alongside and be of spiritual help. In our case, we are a husband-and-wife-led ministry team and there is rarely anyone local to talk to about the spiritual, emotional, and financial pressures in running a ministry. Pastor Mike’s counsel and friendship is greatly appreciated.”

Mentoring a Young Pastor

Pastor Eric Christenson, senior pastor at Amery Free Lutheran Church (AFLC) in Amery, Wisconsin, came to Brandt at a time when his congregation was undergoing change. When extended a letter to become the senior pastor to Amery Free, Christenson, 29, accepted the call under the condition that the congregation partners with Shepherding the Shepherds.

“As a young pastor, I knew I could benefit from this. It has been the biggest blessing and asset to me professionally and personally,” Christenson said.

While Christenson said the church council was first skeptical of the partnership, they now speak positively of the ministry and see it as a great investment for their congregation. “It really helps to have someone outside the congregation. It clicks with committees when it comes from a different person,” said Christenson.

Rebuilding a Split Congregation

Most recently, Shepherding the Shepherds has partnered with Scott Odenbach, a lay leader in a Baptist congregation in Spearfish, South Dakota, that recently split. While a large portion of the congregation left, the remainder was left to rebuild.

Now through their partnership with Shepherding the Shepherds, the congregation is in the process of defining their values and mission. “When our former pastor and staff left, about one-third of the people left with them. Those of us left had to restart. Pastor Brandt came in and met with the council. We realized that as we do this, [we need to] do this right … define our mission, vision… [and] do [it] methodically so we can do better the next time,” said Odenbach.

“Pastor Brandt was an outside voice. He came in and preached a couple weeks after. It calmed and reassured everyone in the congregation. Wisdom can come at all ages. As we talk through specific examples, Pastor Brandt applies his wisdom of experience. That to us has been very valuable.”