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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

You should go to the Bugenhagen Conference


“A circuit winkel on steroids.” That’s how one participant summed up last week’s Bugenhagen Conference in Racine, Wisconsin. This was the second annual conference. After last year’s success, expectations were high and once again they were well met. Named after Johannes Bugenhagen, the pastor of Wittenberg, this conference is specifically for the parish pastor. As it says on the conference website, "The Bugenhagen Conference was created to help pastors hone their craft and excel in all facets of ministry… providing a place for him to honestly evaluate himself against the biblical model of who a pastor is to be. Here he can critically assess among brothers what qualities, skills, and characteristics he has developed and, also, where he needs to develop. The workshops allow pastors to hear from brothers in the ministerium who can provide practical guidance in approaching specific tasks and challenging situations that one may face in the parish.”

The workshops are where this conference really shines. With opportunities to attend eight workshops (out of 29 total), you can definitely find topics that will help you where you are struggling or want to grow. Here are just a few examples:

  • Stewardship Under the Cross - how to teach and implement good Lutheran stewardship principles

  • Teaching the Fear of God in the Congregation - a very helpful presentation on the classical distinction between servile fear and filial fear, which will aid in catechesis and Bible class

  • How Do I Establish An All Male Acolyte Corps? - how to introduce and guide young men and boys in the service of their congregation

  • Getting Better at Bible Study - multiple sessions offered by several veteran pastors

  • Learning How to Chant/Improving Your Chanting

  • Poetry is Practical - discussing how poetry is godly, manly, and edifying for the individual Christian and the pastoral task

  • Promoting a Lutheran Identity in the School

  • Using Hymns in Pastoral Care & Teaching Hymns in the Home and Congregation

  • Tactics for Contacting Delinquents

  • How to Be a Small Town American Pastor - gain a better understanding of Small Town America and what’s expected of the pastor in that setting

While the workshops are practical and meant to foster conversation and questions, the keynotes give more of the big-picture. This year, Rev. Burnell F. Eckardt presented on the necessity of seeing Christ’s atonement throughout Scripture and preaching that atonement. Rev. Ralph Tausz gave a comforting and pastoral address on the burdens and joys of the ministry. And Rev. Mark Preus demonstrated a deep love for the truth and beauty of Lutheran hymnody, encouraging us to love and teach the same.

Besides the papers and workshops, the conference also provides time for Matins and Vespers each day with faithful preaching and strong hymnody. And outside the formal structure of the schedule, there is plenty of time for camaraderie among the brotherhood. Two meals, as well as snacks, were provided at the church. In addition, the first evening was spent at a restaurant by the marina, and the second evening offered softball and a fire. For some participants, this conference has become the perfect reunion with friends from across the country.

One last thing needs to be said: Thank you to the members of St. John’s, Racine, St. Paul’s, Union Grove, and Messiah, Kenosha! While several pastors are responsible for organizing and running the conference, these three churches are responsible for covering the cost of the entire conference and serving the food. This means that the conference is FREE for the pastors!

So, what more could you ask from a truly pastoral conference? Next year, you really should go to the Bugenhagen Conference!