Featured Circuit August 2012

District:

Nebraska

Circuit:

Western Slope Circuit

Circuit Pastor:

Jonathan Micheel (pastorjm@popslc.org)

FC.2012.8Western Slope Circuit

In some areas of the WELS, especially in some of the smaller districts, when congregations are widely scattered, it is difficult for a circuit to meet together on a regular basis. One solution to this challenge is to follow the example of the Western Slope Circuit. For studying purposes, the circuit divides itself in half. This month featured circuit is the western half of the Western Slope Circuit, comprised of the WELS and ELS pastors in Utah – all four of them.

These four men meet about ten times a year. They usually meet at Prince of Peace in Salt Lake City, since that is centrally located for the others. As can be seen from their agenda, they make efficient use of their three hours of study time.

While they cover a lot of material, they do so with minimal advance preparation. The opening devotion is usually based on the daily verses from Treasures Old and New, along with a prayer and/or hymn. The “Suffrages” from Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (the ELS hymnal) are often used. A devotional leader is assigned on a rotating basis. The agenda is then adopted and the topics for discussion of casuistry are listed. They try to refrain from discussing immediately, in order to allow time to think over the topics.

They spend half an hour on a doctrinal essay. They simply read and discuss. No advance study guide is prepared, although one of them is assigned the task of facilitating the discussion. Sometimes they cover a few paragraphs, sometimes a few pages, depending on the level of discussion.

For the sermon review, three of the four pastors have video equipment at their churches, so a video recording of the sermon is reviewed. For the fourth man, he either preaches his sermon live or the group listens to an audio recording. After watching the sermon, the listed reactor is the first to offer any constructive criticism, followed by the others. The fact that they are a small group allows for honest and open critique. They know each other well enough to trust that criticism is offered in brotherly love.

In their study of the Lutheran Confessions, they recently concluded the Smalcald Articles and are proceeding to the Apology’s article on law and gospel, as requested by one of the men. Again, it should be noted that no advance study guide is prepared. They just read and discuss as much as they can in thirty minutes.

The final half hour time slot has alternated between a couple different items. They have read through the Greek or Hebrew for an upcoming lesson from the lectionary, discussing and brainstorming sermon ideas. Currently, they are reading through Daniel Deutschlander’s The Narrow Lutheran Middle. They read a chapter ahead of time and then use a Bible study from NPH (available as a download) as the basis for discussion. Not only is this for personal benefit, but it also allows them to review the book and Bible study for possible use in their congregations.

They conclude with the discussion of casuistry items. Since they are rather isolated, they take the time for fellowship when their families can be included.

Sample Agenda

Pastors’ Study

Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 9AM at Prince of Peace

  1. Opening Prayer and/or Devotion, AH…………………………………………………….9:00-9:10 AM
  2. Adopting of the Agenda & Listing of Casuistry…………………………………………9:10 AM
  3. Church Fellowship by Ted Aaberg, led by AH…………………………………………..9:15-9:45AM
  4. Sermon Critique of DL sermon led by NB………………………………………………..9:45-10:30 AM
  5. Break………………………………………………………………………………………..10:30-10:45 AM
  6. Book of Concord Study: Treatise on Power & Primacy of Pope, led by NB………….10:45-11:15AM
  7. Discussion of Chapter 2 of The Narrow Lutheran Middle Road*……………………..11:15-11:45 AM
  8. Casuistry…………………………………………………………………………………….11:45AM-12:00 PM
  9. Closing with the Lord’s Prayer & Doxology………………………………………………12:00 PM

* I purchased a recently produced Bible class based on this book. We will use that as a discussion guide, both to study the book and also to preview the course for possible use in our congregations. The student guide for the Bible class is attached. We will be using Chapter Two, which is pages 8-11.

Any volunteer for refreshments?

Next Meeting: Wed., May 30
Opening Devotion: NB
Sermon: AH
Reactor: JM
Read Chapter 3 of The Narrow Lutheran Middle Road

There are several items about the study plan of the Western Slope Circuit (western half) worth noting:

  • They spend most of their time studying. As a small group, they don’t have as many organizational/administrative type issues to discuss.
  • Devoting 45 minutes to the sermon review, and basing the review on the sermon as it was actually preached, shows that this group of men understands the importance of growth in preaching. The sermon review has been especially beneficial to this group.
  • Their agenda includes study in doctrinal, historical and practical theology.

Here are a few suggestions for circuits that would consider adopting/adapting larger or smaller portions of the plans of the Western Slope Circuit (western half):

  • With a larger group, study time is used more efficiently when someone is assigned the task of preparing a study guide and leading the discussion. That isn’t as necessary in a smaller group.
  • The agenda is a little heavy on doctrinal study and a little light on exegetical/scriptural study. Perhaps reintroducing the sermon study when the fellowship paper is completed would be beneficial and provide better balance in the areas of theology.
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