The Golden Gate Circuit, this month’s featured circuit, faces a challenge of travel not usually encountered by many of the circuits in the WELS. Most of the congregations are in the San Francisco Bay area where travel is difficult, especially during rush hour times. Two of the congregations are in the Central Valley of California: Modesto and Clovis (near Fresno). Because of the challenges in travel, this circuit endeavors to have a program of study which makes it worth the time and effort involved in meeting together.
The brothers of the Golden Gate Circuit meet every month when there is not a conference or district meeting of some kind. This results in seven meetings a year. Because of the issues of travel time and rush hour, they meet from 10:00-3:00, a substantial amount of time for a circuit meeting. It also allows for a substantial study program.
The first hour is spent on a sermon review. On a rotating schedule, one of the brothers provides a DVD of his sermon, which they watch and then provide assessment and feedback. They are using a sermon assessment form from the Seminary. A variety of such sermon assessment forms is available on the Grow in Grace website, and are also posted as documents on the bottom of this page.
For the second hour, the Golden Gate Circuit is trying something new. They used to study a lesson from the lectionary for a coming Sunday. But too many of them were using different series or preaching on lessons which didn’t get studied. So they are trying something called “Pastor’s Bible Study.” Here’s how Circuit Pastor Mike Carr describes it. “This new section takes the place of group exegesis. The assigned man will pick one section of Scripture to suck the marrow out of and digest so that it can be presented in a Bible study appropriate for pastors.” The brother assigned to lead the study has the freedom to choose the portion of Scripture he wants to present.
Since fellowship opportunities are difficult for the entire circuit because of distance and travel challenges, the lunch hour provides an opportunity for fellowship. Informal discussion continues. Usually, lunch is ordered in or provided by the host congregation to save on travel time to and from a restaurant.
The third hour of study is called “Practical Pastoring.” The man assigned to lead this hour has the freedom to choose what he wants to present. It could be the review of a book or an essay which he found particularly helpful in his pastoral ministry. Pastor Carr describes the purpose of this hour. “The assigned man will provide something useful or beneficial to practical day-to-day ministry that they have gleaned.”
The final hour is devoted to questions or casuistry and the sharing of important circuit, district and/or synodical information. For example, Pastor Carr presented the plan for the synod’s “Every Member Visit” at one of the meetings.
Because of the travel challenges, the Golden Gate Circuit will be experimenting with a few study meetings via video conferencing. It remains to be seen how this will work, but it has the potential to save travel time and costs.
There are several items about the study plan of the Golden Gate Circuit worth noting:
- Meeting for five hours is an ideal timeframe for productive study.
- The sermon review with ample time for assessment and feedback is a model for other circuits to consider emulating.
- The Golden Gate Circuit’s new “Pastor’s Bible Study” has the potential to be of great benefit. Not only does it provide an opportunity for exegetical study and a honing of the language skills, but it also allows for a study of doctrinal or confessional matters, as well as practical and pastoral issues.
- Both the “Pastor’s Bible Study” and the “Practical Pastoring” segments permit the presenter to have some freedom in the topics or portions of Scripture he wants to discuss. It is often helpful for the leader to have an interest in the topic he is presenting.
Here are a few suggestions for circuits that would consider adopting/adapting larger or smaller portions of the plans of the Golden Gate Circuit:
- For the “Pastor’s Bible Study,” studying an entire book of the Bible over the course of a year in this format might prove beneficial.
- The “Practical Pastoring” segment might also allow for a study of portions of the Lutheran Confessions on occasion, since the Confessions also have much that is practical to the pastoral ministry.