At the 2010 district convention, when the districts were responding to the synod resolution to reduce the size of circuits, some circuits resolved to retain the same size but find alternate ways to better serve the pastors and congregations of the circuit. The Hartford Circuit is an example of a circuit retaining the same size but coming up with a plan to provide for an assistant circuit pastor (see attachment). Since this circuit does not encompass a large geographical area, this system has merit. It also provides for a larger group to continue meeting together.
The Hartford Circuit meets seven times throughout the year. Each meeting lasts for about two hours and includes an opening devotion, an exegetical brief prepared in advance, a book review prepared in advance and time for planning, discussion and questions of casuistry. More detailed information is provided in the attached agenda and schedule.
The opening devotion is assigned ahead of time by the circuit pastor committee. It is usually, but not always the pastor who is hosting that day. It is encouraged to be a brief devotional thought based on a passage relating to the topic of the day or the time of the church year. The devotion may be followed by a hymn and prayer.
The exegetical brief is an attempt to mirror the Quarterly version of this concept. Concise sections are assigned in advance. The leader is encouraged to flesh out some key grammar and syntax issues, draw attention to important vocabulary, and offer commentary and preaching helps. This is our way of digging deeper into Hebrew and Greek without taxing the guys with a heavy load. That way we all get to do one small thing very well, rather than cover too much ground poorly.
The brothers take turns doing a little “show and tell.” We are creating a pastor’s library list as we go along. Topics vary from one man to another. It allows us to get insight on the differing interests (worship, evangelism, counseling, administration, church history, etc.) Many of the books are being physically added to a pastor’s library that exists at Peace Lutheran in Hartford and is made available to pastors in the Hartford area for the generations to come.
As many other circuits and conferences do, we allow time for the brothers to bring questions of casuistry. We have fostered a fellowship that welcomes open discussion and mutual encouragement. We want to know that we can talk about the hard stuff without being looked down upon. Often we learn from each other and are redirected to the Scriptures together for guidance.
We also allow room for the brothers to speak about upcoming events, special church functions, synod and conference news, and whatever else the brothers might need to talk about. We also encourage all the brothers to faithful in our other conference attendance.
Closing Bible Reading
- We meet once a month and move around to the various places in the circuit.
- The host pastor usually provided some coffee and treats and recommends a place for us to go out to lunch together. There is often good fellowship before and after. That time allows for personal contact about issues that may not involve the whole group. It also allows us to get to know one another better.
- We foster the sharing of worship service ideas, bible class notes, and other ministry plans. That way we are not always “reinventing the wheel” but can benefit from the good solid work of each other.
- We attempt to get our families together at least twice a year (after Christmas and during the summer months.)
There are several items about the study plan of the Hartford Circuit worth noting:
- The concept of an “exegetical brief” has some merit. It gives one man each month the opportunity to dig deeper into a smaller portion of Scripture and share what he has learned with his brothers as he leads them in discussion.
- The book review by one man also has merit (see the “Shepherd’s Study” tab on the “Grow in Grace” website). It allows one man to read a book and share what he has gleaned.
- Meeting for lunch provides good fellowship time. The efforts to get the families together a couple of times a year is also beneficial.
- Once a year the group is meeting at the Seminary. Part of their study time is attending chapel. As Pastor Steinbrenner mentions, this was greatly appreciated by the group.
Here are a few suggestions for circuits that would consider adopting/adapting larger or smaller portions of the plans of the Hartford Circuit:
- The overall time for study is somewhat limited (less than two hours). One idea might be to either start earlier or shorten the time for discussion and planning and save some of those items for discussion over lunch (as is sometimes done).
- More study time might allow for a study of the Lutheran Confession or a doctrinal essay. That kind of study is missing in the current schedule.
- If there is additional time, instead of a book review by one man, perhaps having that one man lead everyone in a study of a particular book. That would get everyone reading the book together.