For this month’s featured circuit, we go to the St. Clair Circuit, covering the Detroit metro area, in the Michigan District. The St. Clair Circuit meets seven times a year (they don’t meet during June and July and months when there are conferences).
They meet for three hours in the morning and then go out for lunch. The host pastor has a brief devotion and then preaches a recent sermon. The rest of the group offers some critique.
The man who will be hosting the next circuit meeting is responsible for preparing and leading the group in a text study. He has the freedom to choose the portion of Scripture for study. Usually, it is a lesson from the lectionary for an upcoming Sunday.
Following the text study, the group spends about 45 minutes reading and discussing a portion of the Lutheran Confessions. Currently, the circuit is studying the Smalcald Articles. Circuit Pastor Voss comments, “While there is no prepared study, we read and discuss as much of the material as time allows.”
The last hour of the meeting is spent receiving reports from each congregation, sharing the joys and challenges experienced in that congregation. Upcoming circuit matters are discussed. Questions of casuistry are asked and brotherly guidance is offered to specific situations and problems. Pastor Voss says, “In this way, the circuit is able to enjoy being fed spiritually, study together, and to receive practical guidance.”
The meeting ends at noon and the group adjourns to a local restaurant for food and fellowship. Sometimes, several wives will gather for fellowship on their own during the study meeting and then join the group for lunch.
9:00-9:30 AM Opening Devotion and Sermon (presented by host pastor; critique offered by brothers)
9:30-10:15 AM Text Study (presented by the host pastor of the next meeting)
10:15-11:00 AM Confessional Study (no formal preparation; currently studying the Smalcald Articles)
11:00-12:00 Noon Conference business
- Sharing of joy and challenges of each congregation
- Discussion of circuit matters
- Questions of casuistry
12:00 Noon Lunch at an area restaurant
There are several items about the study plan of the St. Clair Circuit worth noting:
- Taking the time to listen to and critique a sermon is an excellent opportunity to grow in an area of practical theology, both for the preacher and the brothers listening and offering feedback.
- The agenda for study provides a nice balance between practical theology (the sermon review), in-depth scriptural study and confessional/doctrinal discussion.
- The rotation of preachers and presenters gives the opportunity for all to improve in preaching and lead an in-depth study of Scripture.
- Hearing the joys and challenges from each congregation on a regular basis enables the brothers of the circuit to rejoice, pray and offer counsel. Such communication can both share ideas for ministry and proactively address concerns which might arise within a circuit. Also, taking the time to go out to eat offers the informal discussion time which can be just as fruitful and valuable as formal agenda time.
- It’s great to see that the wives of these men take the opportunity to spend some time together (when possible). This is an excellent opportunity for them to further friendships.
Here are a few suggestions for circuits that would consider adopting/adapting larger or smaller portions of the plans of the St. Clair Circuit:
- While there is practical value for preaching in studying a lesson from the lectionary, there is also value is studying a book of the Bible to see the larger context and flow of thought. An option might be occasionally taking a year to study one of the epistles or selected psalms.
- An hour for discussion and circuit business is quite a chunk of agenda time. Since there is the opportunity for informal discussion during lunch, the time spent in study could be expanded by about a half an hour. If lunch were pushed back to 12:30, an extra hour of study time could be added. This could open up time to study a book or essay together, or perhaps an additional portion of Scripture.