Fox Valley Conference, Northern Wisconsin District
The Door County Circuit, comprised of the congregations in Door County and several in neighboring Kewaunee County, has made efforts in the last year to improve their study time together.
The group meets every other month. There is usually a conference of some kind during the months they don’t meet. Their meeting begins at 11:30 with a Communion service. The host pastor preaches. At 12:30, the host pastor arranges for lunch. At that time, constructive critique of the sermon is offered. Providing feedback on the sermon is a new feature of their meetings.
At 1:00, the group spends about thirty minutes on questions of casuistry and other items of circuit business. There are numerous retired pastors in the Door County Circuit. Not all of them are able to attend the study meetings. The brothers keep each other informed about how the retired pastors are doing.
The meeting concludes with an hour of study on the Augsburg Confession. One of the pastors who is not hosting leads the study on a rotating basis. Their schedule is below. There is flexibility in what is studied during this hour. Recently, they concluded a study of Walther’s Law and Gospel.
There are several items about the study plan of the Door County Circuit worth noting:
- Beginning with a service where the Lord’s Supper is celebrated is especially beneficial in a circuit like the Door County Circuit where most of the congregations are so small that a communion assistant is not needed. Between these circuit meetings and conferences, this allows the pastors of those small congregations the opportunity to receive Lord’s Supper on a more regular basis. It is also a wonderful expression of fellowship.
- Providing a forum for constructive and brotherly feedback of a sermon is an excellent way to grow in that area of ministry. It is necessary for there to be a level of trust in order that truly helpful feedback can be provided that isn’t just pleasant and vague platitudes. The “Grow in Grace” website has some helpful tools for giving such direct sermon critique. (Follow link to find 3 sermon critique forms or find them as documents at the bottom of this post)
- Concern and communication regarding retired brothers in a circuit (as well as at the conference and district levels) is great to see.
Here are a few suggestions for circuits that would consider adopting/adapting larger or smaller portions of the plans of the Door County Circuit:
- Studying a portion of the Scripture in the original language would be an added bonus to the strides the Door County Circuit is making in their efforts to improve their study time together. Perhaps beginning an hour earlier or shortening the time spent on some of the other agenda items would open up time in order to keep the Greek and Hebrew skills sharp and enjoy the spiritual edification that comes from studying Scripture with brother pastors.
- Critique might also be offered on how a brother presides at worship. With the opening service each meeting, this might offer an opportunity to provide feedback on, for example, how a brother reads the lessons or his demeanor while proclaiming the absolution. Does the joy of the gospel shine through? It is easy to get into a rut. Brotherly feedback can help raise awareness of bad habits.