Valley South Circuit
Fox River Valley Conference – Northern Wisconsin District
In some ways, the study agenda of the Valley South Circuit, made up of the congregations of the greater Neenah/Menasha area, is probably similar to many circuits. The brothers meet on a monthly basis during the school year. They rotate their meetings around the various congregations of the circuit.
They usually meet at about 11:30 am and have lunch. This provides the opportunity for informal conversations. About 1:00 pm, after an opening devotion, there is the main study presentation. Currently, on a rotating basis, the leader chooses an upcoming lesson from the lectionary and provides a thorough text study. But he goes beyond that to provide insight from the other lessons, the Prayer of the Day and the Hymn of the Day. He offers other hymn suggestions and maybe even other ideas for the service. In other words, he gives a worship plan for that Sunday. Besides getting into the Greek or Hebrew and studying a text for its homiletical use, such a presentation puts the text into its worship context and gives very practical ideas for the service as a whole. The drawback is that you don’t get to study a book of the Bible all the way through.
Following the main presentation, time is devoted to discussing synod news, cases of casuistry and hearing about personal and congregational news. The latter is helpful, especially in a circuit like the Valley South where the congregations are in close proximity. Regular communication is beneficial for the good of everyone’s ministry.
The Valley South also tries to get together a couple of times a year for fellowship, usually a cookout at someone’s house. Busy schedules can make this challenging, but they try to make it happen as often as possible.
What makes the study plan of the Valley South Circuit especially unique is what they do in the summer. During the summer months, they meet every Tuesday from 1:00-3:00 pm. They spend the time reading and discussing a book together. There is no assigned leader. Sometimes, if something intriguing is discussed, someone might do more research and present his findings at the next meeting. Because of vacations, funerals, VBS, and other pastoral duties, not everyone is able to attend every week, but usually about two-thirds of the pastors attend every week. To avoid confusion, they meet at the same church every week. They’ve read a variety of books, including The Foolishness of God, John Schaller’s Biblical Christology, The Theology of the Cross, and a couple of books on preaching (although they have found the theological books to be the most enjoyable and beneficial). They have also done some reading in the Lutheran Confessions. A few years ago, they read through the Large Catechism and used study questions from a CPH publication. This past summer, they read Chemnitz’s The Two Natures of Christ.
This opportunity to read and discuss books that have weightier theological content is a great example of informal continuing education. While it would be difficult to do this in a circuit that is more spread out, technology like Google Hangouts could perhaps be used for such a weekly theological study. Since schedules often slow down a little during the summer months, this is a wonderful way to grow in our biblical, Lutheran theological understanding and knowledge with fellow brothers in the ministry.