By Robyn Armbrust
Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) is an ongoing effort of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of Pastoral Education to help new pastors and their wives transition from seminary through the first three years of ministry.
On Aug. 3, PALS facilitators from around the country gathered for a two-day training event at the St. Louis Airport Hilton. The annual gathering brings together veteran and new facilitators to discuss the joys, challenges and needs of the program. Under this year’s theme, “Joy-Fully PALS,” facilitators spent time in discussion, study and fellowship focused on God’s Word in Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always … and [in] every circumstance” (4:4, 12–13).
The training — the first in-person PALS event in two years (last year’s training was held via Zoom) — included more than half of the facilitating pastors and their wives, representing 15 of the 27 LCMS districts currently participating in PALS.
“It was a joy to gather with a group of such compassionate, talented servants in our church who have a heart for our young pastors and their wives,” said the Rev. Dr. James A. Baneck, executive director of Pastoral Education. “I am thankful for the district presidents who are so supportive of the PALS program, their district facilitators, the PALS pastors and wives, and the PALS congregations. They are all such a blessing to our Synod.”
The Rev. Charles Schmidt, who has served more than a decade as a PALS facilitator for the LCMS Nebraska District, said he appreciates the “ever-growing commitment by the Synod, the seminaries, our seminary graduates and the congregations in which they are placed to making the first formative years in the parish the foundation for long years of service through Word and Sacrament ministry. Since we are serving all across the Synod, it is good to gather everyone in one place annually to improve communication, discuss common challenges and develop support networks for facilitating the PALS program.”
Each day of the event opened with Morning Prayer led by Baneck. Following worship on Day 1, the group discussed the joys and challenges of the past two years from the perspective of their roles in both parish ministry and PALS. Heather McCarty, a new wives’ facilitator from the LCMS Oklahoma District, said she “appreciated all the wisdom from the folks that have been facilitators for quite a while.”
The Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission, shared how the Synod’s Making Disciples for Life initiative is beneficial to pastors and congregations. LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson brought greetings from the LCMS Office of the President and provided insight into the work of the Office of International Mission and the relationship between congregations and missionaries.
Facilitators reviewed the current PALS curriculum, offered suggestions for new courses, shared PALS meeting format ideas, traded tips for inviting new pastors and wives to participate, and enjoyed spending time together. Fellowship continued that evening at the home of Baneck and his wife, Myrna, with a dinner prepared and served by the Banecks and several families from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
On the second day of the event, current PALS participants served as panelists for a discussion on making the transition from seminary to full-time parish ministry:
- The Rev. Lyle Buettner, St. Paul and Trinity Lutheran Churches in New Athens and Darmstadt, Ill.;
- The Rev. Greg Barto, Zion Lutheran Church in Hillsboro, Mo.; and
- The Rev. Joseph and Kristen Schlie, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Perryville, Mo.
Discussion continued in small groups of pastors or wives. The Rev. Leonard Payton, a facilitator from the LCMS Northern Illinois District, commented, “PALS is ‘ground zero’ … the middle of the front line. The laborers for whom we have prayed have been cleared for takeoff and are accelerating down the runway. It’s a delicate and fragile moment in the success of the whole flight.”
Payton’s wife, Lori, said, “I always enjoy getting together to hear what others are doing, share concerns and find support. Each group is so different, but the swirling ideas can help us stay flexible and creative with our own differing cohorts each year.
“This year, I think what really made an impression on me was how very much the Synod values and supports our efforts in the PALS program. It is a lovely thing to sense that we are part of a whole web of support and growth for these young pastors and their families.”
For more information about the PALS program, visit lcms.org/pals.
Posted Aug. 30, 2021