I’m Not Ready Yet!
For me August has always been “I’m not ready yet month.” Maybe that is because in my immediate
family I have fours birthdays and an anniversary to celebrate or perhaps it is because we traditionally
took our family vacation in August. Whatever the reason, I was never ready for August to turn into
September and always sought to cherish the last days of summer.
Perhaps you are feeling the same way whether or not you have family birthdays and a pending vacation.
The more relaxed pace of July and August is a welcome break and the thought of ramping it up again
may come with some feeling of hesitancy.
This is all quite normal and in fact, as we talked about last month, it is good for us to slow down a bit
and rest. But I also found, as the month crept toward September, that my hesitancy turned into
anticipation and then into excitement and finally eagerness. By the Tuesday after Labor Day the burners
were on full blast.
OK, we’re not there yet, I know. We are still mourning the passing of August and clinging to the last days
of the slower pace. But can’t you feel just a tinge of the excitement of full-blown ministry again? I pray
that you feel the joy of serving and the anticipation of the ministry September will bring. Pastors, church
leaders, use some of this August time to do some planning. Get ahead of the schedule. Yes, enjoy a
more relaxed pace but do it with an eye toward the joy of increased ministry in September.
Congregational Music and Singing
I would like to share with you something that has been on my heart for a number of months now and
may prove helpful. It is regarding the music and singing in our churches. We love to sing and as I visit our
congregations I have noted how this joy abounds. But I have also noted how some of the upper range
notes can be difficult for people to reach.
Why? In talking with the Music Director of the church where I used to serve, he shared how he has
noticed the same phenomenon. He believes this happens partly because, as we grow older, our voices
loose range but also because the average range of people has lowered from 50 years ago. The result is
that more people have problems reaching the higher notes.
The solution? Well, what if we lowered the music a bit? As we continued the conversation, the Music
Director said that when he plays he simply takes the music down a half step, or in some occasions a
whole step! At least for me, that made a difference. I could once again reach the D in the
Pastoral/Assistant’s part of Divine Service II, This Is the Feast! And I suspect it makes it reachable for
many of you in the congregation response that uses the same words and notes or in the many hymns
that are set quite high.
Such an adjustment is not without its challenges. Musicians must review each piece of music to
determine if that piece needs a change and if so, how much. There are decisions to be made and extra
work. In addition, not all musicians can make the change. If you are working with an electronic organ
then using the modulator can make it easy. Other organs that do not have this feature might require
greater skill that some organist may not possess. So, this solution may not be possible in all situations.
Honestly, I am not a musician and I have little expertise in this subject. So please forgive me if I am not
expressing things musical in the best way. But I hope you understand the subject I am raising. What I am
suggesting is that pastors and musician have a meaningful discussion about the situation in your
congregation. Perhaps it is not a problem. Great! But if you can make singing better, more accessible
and joyful for the people of your congregation then it is worth the discussion.
God bless your worship together. And I would be interested in how your discussions go or if you have
IMD, Small Church Clarity Update
This month marks the fourth and final session of our initial offering of Small Church Clarity (I-80
Corridor). We had a high participation and retention rate for the four sessions. We are excited for these
congregations as they get ready to implement their ministry plans in September and the coming year.
The wonderful thing is that, not only do they have a ministry plan for the coming year, but they also
have learned a process by which they can repeat and adapt their plan for future years. We are
anticipating blessings for these congregations in both the shorter and longer terms.
A second Small Church Clarity will start in September. This one will be held at churches along the I-195
Corridor for our central and southern congregations. The invitations have been sent and seven
congregations have made a commitment to participate! There is still time for others to join but I will
need to know asap since the start date is only a month away.
The NJD Coaching Network is up and running!
This month we are training coaches for our network. Scott Gress Leadership, Consulting, and Coaching
has been contracted to do the training. The Atlantic District has been invited to send candidates to this
training as well. We expect nine from NJ and three from Atlantic to complete the reading, webinar, and
in-person training this month. Monthly online sessions will continue the training into next year.
As a result, coaches will be available for our pastors and congregation who desire ongoing support as
they participate in and complete Small Church Clarity and NJD University. Coaches do not bring their
own agenda to a coaching session. That agenda is set by the pastor and determined by the needs of the
pastor and congregation. The purpose of a coach is to help the pastor and congregation to continue
moving ahead with their goals and priorities. The anticipated outcome of this coaching network is that
our pastors and congregations, in the midst of the busy lives that we live, be able to stay focused on
ministry priorities and accomplish more of those priorities.
We anticipate a great blessing for and greater ministry from our pastors and congregations.
Deacon Training Update
We are now enrolling students in the NJD Congregational Lay Deacon training. Classes for our first
cohort begin the evening of Tuesday September 13 th . The class offering is Interpreting the Scriptures.
This is a great way for our deacons in training to begin. They will learn the rules (yes, there are time
tested rules) for faithful interpretation of the Scriptures that will be a foundation for their studies and
proclamation of the gospel throughout the time of their service.
Please understand that classes are online. This of course eliminates the travel time and should make
scheduling and participation easier. The cost is $150 for a 4 week/8 hour class and $300 for a 8 week/16
hour class. Interpreting the Scriptures is an 8 week/16 hour class.
We are also allowing individuals to register and take this first class without being officially accepted into
the NJD Congregational Lay Deacon Program since the timeline between the establishment of the
program and the first class is so short. It is expected that those desiring to enter the program will
complete the enrollment requirements (nomination letters from congregation and pastor) as soon as
Please contact me if you have questions or I can help.
It was a joy to spend a recent Saturday morning with the ladies of the NJD LWML. They obviously have a
wonderful time being together and furthering the mission of the LWML. I am always impressed by both
the District and national missions they adopt. I refer you to their article to see the goals they have
adopted for the coming year. I also encourage you to support their chapter activities in your
We are eagerly looking forward to the installation of another pastor here in NJ. Rev. John Dunbar
accepted the call to St. Peter, Hopewell Township. He has arrived in NJ, is in the process of settling in
with his family, and will be installed on Sunday August 28 th at 3:00 pm. Pastors and people of our
congregations are invited to attend. LCMS clergy are invited to vest with red stoles and participate.
So, while it is still August I look forward to another birthday party and hope to sneak in another visit to
the shore. But along with you I have an eye toward September and the Tuesday after Labor Day. As the
days pass, the blessed anticipation of September ministry grows. May God use you in powerful ways for
his glory. Fire up!
God bless you,