From Where I Sit, Too

Mar 2nd, 2020 | Category: Columns, Here I sit
By Debra Arfsten

Celebrating DCE Ministry

It’s been a great year of celebration for DCE ministry as we recognized the 60 years that God has blessed this profession in His church. We celebrated well at the National DCE Conference in January in San Diego, and Concordia University Chicago celebrated in October with a special chapel service and reception with local DCEs and pastors coming together. Ten years ago, when we celebrated our 50th, we were blessed to get a day of recognition in our LCMS church body that is now celebrated each year. It reads in part as follows:

Resolved, That we give thanks to God for the ministry of DCEs, remembering the words of the apostle Paul, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,” (2 Timothy 3:14, ESV); and be it also

Resolved, That June 26, 2009, be officially proclaimed as National LCMS Director of Christian Education Day in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with the prayer of God’s richest blessings on the DCE ministries of our Synod, past, present, and future. (Complete document available on

In the 60 years since DCE ministry was founded, much has changed in the church and in our culture. Our training remains solid in focusing on the parish DCE yet with nuances that address more contemporary issues and tackle the challenges of technology, the change in understanding how learners learn, and how to address the change in priorities in church attendance, etc. 

It seems that congregations are earnestly seeking church workers who not only have a solid theological and educational background, but also desire those who can connect with people of all ages, especially children and youth, and who can provide activities, service projects, and spiritual growth opportunities for all ages. The challenge is that many of our congregations still seek DCEs to do educational programming, and rightly so, however there seems to be a greater desire and need to go beyond that in the faith formation of children and adults. Providing deeper substance in study and more opportunities for service in addition to the programmatic activities seems to be a priority. 

The variety of articles in this journal take a look at different aspects of the ministry. Dr. Bill Karpenko’s article will take us on an historical tour of DCE ministry, identifying themes discovered in his research that takes this history into the 21st century. Dr. Kevin Borchers reflects on servant leadership and its connection to DCE ministry, taken from his own dissertation research on servant leadership. Based on his research on the relationship of the DCE and other Commissioned Ministers to the Office of Public Ministry, Dr. Dave Rueter explores what it means to be “called” as a DCE in the LCMS. Dr. Sarah Elliott takes a different look in her research study, which included interviews of former DCEs, as she sought to understand the factors and circumstances that may contribute to a DCE’s departure from the profession, as well as identify any possible interventions that may have prevented that departure. And finally, we look at the question of the role of psychology courses in their preparation of church work students, written by Dr. James Bender, Dr. Lindsey Bartgis, and Mary Abo. LEJ