2018 Rural Ministry Conference

Cooperating Congregations in Ministry

Where leaders in rural communities and congregations gather to gain insight and inspiration, to network and neighbor that our ministries might be empowered. This ecumenical conference includes worship, keynote speakers, workshops, and Bible study, and offers participants a unique opportunity to network with others who are active in and concerned about rural ministry.

Leaders and Speakers

Rev. Marcia Kifer has been a Lutheran pastor for 34 years. In 2010 she was called to serve the Shared Lutheran Ministry of Fayette County – four small, rural congregations who made a bold decision in 2001 to enter into a truly shared ministry. Pastor Marcia loves to share their story along with some nuts and bolts for congregations looking at some form of shared ministry. It is her conviction that shared ministry isn’t a last ditch effort to keep a church’s doors open; it is a way for churches to thrive as they answer Jesus’ call to grow disciples and share the Good News.


Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen is a graduate of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN and celebrated his 25th anniversary of ordination in 2014. In 1992, he and his spouse Margaret founded Shalom Hill Farm, a rural ministry education and retreat center in southwestern Minnesota. In 2004, he received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. Mark came to Wartburg in 2015 as Director for Small Town and Rural Ministry with the Center for Theology and Land. Mark and Margaret (also an ELCA pastor serving a small town and rural parish) have been married for 35 years and live in Elkader Iowa. They have three children, one of whom is an ELCA pastor serving in rural southeastern Minnesota.

Rev. Dr. Gwen Sayler is a professor of Hebrew
Bible, avid bicyclist, and Green Bay Packer fan. In 2011, she celebrated the 40th anniversary of her consecration as deaconess in the Valparaiso Lutheran deaconess community, and in 2012, she celebrated the 30th anniversary of her ordination in the ELCA. The 2017-2018 school year will mark her 27th year of service at WTS.



Breakout Leaders

Roland Martinson is Emeritus Professor of Children, Youth and Family Ministry and Emeritus Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean at Luther Seminary. He came to Luther Seminary as assistant professor in 1977 and was named professor of pastoral theology and ministry, pastoral care, in 1982. “Rollie” was the project director of the landmark Exemplary Youth Ministry Study, and a participant in the Search Institute’s original “Effectiveness of Christian Education” study. He, with Jay Beech, is currently directing six synods of Region 3 in the ELCA in a Study and Enrichment of
Worship and Music in Small Congregations.

Dean Safe grew up on a small family dairy farm in southeastern Minnesota, working with his parents on the farm and attending an open country Lutheran church. Safe holds a B.A. from Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa, an M.Div. from Luther Seminary, and is currently pursuing his S.T.M. degree from Chicago Theological Seminary. Serving churches in rural Lanesboro and Canton, Minnesota he is grateful to serve in a setting where relationships are enmeshed in landscape and where the work of the Gospel takes on a new importance through that lens.

Elan Hacker is a transplanted southerner, swapping the city life and ocean for the joys of rural living and Minnesota sunrises, 36 years ago. She is the pastor of a three point parish. Elan enjoys writing, public speaking, and riding and training horses.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

3:00 pm

5:30 pm

6:00 pm

7:00 p.m.

Registration, Refreshments, and Resource

Introductions, Greetings


Presentation – Rev. Marcia Kifer

Monday, March 5, 2018

9:00 am

10:00 am – 11:15 am

11:15 am – 12:15 pm

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

1:45 pm – 2:45 pm

3:00 pm

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

7:00 pm

Bible Study with Gwen Sayler

Keynote – Rev. Marcia Kifer


Concurrent Breakouts, Round One

Concurrent Breakouts, Round Two

Breakouts, Round Three

Dinner, Mississippi

Movie or Taize Worship Service


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

9:00 am

10:00 am

11:00 am

12:00 pm

Bible Study with Gwen Sayler

General Session – Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel – Juleen

Eucharist Service

Boxed Lunches and Farewell


Breakout Sessions

“Enriching Worship and Music in Small Member Congregations”
Rollie Martinson

Drawing on a study of worship and music in small member congregations on the upper plains, presenters and participants will reflect on the faithfulness and effectiveness of worship and music practices in these churches all of whom are facing daunting challenges. Participants will learn how better to develop worship practices for small numbers, identify intergenerational music leadership in the community, and, build on the strengths and opportunities present in small member, rural churches.

“Going Deeper with the Speaker “
Marcia Kifer

This breakout session allows participants to explore topics raised in the plenary in further detail, ask questions, share experiences, and continue the conversation around cooperating

“Creative Innovation”
Mark Yackel-Juleen

This session features creative innovations that small town and rural congregations are implementing in their communities. The goal is to stimulate pastors and laity to think about what might be possible in their places and congregations.

“Cooperating Parishes”
Mark Yackel-Juleen

This breakout session is an opportunity for those involved multiple point parishes and cooperative parishes to network, share stories and resources and offer mutual support.

“Knowing Your Story and Its Worth: The Importance of Rootedness in Modern Rural Evangelism”
Dean Safe

This breakout will explore the importance of history and story in rural contexts – primarily those of how rural congregations embody Gospel ministry – and how getting to the heart of this relational ministry is the bedrock of evangelistic work in the changing landscape of 2018’s rural congregation.

“Freeze Plays”
Elan Hacker

Freeze plays were developed for busy
people on a small budget. They can be done with either no or very limited practice sessions. Attendees will learn how to offer memorable, meaningful content to multiple size and age groups. They will also receive free Freeze Plays used with children’s groups, women’s retreats, church services, Good Friday’s and Christmas Eve, plus the skills for how to write their own!