Jan 17, 2024 Print This Article

Teaching the Next Generation

Dr. Pete Jurchen. Photo: Tyler Simmons

Peer into the Concordia Seminary class where Dr. Pete Jurchen is teaching and you will see groups of seminarians gathered in small groups with their desks pushed together, brainstorming how they can intentionally weave ongoing teaching of the Small Catechism into the daily life of their congregations.

The class is “Teaching the Faith,” and Jurchen’s approach is a practical one. Real-world scenarios provide opportunities for students to try things out and share their experiences together — equipping the future pastors for vicarage and beyond.

“I found in my experience, our default as pastors is to teach primarily to inform,” Jurchen said. “And there’s nothing wrong with teaching to inform, but I would say that pastors should also teach to equip. We should teach to equip our people to be lifelong learners of God’s Word and to rightly understand their place in God’s story of salvation.”

Jurchen, who serves as an editor of Bible resources at Concordia Publishing House (CPH) in St. Louis and as a guest instructor at the Seminary, is passionate about teaching and equipping pastors and other Christian educators.

He believes Christian educators help people to understand how their own life narrative fits into God’s epic narrative of salvation. “This is a central characteristic of ongoing catechesis,” Jurchen said. “This is an art, and one never really stops learning the nuances of understanding the interplay of these two narratives.”

Jurchen grew up in British Columbia, Canada, and in Nebraska, where his father served small congregations or dual parishes as a sole pastor. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jurchen also planned on becoming a sole pastor one day.

In 2009, he earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) at the Seminary. He felt a bit out of his depth when he received his first call, as associate pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa, where he served in team ministry. Team ministry wasn’t something he thought he would ever do when he entered the Seminary, but he learned to love it and appreciate the opportunity to grow in an urban environment.

He served there for four and a half years before receiving his second call to another team ministry setting at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Columbus, Neb.

“God had team ministry in the plan for me,” Jurchen said. He served for three years before being called to CPH after the publisher at the time, the late Rev. Paul McCain, reached out to Jurchen directly. CPH had a wonderful curriculum team, Jurchen remembers McCain telling him. And they were looking for a pastor who was passionate about education to join their curriculum team. It was team ministry, again, but in a different context.

While the opportunity seemed like a perfect fit, Jurchen struggled with the thought of leaving parish ministry. After much prayer, he decided he could serve the church in a different kind of way through the publishing house. The new opportunity was unexpected for Jurchen, but part of God’s perfect narrative.

Jurchen hit the ground running with the 2017 explanation to Luther’s Small Catechism. It was one of his first jobs where he was the lead editor, which “really only meant that I worked with wonderful people who knew what they were doing to help shepherd the product through,” he said. Together with the curriculum team, Jurchen helped produce new catechism material that included videos and online resources. He also worked with the team to develop new curriculum material for Sunday school and day school, helped develop and write a variety of other Bible resources for congregations, and edited books written by excellent authors.

He also had the privilege of writing the book Timeless Truth: An Essential Guide for Teaching the Faith, a companion piece that focuses on lifelong catechesis. The book is a basic primer for pastors, and Jurchen hopes the philosophy in Timeless Truth will help equip the next generation of pastors to more confidently, effectively and faithfully teach the faith.

The book is used at the Seminary for the course, “Teaching the Faith,” just one of many places where it is being used.

“Dr. Jurchen not only teaches us how to plan biblical instruction, but he also employs different teaching techniques in our class periods so we can see the benefits (and limitations) in practice,” said second-year M.Div. student Tyler Simmons. “My understanding of how to teach the Word of God to a variety of age groups has grown exponentially through his expertly crafted instruction.”

In 2020, Jurchen earned his doctorate in education, focusing on andragogy, which is the art and science of teaching adults.

“It can be easy for us [as pastors] to default and think, ‘I’m an adult. I know how all adults learn,’” Jurchen said. “But that can be a trap. Motivation for adult learning differs from how children and youth learn.

“Understanding our adults, who are most of the people we teach, most of the people in our parishes, most of the people we interact with as pastors, deaconesses and directors of Christian education, we have a great opportunity to learn how they learn, what motivates them, what makes them tick,” Jurchen said.

Jurchen says that rather than only giving information, pastors and church leaders must equip God’s people. They can help their parishioners to understand the Bible by giving them the tools to read Scripture, to ask the right questions and to live in community and in relationship with each other, gathered around God’s Word.

“I honestly believe there is such a great opportunity that we have in our church body, the LCMS,” he said, “to equip pastors so that they might, in turn, equip their people to be lifelong learners of God’s Word and to abide in God’s truth for life.”

Sarah Maney is a communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.