Augsburg Fortress
One Mission Blog - reflections on the ministry of publishing

Creative Sharing of the Word with “Bread for the Day”

December 19th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

Several years ago Bishop Steve Ullestad of the ELCA’s Northeastern Iowa Synod encouraged us to publish a little book that has become a favorite in a wide variety of places in both print and eBook formats across the Church.  The annual daily devotional (and more!), Bread for the Day  is purchased by individuals for themselves and as gifts for others.  But, we’ve also noticed lately that more and more congregations, synods, and other institutions of the Church use our sliding scale bulk purchase discount schedule to purchase Bread for the Day in large quantities!  We’re delighted, of course, that this fine resource has found such a welcome reception in the lives of our partners in ministry.  But, I was curious about those large quantity purchases so asked a few people how they use them.


First from Linda Sue Hamilton, Secretary in the Northeastern Iowa Synod:

The Northeastern Iowa Synod provides the devotionals to all the councils and call committees in the call process in our synod.  We also send them as Christmas gifts to all rostered, lay committee members and network facilitators, and special people on our Christmas card list.  We also give them to anyone attending our Synod Assembly in June.

In addition,  this synod’s Director for Evangelical Mission, the Rev. Joelle Colville-Hanson just published a marvelous blog post about the history of Bread for the Day and its use in their synod.

The Rev. Nancy Ruckert of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Secaucus, NJ shared this with me “Last year we switched to Bread for the Day after I had seen posts on Facebook.  The prayers that were shared spoke to me so we moved to Bread for the Day.  We sell them to members of the congregation and give them to our shut-ins.  I personally give them to colleagues and members of my family as Christmas gifts.  Nothing too creative — but spreading the Word nonetheless.”  Indeed, Nancy!  And, that is what Bread for the Day is all about…spreading the Word!

In response to my query about the Southwest California Synod’s large purchase of Bread for the Day, Bishop Guy Erwin replied,  “Yes, I gave four to each congregation to prime the pump, and issued an invitation to the whole synod to join me for a year of reading the daily lectionary texts.  I promised to tweet or post on some aspect of one of them every day of the year. I’ve also given them to conference deans and synod council members.  I know a few pastors picked up the idea and are giving books to their council members.”

While Bread for the Day is a handy size for putting in your briefcase or purse or having on the corner of your desk or bedside table, more and more people want it available in digital format.  For the past couple of years, we’ve made it available not only in the traditional ink-on-paper format, but also in a wide variety of eBook formats through your favorite eBook store, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble or independent bookstores that offer eBooks for sale.

Last, but far from least is the innovative work being done by the Rev. Jared Carson who serves at Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, NM.  He has launched two open to the public social media gatherings around the Bread for the Day daily readings.  There will be a variety of contributors assisting with writing reflections tied to the readings, including ELCA bishops Guy Erwin of the Southwest California Synod, Michael Rhyne of the Allegheny Synod, and Bill Gafkjen of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod.

You may participate in this social media community via Twitter @Bread_FTD or via Facebook at BreadFTD.  And, if you have a newsletter, website or social media site where you can share the links to these two Bread for the Day social media communities, we and Jared would be grateful for your assistance in expanding these networks!

Thanks to all who shared how they are using this wonderful little resource.  If you’d like to share your story, we’d love to hear from you, too!

Advent blessings,



P.S. Yes, because of the rapidly growing popularity of this resource, we are currently out of stock as I write this, but our Purchasing team has more on the way to our distribution center!


Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

December 17th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

At Augsburg Fortress, one of our top priorities each year is to encourage each of our staff members to identify one or more professional growth priorities and work on them throughout the year.  It’s so important for our future as a ministry of publishing that we track these on our Balanced Scorecard (similar to a dashboard,with specific goals and measurements).  Our goal for 2014 was to have 90% of our staff complete their professional growth activities in this calendar year.  With a few days left in the year, we’re at 96%!  (of course, I’m hoping for a few more).


One of my colleagues, Education Specialist, Judy Washburn (you may have met her via one of our many free webinars!) set as her goal to attend a course, “Advanced Learning Design: Designing for Impact” through Global Learning Partners.  This was the final course she needed to become a “Certified Dialogue Education Practitioner.”  Part of Judy’s work in this course included developing a wonderful tip sheet, Tips to Train Small Group Bible Study Leaders.  I thought some of you who lead small groups or, as pastors or Christian education directors encourage others to lead small groups, might find it to be a helpful guide.  Please feel free to share the link with others.  We just ask that you credit my terrific colleague, Judy, and the good people at Global Learning Partners!

And, of course, if you are looking for excellent small group resources, we would be happy to assist you in identifying something from sparkhouse or Augsburg Fortress that would fit your context!

Thanks for the very helpful tip sheet, Judy!

Advent blessings,





Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

Guest Essay: The Right Gift

December 3rd, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

Recently, Andy Obermueller, a fine writer who usually writes about investing for and spouse of ELCA pastor Jennifer Obermueller, sent me this essay.  As a spouse and mom of pastors myself, it made me chuckle!  But, it’s also filled with wisdom, so I asked Andy’s permission to share it here.  He graciously agreed.  Enjoy!  (and if you are a spouse of a pastor or a church administrator or a church council president, you might want to share it with some of the caring, well meaning people in your congregation!)

“The Right Gift for Your Pastor

Enough with the Bibles already.

No, not “the” Bible.

I’m entirely in favor of “the” Bible. I’ve even read it. A cursory exploration of the bookshelves in our home, in fact, will reveal no fewer than 12 linear feet containing various incarnations of the Holy Writ. Commentary, reference, history and Bible-related books occupy about twice as much space. Then there’s the (very) complete works of Martin Luther, all sixty-some-odd blessed volumes. And that’s just what’s at home.

What I’m talking about is Bibles, plural, specifically gift Bibles. For some reason, people have this curious notion that a Bible is a lovely and appropriate present for a pastor. The logic here eludes me. I’ve tried to imagine how it happens:

Congregant A: We ought to do something really nice for pastor for Christmas this year.

Congregant B: Oh, ja! That’s a real good idea. But whattdya think we ought to get her? That’s a toughie.

Congregant A: Oh, I know! How about a Bible?

Congregant B: That’d be perfect! She reads from the Bible every Sunday. She could probably use another one.  And we could get some tax forms for Larry! He’s an accountant, you know. He could use them!

Congregant A: Sue’s a gardener. We could get her some nice fertilizer!

Congregant C (walking by, to herself): That seems to be what you’re getting everyone this year.

Congregant B: And Frank! He’s an undertaker, you know. We could …


You get the idea.

That’s not to say a gift Bible is never appropriate. A Bible is a kind and thoughtful thing for, say, someone who has never read it. But your pastor has spent years and maybe decades poring over every syllable, in dozens of English translations as well as Ancient Greek and Hebrew. She’s taken dozens of classes, participated in graduate-level seminars and maybe even studied with some of the world’s leading theologians. A Bible to a pastor is like giving a gallon of seawater to a retired ship captain. Sure, he’s fond of the stuff. Maybe even loves it. But the guy has seen enough of it. He doesn’t want any more. He wants a trip someplace far from the ocean. He wants a book about deserts. He doesn’t want anything wet. The man wants towels. And so it goes with your pastor.

No matter how deep her faith or her love for Christ, the Bible is a work-related gift. Work-related gifts are only thoughtful when they’re for new graduates. For others, though, a work-related gift carries dangerous subtext. And believe you me, after dealing with perpetually nitpicking, backstabbing and manipulative parishioners for years, your pastor has been conditioned to consider the subtext and indeed sub-subtext of everything. A gift Bible or some sort of theological text is ultimately going to be received and perceived as either 1) a criticism, and/or 2) I don’t think enough about you or of you to do anything than act on an afterthought and grab the first thing within arm’s reach at the Christian Book Store.

Now, if you’re already at the Christian Book Store, don’t panic. Go out the door and look down for a neon sign. That’s where they sell beer. Walk past the brew to the bourbon, because if you were honestly thinking a Bible would be a good gift for your pastor, she couldn’t probably use a stiff drink. I recommend a case.

Note: The above does not only apply to Bibles. It also applies to religious music CDs, decorative crosses, the Max Lucado oeuvre, Jesus art (unless it’s on velvet) and little plaques emblazoned with feel-good scripture. Your pastor does not want any of this.

Mark my words, though she will receive plenty of it. She won’t throw it away, though. She’ll hang it in her office, or she’ll put a piece of masking tape on the back with your name. She’ll keep it in the hallway closet at the ready in case you visit. Every pastor’s house has a Prominent Nail in a Conspicuous Place to Hang Unwanted Schlock. Normally, it holds a picture of her family. When you ring the bell, it gets swapped out for your gift. Why? Because no matter how your gift made her feel, she’d never risk hurting your feelings.

Having duly shot down the most common pastor gifts, it’s worth considering what your pastor actually does want for Christmas.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to, say, love your neighbor, quit carping about the music on Sunday morning or invite someone to church. These are practical suggestions any congregant can do without letting faith interfere with one’s actual daily activities.

Booze. I wasn’t kidding earlier. Not even a little. It’s a nice gift, and you can bet your Dave Ramsey course that it will be used.

Cash. Your pastor has as much education as a physician or a lawyer and earns a tenth as much, and likely considerably less. A little folding money for a meal or to help out with a vacation is a nice gesture. It’s true you can’t buy salvation. Earned grace is not grace. But if showering the pastor with C-notes makes you feel better, don’t fight it. Let the Spirit move you!

A massage. Please employ the services of a licensed professional. Otherwise, it’s weird.

Food. When you come home after a day of committee meetings, hospital visits, funerals, counseling sessions or – God help us – dealing with brides, the last thing you want to do is cook. You want to sit in a chair in a dimly lit room and eat a bag of peanut M&Ms one at a time until you feel like maybe it’s not the end of civilization if the altar linens aren’t folded correctly. I’ve seen it a hundred times.

Movie tickets. Two hours of keeping reality at bay is a nice escape.

Something handmade. The subtext of a quilt, a scarf or a birdhouse is, “I thought about you while I was making this. I used my time to do something for you.” Every pastor loves kid art, especially if it’s framed. If you want to make a needlepoint stole for a certain point in the church calendar, it will be seen as a thoughtful gift and be treasured (and worn). This is the exception to the work-related rule.

Remember when you were a kid and saw your teacher at the grocery store or the post office, and you were vaguely surprised because you just assumed he lived at school? That might have been the first time you thought of him as a person and not as his job. Pastors are the same. They are people. They like to be thought of that way.

Let this holiday season be an opportunity to show your pastor what you really think of her – THAT you think of her, and appreciate all she does. It’s a lot. It’s a hard job. She does it because she loves it; because she loves God, and because she loves you. Reciprocate, huh?

My wife, incidentally, is not my pastor. It’s not like I can go to her and say, “Man alive, is Jennifer ever driving me up a tree.” So I consider Pastor Scot, who leads my boyhood church in Kansas, to be “my” pastor. I know that old church well. I’m related to everyone there. I grew up with the people and their foibles and idiosyncracies. I know what Scot goes through.  What do I give him?

In point of fact, I should disclose that Scot’s a sportsman. But, again, a good gift is all about subtext. So I send him ammunition.”


Author Andy Obermueller’s wife, Jennifer, is the associate pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Killeen, Texas.  He requests that you pray for her.  

Thanks, Andy!  Both for your humor and your good advice!  I’m sure many pastors and their spouses will get a chuckle from this!


Blessings to all pastors, other church workers and their spouses, especially during this very busy season of Advent!





Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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