Chris Yaw Interviews Peter Marty: Morale and Trust Are Keys to Healthy Congregations

Taken with permission from

The pastor of the fastest growing urban congregation in the Lutheran Church (ELCA) says what draws people to join St. Paul's is the energy and vibrancy that hits them the first minute they come through the door.

Peter Marty says things were not that way 16 years ago when he arrived to pastor a church that was deeply divided and faced a mountain of debt.

In this interview, hear how things have turned around (1,400 people have joined over the last 5 years) and how the Spirit went about changing things for the better through this wise and humble leader.


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Morale and trust are huge issues in the Church. And setting a tone of hospitality begins by building (or re-building) trust in leadership. Here are my notes from the interview:

Allow the Newness to Blossom

This church is run by a 9-member board (just lowered from 15) of mostly newcomers. And during group introductions Peter does not allow people to say how long they've been members of the church, lest deference be given that drains self-confidence and energy. To what degree do we quench the Spirit by always catering to, "But that's the way we've always done it?"

We Are a Brand New Congregation Today

It is literally true, some have died, some have joined, and so Peter regularly reminds the congregation that we are all guests in the house of the Lord, there are no veterans or newcomers.

Hospitality Not Friendliness

For Peter, Friendliness connotes a kindness when people come to you, versus Hospitality - our biblical calling - which actively seeks new relationships and always puts the other person first.

Bolster Your Personnel Committee

Peter says it's one of the most important, yet routinely neglected parts of effective church ministry: establish a personnel committee and have them regularly evaluate every employee (even the pastor) according to well-defined guidelines.

About Peter Marty

Peter W. Marty serves as senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, a 3,400-member congregatiom in Davenport, Iowa. He is a frequent preacher and speaker at colleges, churches, and conferences across the country. Author of more than 70 articles on leadership, preaching, and parish renewal in America, Marty is also the author of The Anatomy of Grace (2008) as well as the lead columnist for The Lutheran magazine. Peter is the former host of the national radio broadcast, Grace Matters. In 2010, the Academy of Parish Clergy named him "Parish Pastor of the Year," an award recognizing leadership excellence and faithfulness in congregational development. Pastor Marty has served on a number of hospital, college, foundation, and community boards. Presently he chairs the board of The Christian Century magazine and serves on the board of trustees for Augustana College, Rock Island, IL.

Books Peter Recommends

The Unpredictable Plant - Eugene Peterson

The Pastor as Minor Poet - Craig Barnes

Open Secrets - Richard Lischer

Sponsors I Mentioned

Are you headed to the Wild Goose festival? Thousands of campers are headed to the beautiful hills of North Carolina June 21-24. Wild Goose is a festival at the intersection of justice, spirituality, and art. Some of this year's guests are Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, and Shane Claiborne. ChurchNext is a proud sponsor - find out more