(Originally Posted: Monday, May 5, 2014)
By Kurt J. Kolka
GAYLORD — The Rev. Todd Brunworth has been a pastor for 38 years and the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Gaylord for 12 years.
Just a few years ago, his responsibilities were increased to include also pastoring Mount Hope Lutheran Church in Grayling. He is one of a growing number of pastors who cares for multiple churches.
"I received my call from the Lord early on while attending a kindergarten- through eighth-grade Lutheran school," Brunworth said. "Seems like I always wanted to be a pastor."
Brunworth's days start early. Each starts with personal Bible study and prayer shortly after getting up.
"I and a number of members of our congregation are using the devotional, 'Today's Light,'" Brunworth said. "The publication is produced by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which Trinity is a part of. Some members are using the devotional as a Bible study. I will often use parts of that in my sermons as well."
By 8:30 or 9 a.m., Brunworth is at the church offices, responding to emails and messages from the weekend.
Once this is through, he begins to look at how sermons plans are progressing. Brunworth says sermons come together in stages for him. First, he comes up with the theme, which may be a one-time message or may be spread out over several weeks. This is often done three to four weeks in advance. Then, hymns are chosen to match the message. Finally, he begins work on the actual sermon.
Another pastor once told Brunworth that a minute of sermon equals about an hour of research, thought and writing. The Gaylord pastor has found this to be pretty accurate. It ordinarily takes about 20 hours at his desk to create the actual sermon. Even to do a three-minute children's message during a service may require an investment of up to three hours.
Monday afternoons can involve a variety of activities, preparations for meetings, visitations to those who are sick, counseling members or making phone contacts.
The schedule for Monday evenings includes a rotation of either Bible studies or church meetings.
Tuesdays are spent in Grayling, trying to fit a week's worth of work there into a single day. He holds morning and evening Bible studies, visits those sick or shut in, counsels members, plans events and activities, and holds evening meetings. Travels to see parishioners may take him to Roscommon or the Higgins Lake area. His day does not end until about 10 p.m.
For Brunworth, Wednesdays are similar to Mondays. He is back in Gaylord and working on his sermon and Bible studies he leads. Between mid-October and sometime in April, many Wednesdays also mean planning for an added midweek service for either Advent or Lent. This includes planning for yet another sermon and choosing music to go along with it. Winter and early spring are some of the busiest weeks of the year for Lutheran and other Protestant pastors who observe a traditional church calendar.
The middle day of the week concludes with choir practice at 8 p.m. While it is another activity to attend, Brunworth says it is a time of relaxation for him and his wife, Rhonda, because he is merely a participant and not the leader.
"We both enjoy singing," Brunworth said. "Choir is a real joy as we have a great group of people and great choir director, Cheryl Wagner. We sing many praises to God and pray for people afterward.
"We have some good camaraderie here at church."
Brunworth and Rhonda have been married 43 years. They met while in college. Together they have raised four children and have 11 grandchildren.
"Most of our vacations involve visiting family," Brunworth said.
Three of their four children live in Southern Michigan, while the fourth lives in Southern Indiana. His wife's family lives in Texas.
As the latter half of the week progresses, the sermon is fine-tuned and other preparations are made for various needs. All through the week, however, the pastor's time has to remain fluid. While events like weddings and baptisms can be planned, other events cannot be.
"In a smaller congregation like this, people walk in and need to talk," he said. "We're fairly informal here. Funerals also come up suddenly. They can take about two days out of my schedule. So, you adjust it."
Funerals, like any other service, require much preparation with help from the family. Sometimes, Brunworth is called to be with the family as the death of their loved one draws near. Brunworth notes funerals are one of the more difficult aspects of his profession.
"Saturdays are supposed to be my days off, but sometimes there are still things I need to do," Brunworth said. "But the council is good. They give me comp time for extra hours."
Sundays become the pinnacle of Brunworth's week. His long hours of work throughout the week come together in a worship service which leads people to God, first in Gaylord and then in Grayling. He relaxes in the afternoon, but truly enjoys fall afternoons when he can watch the Detroit Lions play. Brunworth always sets the record button for the game, just in case something should come up. Sundays end with confirmation class in the early evening.
Youth will always hold a special place in Brunworth's heart, he notes. He is not as involved with the church's youth group as he used to be when his kids were young. The Trinity congregation has placed a priority on children for many years with its successful preschool program.
Brunworth says the church is hoping to reach out to even more children this fall with a new, weekly, after-school program for second- through fifth-grade students, helping them with school work.
Despite the many hours he puts in on a weekly basis, Brunworth finds a lot of contentment in his calling.
"You have to know what you are doing is the Lord's will (to be a pastor)," he said. "And you need to be consistent in the Lord's will yourself because you are helping others grow in Christ."