Schreiber leads St. Matthew Lutheran into 125th year

WORTHINGTON -- After five months in his new congregation at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Worthington, Administrative Pastor Mark Schreiber knows he is where God wants him to be.Schreiber grew up in the small farming community of Garner, in nort...

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Pastor Mark Schreiber is shown at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)



WORTHINGTON - After five months in his new congregation at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Worthington, Administrative Pastor Mark Schreiber knows he is where God wants him to be.
Schreiber grew up in the small farming community of Garner, in north central Iowa. He was best friends with his pastor’s son - considered by them as a third son -- but it wasn’t until mid-way through his studies at Concordia University-Wisconsin that he felt a pull toward the ministry.
“I was going to be a physical therapist - sports medicine,” he said with a laugh. He and high school sweetheart Joy, a year his junior and also a student at Concordia, had their life mapped out.
“Being full-time ministry was not part of the plan that we’d foreseen for ourselves at that time, but God was calling and we couldn’t ignore it,” Schreiber said.
Looking back on those college years, he said God kept putting things in his path to lead him to the ministry. Perhaps it was seeing all of his friends end up in pre-seminary, or maybe it was because of the requirement to enroll in three religious classes at the Christian college.
“After taking a stronger look - a more in-depth look - at my faith, I think that was also a trigger,” Schreiber said.
He completed pre-seminary studies at Concordia University and then attended Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., for three years of study and a year of vicarage (internship). Meanwhile, Joy attended Notre Dame on scholarship to obtain her masters in organ performance and literature.
By the time they completed their studies, their family had grown to four, with sons Caleb and Isaac born in Indiana. Son Benjamin arrived four years later, when Schreiber was ministering at his first church in Houlton, Wis., just across the St. Croix River from Stillwater.
During his 13 years at the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, Schreiber helped lead the congregation from mission status to building a church for worship.
“I quickly found out there’s lots of things they don’t teach you in seminary,” he said with a grin. “Building campaigns and things like that were not a part of the curriculum. But, that was fun - it was a neat experience to be a part of. I left a lot of good friends and memories behind there, for sure.”
Earlier this year, Schreiber felt a new call in his future.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,” he said. “God placed in my heart that maybe it was time to move on to a new ministry.”
Within a span of a few months, he received seven or eight different calls from churches - among them St. Matthew’s in Worthington.
“After visiting with the call committee and visiting the community and the church, I really believed this is where God wanted me and my family to continue in the ministry,” Schreiber shared.
So, he went from a church that will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2016 to a church that will celebrate its 125th anniversary in the new year.
“St. Matthew’s, like any congregation, has had its ups and its downs, its low points and also its high points, but yet it’s been here and ministering to this community and sharing the love of Christ with this community,” Schreiber said. “It’s neat to be a part of something with that long history in a community - and to steer it into the future, into the next 125 years and set it up for success.
“I really believe that the future is bright for St. Matthew and that God has lots of wonderful things in store for this congregation and its people,” he added. “I got that sense through the interview process and talking to people. People really want to move forward and to do ministry.”
While Schreiber continues to observe the intricacies of the church, he is also formulating plans and goals for the future.
A month ago, he began leading a study between Sunday morning worship services as congregation members read “The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People.”
“(We are) getting people engaged in God’s word and understanding God’s salvation story even better, and then also seeing how our personal stories fit into God’s ongoing story of salvation,” Schreiber said. “There’s been a great response to that - the basement has been full for Sunday mornings.”
His main emphasis right now, however, is to encourage the members of St. Matthew to “be the hands and feet for Christ” wherever they may be.
“I really believe that everybody is either bound, burdened or broken by something in life - and if you’re not right now, give yourself two weeks because something will come around the corner,” Schreiber said. “Just knowing that God’s word has something to say to those difficulties in life; once we are set free from those things, we can really be the people God calls us to be in our communities.
“One of my favorite phrases is, if you don’t go to church, be the church where God has placed us,” he added.
Two projects he has identified within the church are to improve technology and expand the church’s presence in social media, and to develop small groups within the church to increase interaction among members.
With three different worship services - at 6 p.m. Saturday and at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday - Schreiber said it is like having three different congregations within one.
“In large congregations like this, it’s difficult to make connections,” he said. “I’d really like to create more small groups, so more caring and more ministry can happen among our members. When a new member comes in, we can plug them into a small group - a place where they can find belonging.”
He would also like to see a staff member position created to provide outreach to diverse groups in the community.
As for his own family, still newcomers to Worthington, they are adapting well. Joy, who earned her teaching degree in special education just before their move, is a special education teacher at Worthington High School and serves as the music director for contemporary worship at the church. Son Caleb is a sophomore at WHS, while Isaac is in the seventh grade at the middle school and Ben is a fourth-grader at Prairie Elementary. The two older boys are in band, choir and cross country, and Ben plays viola in the orchestra.
“He was super excited when we moved to Worthington because he found out he could start orchestra in fourth grade,” Schreiber said. “He’s wanted to play a stringed instrument forever.”
The Schreibers have some family in the area, as Joy’s father is a pastor at an LCMS congregation in Rock Rapids, Iowa.
“My last year at seminary was Joy’s dad’s first year at seminary,” said Schreiber. After serving a congregation in southern Iowa, his in-laws accepted a call to northwest Iowa about five or six years ago.
Schreiber sums up his goals in the ministry as wanting to see people succeed in life.
“I really believe the word of God helps free us to be the people that He’s called us to be,” Schreiber said. “To be able to share in people’s lives and to give them encouragement through God’s word and His love and see them succeed and grow - that’s what I enjoy most about ministry.”

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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