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That special person: How a gentle nudge convinced Don Stein to become a pastor

Rev. Don Stein was installed at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Rockton, Ill. on July 31, 2022.


Making the jump into a church work career can feel like an unknown—and sometimes it takes a very special and persistent person to encourage someone to consider being a pastor, teacher, deaconess or other church worker.

Rev. Don Stein with his wife, Emily, and three daughters at his ordination on June 12, 2022.

In the case of newly-ordained pastor Rev. Don Stein, a bit of gentle pushing toward seminary came from many angles. It seemed to start innocently enough.

“When my wife Emily and I married, we began worshiping at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Rockford, Ill.,” recalled Stein. “Our pastor, the now-sainted Rev. Ken Krause, met with us during new member courses. He learned my wife was a teacher and that we both enjoyed working with children. We did not know it yet, but he was going to ask us to help out with Sunday school. He stopped us on the way out of class one day and asked in his deep, friendly, Minnesota accent, ‘Would you two stick around a moment? I want to talk to you about something.’ ”

Stein wanted to say no.

His father was an LCMS pastor, so Stein “had seen first-hand the time commitment and toll that ministry can take.” And, like Jonah boarding the ship sailing away from Nineveh, Stein had set out in the opposite direction.

“Even before going to college, I was sure I wanted nothing to do with church work,” he shared. “I mean, I moved to Washington, D.C., after college to work for Congress. You can’t get much further from ministry!”

However, Krause’s encouragement—no doubt the work of the Holy Spirit—was no match for Stein’s well-laid plans.

“I am extremely grateful to God for the encouragement of Pastor Krause.”

-Rev. Don Stein

“Before long, the two of us were teaching children’s Sunday school classes and attending small group Bible studies with some other couples,” Stein said. “Then Pastor Krause asked me to assist with the youth group, then to help teach confirmation, then fill in for a few adult Bible studies. Before I knew it, he and our other pastor, Rev. David Roskowic, were meeting with me every Saturday morning and teaching me Greek. After about three years of this, it was just a matter of determining which seminary to attend!”

It didn’t stop there. Church members, too, encouraged Stein to pursue the ministry, including the elders of the church, a DCE and “a very generous member who decided to help support” the Steins through seminary. But it was that first push from his pastor that got the ball rolling.

“I am extremely grateful to God for the encouragement of Pastor Krause,” he said. “Without his prodding and encouragement, I would never have become a pastor. It is that simple.” Rev. Don Stein was installed as pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Rockton, Ill., in July 2022.