When a new academic year begins, it’s not unusual for first-year students to include those following in a family member’s footsteps. But while Joshua LeBorious treks the same pastoral ministry path as his grandfather and two uncles, he’s also starting his Concordia Seminary, St. Louis journey at the same time as another relative — his father.
“Everyone in our family is very supportive of us — although at first, my mother was moderately concerned that my dad might be ‘stealing my thunder,’” Joshua said with a laugh. The younger LeBorious, 22, assured both parents he was happy and “not at all surprised” when Pete LeBorious, 50, announced a few years after his son that he, too, planned to enroll at the Seminary.
This fall father and son each began journeys to become pastors, but through two different academic programs. Although they decided to pursue ordination at diverse points in their lives, they share the same goal — serve as shepherds to God’s people.
Distance program opens door to ordination for veteran DCE
Pete LeBorious, a Director of Christian Education (DCE), and his wife, Sonja, were already praying about whether he should enroll in the Seminary’s Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program when Joshua — their eldest son and a college student — changed his focus from mathematics to ministry.
“As our church looked forward, I was looking forward to what I wanted to do ministry wise,” said Pete, in his 10th year as DCE at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Warner Robins, Ga., and in his 26th year serving in congregational ministry.
With hearts for parish ministry, the couple felt God leading them toward the four-year SMP distance education program. The online academic classes and short-term residential courses meant that Pete need not move his family, which includes five sons, the youngest being 16-year-old twins. He also could “continue to serve the congregation I’m blessed to be at now.”
Mount Calvary’s youth provided another nudge toward ordination. Their DCE pondered “how great it would be to not only walk with them through their high school and college years,” Pete said, “but also to perform their marriage ceremonies, baptize their children and be a pastor to them into their adult years.”
Pete sees the retention of LCMS youth in the church as a priority. He’s excited about his SMP classes, an opportunity “to reshape and develop more tools for doing ministry.”
Tackling those courses while continuing his DCE duties will, no doubt, be demanding. He’s been encouraged by other Seminary graduates — Rev. David Brighton, Mount Calvary’s pastor and LeBorious’ SMP mentor, and Rev. Gerhard Michael, LeBorious’ father-in-law and former president of the LCMS Florida-Georgia District.
Michael, who’s in his 70s and working with a mission congregation, “got me thinking about serving beyond my 60s,” Pete said. “He’s a retired pastor but not retired.”
Switching gears to teach what ‘is most important’
“If I’m going to teach, shouldn’t I teach what I think is most important?”
The answer to his own question prompted Joshua to switch gears when he was a college sophomore planning for a career as a high school math teacher. Three years later, he’s a residential Master of Divinity student preparing to serve as a pastor and proclaim the Gospel.
“Although I enjoyed my education studies and mathematics classes, I began to battle with a feeling of ‘Why am I bothering with this?’” Joshua said of his initial major.
He called the Seminary and Rev. Bill Wrede, director of Ministerial Recruitment and Admissions, helped Joshua determine that he could finish his undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University and meet Seminary admissions requirements with the addition of a few classes, including biblical Greek and Hebrew.
Today Joshua enjoys the academics at the Seminary as well as the “spiritual and friendly campus climate. “The material here, the readings, everything is more relevant to what we’re going to be doing,” he said. “It’s also more relevant for me as I take a look at my own spiritual life as well. Guys will be standing outside and talking about something from a class or an aspect of faith, and they catch you up so you can join right in.”
Conversations with peers also made him realize how daunting the decision can be to pursue pastoral ministry. Growing up the son of a DCE made him “less hesitant,” Joshua says, to what some see as the challenges of a vocation that can leave little separation between professional, family and spiritual lives.
But in his household, Joshua says, he saw his parents “not only hurdle any such obstacles but thrive.”
He also gleaned encouragement from the other pastors in his family, including Michael, his grandfather, and uncles, Rev. Greg Michael and Rev. Tim Droegemueller, also Seminary graduates.
“I’ve benefited from getting to listen to them and ask them questions,” said Joshua, who’s already looking forward to holiday dinner table talk with his family.
Kim Plummer Krull is a St. Louis-based freelance writer.