Notes from the Council

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How DSL Church and School function, Part 2

null  As I wrote in the February newsletter, the By-Laws of Divine Shepherd are the guidelines regarding how the church is structured to serve the members of the congregation. These guidelines range from providing worship services, educational opportunities for all ages, mission and outreach opportunities, community involvement, and evangelism efforts to how we care for our property, organize our internal operations, and staff our church and school. The By-Laws also identify what is expected of members of the congregation. Section I discusses membership in detail while Section II discusses Termination of Membership, including reasons for and methods of termination.

First, Section I – The first group of members are Baptized members, those who have been baptized in the name of the Triune God and are under the spiritual care of the Pastor of Divine Shepherd. The second group are Confirmed members. These are baptized members who have been duly instructed in the Lutheran faith and are familiar with the contents of Luther’s Small Catechism, who have been thoroughly instructed in the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, and who accept the doctrinal standard of this congregation as given in Article 11 of the Articles of Incorporation. The third group are Communicant members. These are baptized and confirmed members received through the right of confirmation; by transfer from sister congregations in fellowship with  the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; by profession of faith when previous membership has been in a Lutheran congregation not in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; and by reaffirmation of faith when  transfer of membership is not possible and a previous membership in this or a sister congregation must be reinstated.

The By-Laws also state 9 requirements of communicant members:

  1. Shall conform their entire lives to the rule of God’s Word;
  2. Live Christian lives and abstain from manifest works of the flesh (Galatians 5:10-21)
  3. Attend Divine Worship services faithfully;
  4. Partake of the Lord’s Supper faithfully and frequently;
  5. Devote time and talent to the work of the congregation and the extension of the Kingdom of God;
  6. Contribute financially to the needs of the congregation according to the measure of blessings which God has provided;
  7. Submit, for the sake of love and peace, to all regulations of the congregation;
  8. Accept brotherly admonition and correction when having erred or offended;
  9.  Not be a member of any Lodge or organization whose principles and conduct are in conflict with the Word of God.

Many, perhaps most, members do not realize and are often surprised that these 9 items are requirements of membership.

What about Termination of Membership? This usually happens when a member or member family moves away from the area and requests a “transfer of membership” to a new congregation. Baptized members not yet confirmed (usually children) will accompany the communicant members of the family in this case.

The Pastor, with input from the Board of Elders, transfers members in good standing upon the members request. Members who move away from the area are encouraged to seek out a new church home that is in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to which they may be transferred. 

Members who move away from the area may do so for a period of time, with the hope and intention of returning, and these members do remain as members at Divine Shepherd. If they are away for a lengthy period with little or no likelihood of returning, we encourage a transfer so that they can find a a church home that will allow them to receive God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament. Sometimes that is not possible, but no member is ever forced to leave the membership of Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church simply because they live in another area of the country.

Occasionally, members will drift away from the church for many reasons. They don’t attend worship, don’t attend Bible studies, do not partake of communion, and don’t offer their gift. In other words, they are not meeting many of the 9 requirements for membership. At Divine Shepherd this is addressed by contacts from their Elder, from Pastor, and eventually from the Human Care committee members. Time and effort are devoted to helping people remain as active members of the flock of Divine Shepherd. Unfortunately, these efforts don’t always result in a member returning to full active membership, and sometimes not even occasional attendance and participation in worship and sacraments. After a period of 3 years of absence, and especially when no request has been received from the member to transfer or to be released from membership, the Elders and the Church Council begin the process to remove a member from the congregation. This is done without prejudice, without judgement, and can be reversed anytime up to the point a letter is sent advising them of their release from membership. Never is this done in haste but always with thoughtful deliberation.

Finally, and sadly, Communicant members who conduct themselves in an unchristian manner shall be admonished according to Matthew 18:15-20. This could result in membership being in jeopardy, but there are processes in place to make the removal from membership the very last option when such a situation occurs.

Membership has its responsibilities, and each member has their expectations. The leadership of Divine Shepherd, both called and lay leadership, work very hard to help members recognize their responsibility and to experience their expectations. Together, membership at Divine Shepherd can be a rich and rewarding experience every day.

Part 3 in May.

In His service,

Rick Rathert

Congregation Chairman

Behind the Scenes at Divine Shepherd


I have had the privilege to serve as the chairman of the congregation of Divine Shepherd Lutheran church for the past 2 years. I consider myself less a leader of and more a servant to the members of the congregation. During this time I have come to realize that most members are not familiar with the how the church works on a day to day basis. For many, the primary experience at Divine Shepherd is worship on Sunday, a bible study weekly, or other periodic gatherings, such as LWML or Rusty Restorations. These are where and what most of us consider to be the center of our lives at Divine Shepherd. But, like most organizations, much more is going on behind the scenes. I am going to share with you over the next several newsletters some aspects of how our church functions Monday through Friday.

All congregations of the LCMS are formed with a constitution, articles of incorporation, and by-laws. These documents make the congregation an official organization under the laws of the state in which it resides. They identify the type of corporation we are, which is a 501(c)(3), a non-profit corporation. Non-profit corporations are tax-exempt, but only in a limited scope. For example, we do not pay property taxes; we do not have taxable income; contributions (offerings, donations, and gifts) are generally considered charitable contributions, thus may offer the donor a tax deduction. On the other hand, we do pay sales tax on goods and services we purchase from vendors and service providers. We are subject to many IRS regulations regarding our employees and compensation we offer them. We are deemed to be an employer, and therefore must comply with the laws and regulations governing employers, such as worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, group health insurance, Social Security, and more. In addition to Federal laws and regulations, we are subject to state, county, and local ordinances as well, such as obtaining building permits, complying with water and sewer regulations, meeting codes regarding handicap parking, and building safety, to name a few. And finally, we have to be sure we do all these things within the framework provided by the LCMS.

The Early Childhood Center (ECC) brings added regulatory oversight. The ECC is the responsibility of the congregation, however, it does operate under its own constitution and by-laws, has its own board of directors, its own director, and staff, and must comply with additional rules and regulations established by the state of South Dakota for Early Childhood Centers. The ECC board of directors does work closely with the church council to make certain that the many rules, regulations, ordinances, and laws that we are subject to, both jointly and independently, are complied with.

The By-Laws of Divine Shepherd creates numerous committees and boards to provide the necessary oversight and direction of the business, ministry, and missions of Divine Shepherd. The Church Council is comprised of the officers of the congregation, and certain board and committee chairpersons. The Executive Committee is comprised of the Chairman, the Treasurer, and the Council Secretary. The Council Secretary is not the church secretary. The council elects a vice-chairman from among other board members to serve as council chairman in the absence of the chairman. The other council positions are the Financial Secretary; Evangelism, Stewardship, Parish Education, Trustees, Youth, and Elders. The council Chairman, the Vice-chairman, and the Head Elder are required to be male. The Pastor is a non-voting member and advisor to the Church Council and Board of Elders. All of these committee positions and their functions are described in the by-laws of Divine Shepherd.

A copy of our Constitution and By-Laws is available to any member of Divine Shepherd. They are available from the church secretary and copies are also in a mail slot in the fellowship hall for the taking. I encourage every member to obtain a copy and review it. Next month I will expand on the by-Laws regarding membership and responsibilities of members of Divine Shepherd.

Rick Rathert

Congregation Chairman


Chairman's Corner

Greetings to you from your church council. 2018 has been a very busy and challenging year at Divine Shepherd. A great deal has been accomplished as the congregation of Divine Shepherd continues to grow.

  • We have improved our bookkeeping system and made progress in managing our money.
  • We have had so many people volunteer their time to start projects and see them to the finish.
  • We have changed how we disseminate information to most of the congregation via a new website. If you have access to a computer or tablet, you can go to and you can see everything that is happening at the church plus daily lectionary’s, bible studies, sermons, the monthly calendar, and general news.
  • A new picture directory was completed this year and is available at the secretary’s office.
  • New offices for Pastor and the Melissa, our secretary, have been completed, and a conference room and a dedicated work room have been added. We gained two additional Sunday School rooms because of the remodel.
  • A new sign for the church building is being designed, and new stained-glass windows will be installed before Christmas. These windows are a gift from a member family in memoriam of their daughter and sister.
  • A newly refurbished cross has been installed outside on the east end of the sanctuary. It is lit at night and can be seen from the interstate. A member took upon himself to take our old cross, clean it up, strengthen it, paint it, install an updated lighting system and mount it on the exterior wall with the help of other members.


  • A very successful Harvest Dinner took place last month with about 280 meals served.
  • A 15-passenger van has been donated to the Early Childhood Center and has been a blessing as it is used to expand that ministry.
  • Our custodial team has kept our facility looking bright, clean, and well maintained, a place that we can enjoy and share with visitors and new members.

This list of projects, events, and changes is not complete because so many wonderful things happened at Divine Shepherd in 2018 that they can’t all be listed here. With the help of many members donating time, expertise, labor, and frequently funds, have these improvements been possible. Most of all, however, God has blessed Divine Shepherd congregation. He has showered his good gifts on us, and we hope that we have been good stewards of his great and abundant blessings.

nullAs we move into 2019, we will change our focus to growing our missions and ministries; we will find and create opportunities for all Divine Shepherd families to grow in God’s Word; we will grow in our stewardship of God’s gifts; we will take more care of our people and those we are called to serve; we will become better prepared for the future; and we will continue to be a friendly, warm,, and welcoming congregation.

Merry Christmas to each of you.

Rick Rathert

Congregational Chairman