Church Profile: Concordia San Antonio

This is the first part of a series of transcribed interviews between members of the staff of Christ Church Lutheran and Senior Pastors throughout the LCMS.

Interview with Pastor Bill Tucker

Please describe your church and the community it serves:

Concordia is a large congregation, especially for the LCMS. We are in the Northcentral part of San Antonio.  San Antonio doesn’t have suburbs. We are in the Stone Oak area, which is a fast-growing and affluent community.

Our two largest congregational demographics are White and Hispanic.

What is your church known for? What is working well? Do you have any signature ministries?

On a visual level, we are known for our tower cross. It is lighted and stands 123 feet tall next to a very busy highway.  It has become well known as a local landmark.

We’ve also done radio spots with a spiritual message in San Antonio for 18 years; people will often know and reference those radio spots.

From a ministry standpoint, Concordia is well-known for its Children’s Ministry. We’ve invested a lot of time in our Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Easter Egg Hunt, and Drive-Thru Nativity.

Our Day School (kindergarten through 8th grade) is also well known and respected, as is our Child Care Center.

ConcordiaFest is a giant community picnic; it feels like a combination of a festival and church picnic. It is free to the community (as are all of our significant events), and the community comes out in numbers to enjoy the afternoon.

We have a thriving retreat ministry, called STARS. These are weekend long, overnight retreats, where men and women can grow in their faith, find refreshment, and share openly about their lives and struggles. We encourage all people to attend, both members and non-members. We’ve also helped implement our retreat model at other churches.

Our online ministry is also doing very well. Every week, as recently as yesterday, we have someone visit Concordia that tells us they first heard about us through the online ministry. We have a pastor on staff, who serves as the primary facilitator for the online worship service. He interacts with people who are streaming the service and guides the overall online ministry.

What are your church’s highest values?

We have four primary values:

  1. We desire to have all our people in God’s Word every day.
  2. We value Unity as a gift from God.
  3. We value Integrity as essential to the way we conduct ourselves and our ministry.
  4. And we value Missions – the privilege of inviting people to know and follow Jesus.

How do you reach people in the margins of society and culture?

We have multiple outreach programs, including Church Under the Bridge and Habitat for Humanity.  However, I feel this is an area in which we need to grow.  Growth in this area of missions is a focal point for us.

We are involved with Threads of Love, which serves children (and their parents) who are struggling with illness.
 
San Antonio is a military town, so we strive to minister to active duty military and our veterans; those types of ministry include wounded veterans and veterans who have a mental illness.

We also found out that there are many children in the San Antonio area that don’t have beds. We have partnered with a ministry that provides bunk beds for these children.  That ministry is just getting underway.

What goals and plans do you have?

We are always trying to figure out how to reach more people with the message of the Gospel; we want more people to know Jesus. Our goal is not — necessarily — to grow to a specific size, although I think that has some importance.

We are renewing our emphasis on small groups. In the last year, we hired a Director of Small Group Ministry. We want that ministry to grow.

We’re also working hard to grow our Young Adult Ministry because San Antonio’s young adult population has grown tremendously in the last ten years.

If money, space, and people were not an obstacle, what goals and plans would you have?

We would probably do all the same things we’re doing. We’d just do them faster.  I can’t think of anything we’re not doing, due to a lack of resources, though I know there must be.  More resources would allow more people to work on more projects and will enable us to address a wider variety of issues.

Talk about worship and sermons… what’s connecting?

We receive lots of feedback on this topic. Pastor Zach McIntosh creates most of our sermon series, and people tend to love them. 

For example, lots of people really enjoyed our last two summer sermon series. One was on the minor prophets, and this last summer, we studied Leviticus.

These are books that most people don’t know much about, but as we work our way through them, they discover that God’s Word is relevant to their lives.  That’s one of our goals: to help people get over any anxiety or fear of the Bible and help them integrate it into their daily lives. 

Pastor Zach does a beautiful job of crafting sermon series that opens that possibility for our people.

Something different from our norm, but that many people have enjoyed in the past couple of years are the “Ask Anything” messages.  “Ask Anything” messages are where people can text in questions, and we answer them on the spot.  As you might imagine, the pastors have a bit of angst (since we don’t know the questions in advance), but people love it.  Pastor TJ receives the text messages or cards that people fill out.  The only two parameters that we have established are that the questions must be relevant to Scripture and faith, and we have to be able to answer the question in a relatively brief amount of time.  Some topics require more explanation or have essential nuances that need to be addressed and as a result, longer to answer.  If someone asks a question like that, we set it aside and answer at another time or even develop a new sermon series to address the issue.

After the weekend, Pastor TJ takes the questions and divides them up into individual questions/answers and posts them to AskAnything.CC.

Bible Study Structure and Topics

We try to cover everything; we don’t shy away from any topic.  We want people to be in God’s Word, but we also, as I said above, want to “de-mystify” God’s Word for people.  We don’t want people to be afraid to encounter those kinds of issues in life or the Bible.

Our fundamental structure for Bible Study goes back to the North Coast Model in California.  Whatever the text/topic is for the day, Pastor Zach covers it in Bible Class is an in-depth study of the text I’m preaching from in the sermon. 

We also have all of the traditional Bible Studies, including a large men’s Bible Study, several women’s Bible Studies.  Also, there are many small group Bible Studies and Accountability Groups.

Small Groups

We have several small group ministries on campus, including youth, family, marriage, seniors, young adults, etc.

Marriage and Family

We try to have two marriage or relationship sermon series per year, which means Pastor Zach will cover those same topics — in depth — during the Bible study hour.
 
We also have a ministry called “The Marriage Project,” which is a marriage ministry based in small groups.  There are other components (like large group events), but the heart of the “Marriage Project” is the small group.  We divide this ministry into semesters, and it runs throughout the year.

Youth

We have two active youth groups on campus, one for middle school and the other for high school. They meet on separate nights of the week for games, a worship service, a message, and small groups. Our goal is to equip kids early on to deal with faith issues, especially as their lives become more and more complicated. Then, they can be examples in their peer groups.

The youth groups then feed into our mission trip ministry. We’ve been able to send kids — both junior high and high school — from the congregation all over the U.S. for local missions, as well as some international trips.

We also have a retreat every year for our high school students.

What adjustments or changes would you make in your church?

We’re always making adjustments and changes.  If I could do anything, it would be to increase the rate of adoption from lip-service Christianity to fully-invested Christianity.

What is the best idea you have heard about lately that you would like to try?

There are SO MANY good ideas and, as you know, I’m always looking for ideas to pirate.  One of the ideas we’re trying now is service learning and we’re very grateful to you guys (Christ Church Lutheran) for sharing it with us.

Greg Griffith shared an idea about an online collaborative night of prayer.

We’re getting more and more organizations from the community that are talking to us about needs so it seems like every day we’re trying to figure out new ways to connect.

How can we pray for your ministry?

Pray for our school enrollment. We are situated in an area that is blessed with very strong public, parochial, and Christian schools. We also see the establishment of several charter schools, as well. Pray that our enrollment grows.
 
Please pray that the hearts of Concordia become passionate about introducing people to Jesus.

Tell us about of yourself

I love my family. I love the Lord. And I’m blessed beyond anything that I deserve.

How do you spend your week? What are the biggest things in your schedule? Where do you spend 20% of your efforts to get 80% of your results (Pareto Principle)?

The biggest thing on my schedule is meeting and working with staff, members of the congregation, and people from the community.  Those meetings might be pastoral counseling, providing guidance, talking about established ministries or working to create new ones, or just building relationships.

Now that I have MANY years of ministry, marriage, parenting, and life under my belt, and because I have a long track record of missing the mark and living in God’s grace, I try to find ways to mentor others and provide encouragement and hope.

Two key factors have shifted in my time management:

1. My kids are now grown up and independent.
2. In the past, our staff was very young and new to the ministry. I used to spend a lot of time working through most issues, and I was involved in almost every project or effort. Now, many of those staff members are veterans that have been at Concordia for a long time.  They know how to do what needs to be done better than I do.  They don’t need nearly as much of my time, and I can focus on other areas of opportunity.

What do you wish you knew earlier in ministry?

I wish I had known how truly mortal I am so that I would have done a better job at self-care. I’m spending a lot of time now trying to figure out how to do that better, and I’m trying to break the bad habits that I unintentionally created.

What do you do well?

I’m a great sleeper. I love my people.

From Jeff Tucker (Bill’s son and editor of this profile): He is a good preacher. He is good at empowering his staff and trusting them to do their jobs well. He does not get too caught up in things that don’t matter. He is a good counselor.

He does not cut corners. He is a high-integrity individual. He’s a good listener, a good husband, and a good dad.

What books, blogs, and podcasts do you find helpful?

I am reading and listening to books and podcasts all the time. I’ve been listening to a lot of books about emerging trends and new learnings in the area of health care.  One example is the book, Why We Sleep, which has changed my attitude toward sleep and has forced me to come to terms with some bad habits in my sleep-life.  Another book is called, Undo It, which examines the incredible ability our bodies have to heal and restore themselves.

I recently read Something Needs to Change, a book by David Platt (author of Radical and Counter Culture), as well as Faith for Exiles by David Kinnaman.

I listen to Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast on leadership. I listen to two health podcasts called The Empowering Neurologists and FoundMyFitness… both are fantastic.

I listen to Greg Griffith’s podcast, TED Talks, anything by Tim Keller, and also listen to the morning summary of The Wall Street Journal.

What decisions are causing you the greatest stress right now?

We have to make decisions about health insurance, and what plans we’ll offer. That’s stressful because it has such an impact on the lives of our employees. There’s a fine line between stewardship and taking care of your staff.

School enrollment also causes me some stress, as I mentioned earlier.

What is on your bucket list for ministry?

I haven’t thought of a “Bucket List” for ministry.  However, reaching more people and introducing them to Jesus is what’s most important.  I am continually trying to learn and borrow/steal any excellent idea for accomplishing the Great Commission.

I would love to figure out more and better ways to collaborate with other ministries and break down silos. I think so many of our ministries are so isolated and independent from one another.  I don’t think it is efficient, and I don’t believe that is what Jesus had in mind for His church, especially when I read John 17.

Because I’ve had so many fantastic opportunities and excellent mentors, I’m very passionate about sharing whatever may be helpful with others. I want our staff people — if there are people we can help, if there are ways we can help, if there are things we can give away — to mentor others, as well.

If there are things or services we can give away, I want to be able to expedite that process and bless other ministries.

If you could change two things, what would they be?

No answer provided.

Who are your spiritual/leadership heroes?

Jeff Schrank is a hero of mine. I’m not joking about that.  He is a fantastic leader and innovator and a faithful and loving pastor and friend.

Julie Tucker — my wife — is truly a hero of mine.

The late Rev. Charles Froehlich (Concordia River Forest), the late Rev. John Saleska (Concordia Theological Seminary), the late Dr. Guido Merkens (founding pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church) are all heroes in my life.

I have many other heroes, both living and in heaven. But the guy who probably framed my life, more than anyone else, was my dad. He wasn’t particularly spiritual, but he was terrific, and I have been blessed every day of my life by the guidance, love, and example he set for my life.

How can we pray for you?

However, the Lord leads you to pray; I am grateful.  I am thankful for all prayers on behalf of me, my family, and my beloved Concordia.