Q&A with the Rev. Jonathan Manor, Director of PALS
In mid-October, the Rev. Jonathan Manor joined the LCMS Office of Pastoral Education as PALS (Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support) director, a new position that will give full-time attention to this important program in the Synod. Since 1998, PALS has supported new pastors and their families during the first three years of his ministry. Manor — a second-career pastor who has served congregations in Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut and Massachusetts — was chosen for the role due to his experience on both sides: as a new seminary graduate in his first call and later as a veteran pastor facilitating a PALS group.
Tell me about your experience with PALS.
A: In my first call in Michigan, we were part of a PALS group. Our PALS group was a huge blessing to us. It really helped us through that transition from seminary to the parish, especially with the unique challenges at my first call. My wife [Deaconess Dr. Tiffany Manor, who is now director of LCMS Life Ministry] and I also served as facilitators in the New England District for the last eight years. I got to see what a benefit and support it was for the young pastors and their families.
Why is PALS important?
A: In the seminary, students have a very close-knit group. Now all of a sudden, they are out in the parish. They might be near classmates, or they might not. They might be near family, or they might not. Being a pastor is brand-new for them, and it can be difficult and isolating. PALS provides that intentional support for pastors and their wives and families. It allows them to walk with other pastors and wives that are going through the same things they are, and it gives them the opportunity to develop good habits. … The research has shown us, too, that the more pastors and their families are in things like PALS, the healthier they are overall in ministry and the longer they tend to stay at calls.
What does a PALS gathering look like?
A: PALS participants gather around the Word in worship and study, casuistry, personal sharing, and topical study. Meeting structures vary but add up to six days per year. At times, the husbands and wives are together for discussion. There is also time for separate study and fellowship time. … It’s not a top-down approach. The PALS office has developed many materials over the years. The group chooses what they would like to study based on their cultural and congregational contexts. The topics can range from transitions to the parish to pastoral care to preaching/teaching to administration/leadership to the many aspects of being a pastor’s wife.
How can a congregation support a new pastor?
A: The congregation can support their new pastor by encouraging him and his wife, if he is married, to be a part of PALS. PALS asks the congregation to financially support their travel and hotel, if there is an overnight stay. The rest of the funding comes from the Synod and district. We also ask the congregations to grant them the time to be there, so they don’t have to use vacation time. We encourage the congregation to see the benefit in PALS for their pastor and for the well-being of the pastor and his family. It’s not a big commitment from the congregation, but it’s a willingness to say, “We want this for you. Please go and be a part of it.”
Why are you excited about this role?
A: As a facilitator in the New England District, I often saw pastors who were from the Midwest who were placed in the East without a built-in support system. The reality is that being a pastor and a pastor’s family is a challenge, but it’s also a great joy. It is wonderful that our Synod is supporting our young pastors and their families. I’m so glad to be a part of supporting that and making sure the program continues to be a blessing to all.
• About the PALS program
Megan K. Mertz
Managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.