Andrea Roettger CO ’02 GR ’11 serves youth and families in St. Louis
Andrea Roettger CO ’02 GR ’11 is a DCE currently serving Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri, where she leads Youth and Family Life Ministry. Carrie (Krenning) Kober ’97, a Concordia regional ambassador based in the St. Louis area, interviewed Roettger, who earned her bachelor’s in theology with a DCE certification and a master’s in family life education, about her experience serving at Trinity.
Carrie Kober: What brought you to Concordia Nebraska? What did you major in?
Andrea Roettger: I had narrowed my options down to two. Visiting both, back-to-back, Concordia College felt comfortable, which completely surprised me. Knowing myself as well as any teenager knows themself … I would have thought I belonged in urban Chicago and not in the middle of a cornfield in Nebraska. My decision was solidified by the program director, which I had been told by many professionals in the field, Dr. Mark Blanke CO ’82 GR ’93, was the person you wanted to learn under. One of the best decisions I have made.
When I found myself back in Nebraska several years later, I decided there was no better time to get a master’s degree from my alma mater. I earned a master’s in family life education.
Carrie: After you left the steps of Weller, where did your journey take you?
Andrea: From the steps of Weller, I was called as a Director of Christian Education in The Lutheran Church —Missouri Synod. I have served three completely different types of congregations: Florida (beach/retirees), Nebraska (suburban with farm across the street) and now Missouri (urban/homeless). What a ride it has been. No matter where I have moved, geographically, I have always been surrounded by other Seward Alums.
Carrie: What have been the biggest joys in your service?
Andrea: People - one has the joy and privilege to walk along people as they grow in their relationship with Jesus. I get to see children born, baptized, confirmed, grow up, graduate, go off into the world, fall in love or not, raise a family or not, get promotions, retire, and bury loved ones. It is an honor to be along for their journey. Cradle to grave.
Carrie: What have been some challenges along the way?
Andrea: People - The church is full of sinful people. They are in the pews, outside her walls, laying on the sidewalk, in leadership, in the pulpit, in every level throughout the Synod - EVERYWHERE. The books we learned in school never met all these sinful people. The curriculum that is written by publishing house refuses to see these people. And our challenge is to love them - because I too am one of those sinful people. A loved, forgiven child of God. And so our great joy and great challenge is people. People are hard.
I know that the fire department takes three minutes to the front door for a member's medical emergency … I know that it takes 30-45 minutes for the police to show up when a homeless individual wants to commit suicide. … I know what it is like the pound, breath and attempt to shock life back into a body … I know what immigration policies look like in real people’s life … I know the shortcomings of homeless services … I know there are not enough mental services available to people … I know that someone running naked outside could just be drying off … I know that youth sometimes do real dumb things … I know what it is like to live through a hurricane … I know what is like to stand with someone that has lost everything … I know what it is like when people steal from the church ... And yet, through it all, Christ prevails.
When I took my current call to urban St. Louis - I was asked if I could picture ministry here. My answer was no and that is why I am taking the call. I want the challenge to not knowing what is next. That each day is going to be completely different than the next. That the book for ministry here - to these people - has yet to be written. My first day there: I sold my house, climbed a bell tower, got my first death threat and went to a Cardinals game. I would not trade my time here for anything.
Carrie: The pandemic has changed a lot of the ways the church is doing ministry. Tell us about some of the things you have been doing to bring people God's Word and care in unique and different ways.
Andrea: When the pandemic “became real” we sat down as a team to figure out what was important. We landed quickly on three things: provide worship, feed the homeless and provide calm/peace & God.
Worship became video released. Which meant filming and editing, revisions to website to allow for such delivery, and learning more about social media to release it. Today, we are now in person with a live-streamed worship for those not able to worship yet in person. We are a 182-year-old congregation, attempting to get a 155-year-old building up to the technology needs of today. Thankful we received several grants to help that process along - camera, soundboard, enhanced internet service, wi-fi routers, and computers. The joy is that we have people attending virtual worship from all over the nation.
Soup Alley, (what our homeless ministry became to be known as) modified to attempt to protect our volunteers and those we serve. For several months, we provided sack lunches every day and hung them on our fence for people to take as they needed. Over time with we figured out how to go back to a more normal routine, handing food out face to face with those in need. Please note: that all of this happened from a 10x10-foot room.
Our attempt at providing God’s Word with the purpose of peace and calm, has become to be known as a #TrinityMinute. A three-minute video, released at 3 p.m., four to six times a week. They are a devotion delivered by our Pastors and DCE, a hymn from our organists and musicians, or reading of scripture from members.
For me there has been a ton of changes learning how to film well, how to edit, edit, edit and post. On top of my new responsibilities of attempting to livestream Worship services and keeping on top of the website - Sunday School and Confirmation class have all gone to a video guided format and will be for a while.
Children’s messages needed to change a bit. One of the changes was, I started a “Book Club,” as part of Children’s Message, since kids weren’t in face-to-face classes (the whole reading thing will keep their world open, even if they aren’t doing the school thing- type theory). I have been matching popular children’s books with the lectionary reading for the worship service. And then the book is read to them as a #TrinityMinute during the week. I have been working with the idea of offering a formal Summer Reading Program … Read these books with these Bible stories over the summer and receive a tiered prize … We shall see what the future holds on this.
Carrie: How did your time at Concordia impact you and what you do today?
Andrea: Concordia reinforced the importance of service. Serving others. It is what was modeled by the professors and administration and student body and it is what I attempt to do today.
I made life-long friends while in school … I am thankful that for some, I no longer consider them to friends, because they are now my family ... and that is the biggest life impact that has come from Concordia. If I could do it again, I would - with them.