Glenn K. Rollins: honored and blessed to serve
For Glenn K. Rollins ’79, the path to discover his calling and his purpose was filled with encouragement and support from many influential people. Various pastors and Concordia Nebraska professors counseled and guided him over the years as he considered vocation options including serving in the holy ministry, working in Lutheran education and other avenues. Their wise counsel had a great impact on him while he sought his path to serve the church and the world. From his early experience as a Lutheran school teacher to his current service with The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod’s Set Apart to Serve program, Rollins said he has seen God’s goodness and guidance again and again throughout his journey.
During his confirmation instruction at a Lutheran church in Aurora, Colorado, his pastor encouraged him to pursue the ministry. An eighth grader at the time, Rollins briefly considered the information, but didn’t think too much about it. A few years later, after his family moved to southeast Colorado, his pastor at a church in Lamar, Colorado echoed the church work vocation encouragement and talked to Rollins about Concordia Nebraska.
“My pastor really worked with me during my junior and senior year to come to the realization that Concordia would be the place for me,” he said. “He even got an admissions counselor to come all the way down to little Wiley, Colorado, to talk with me. While both pastors wanted me to go into the pastoral ministry, the Lord led me to education.”
Rollins has a bachelor of science in education from Concordia Nebraska. He studied to be a secondary teacher, majoring in social sciences and minoring in physical education with an emphasis in coaching. He later also attended the University of Minnesota, earning a master of arts in educational administration in 1994.
He fondly recalls his time at Concordia Nebraska.
“As I look back now, I see the Lord at work in shaping me and providing for me in a number of different ways. First, I really came to see how the Lord strengthened me and prepared me for service to Him during that time,” he said. “My faith life deepened and my understanding of how He wanted me to use my earthly gifts came into focus. He allowed me to meet my wife, and while we didn’t get married until after my graduation, we were blessed in being together at Seward. I’m also not sure I would have gone into education if it wasn’t for coming to believe that I wanted to be a coach. Of course, in those days, to coach you needed to teach—so they went hand in hand, and I learned that I could be an educator. Lastly, I was blessed to learn how to be a runner with good coaches and a strong running community. I was blessed in so many ways during my time at Seward and I am so thankful for my time on Columbia Avenue.”
Rollins said that he enjoyed the support and influence of a number of good professors at Concordia, but a few outstanding individuals stand out.
“As a social science guy, there were two amazing men who helped shape me and I would say that of course they did help me with my journey of discovering purpose,” he said. “Professor Jerrald (Jerry) Pfabe was amazing with content, but as the teacher of methods, he really shaped how my teaching philosophy was to be manifested when I was out in the field. He always pushed me, but in a kind and caring manner. Professor Robert (Bob) Fiala was one of a kind with his demands for excellence that were centered in making sure you knew your stuff…Lastly, there were two coaches who pushed me in running from really just learning what it was to be a good runner to also learning how to coach so I could do the same for young athletes that I would work with. Coach Dave Ohlde - he also taught science and I got one of my few Bs from him! - was the first real running coach I had—so he taught me the culture and basics of good running. And while Coach John Knight came to Concordia my senior year, he really informed me about coaching and pushed me both athletically and as a person. Those four men really stand out.”
Rollins said that his experience at Concordia helped to grow his faith. He said that being around and being steeped in such a large community of believers was a new yet wonderful experience for him. While he had a short stint in Lutheran grade school in first grade, most of his elementary and high school education was in public schools. Enjoying chapel worship, impromptu Bible study and prayer before athletic events was new and wonderful to him.
“It was very important for my faith life as I grew as a person in those formative years at Concordia,” he said. “In every place that the Lord has led me and my family, I’ve tried to grow a caring community that is centered in doing the best that one can. As I look back at my time in Seward, by actions and by teaching, I believe that the educational leaders at Concordia modeled that for me,” he said.
When Rollins graduated in 1979, his first call was to a small Lutheran grade school in California, where he taught grades 5-8 religion, physical education, social studies and science. Shortly after that, he transitioned to teaching at the local Lutheran high school. After two and a half years there, he took a call to Los Angeles Lutheran for one year, then took a call to the now-closed Denver Lutheran High School in 1983.
“In 1987, we took a call to inner-city St. Louis to a Lutheran grade school that needed an upper grade teacher and coach. It was a challenging ministry, but I am so thankful for that time there. In 1989, I was blessed to move to Minneapolis Lutheran High School, where I spent six years teaching, coaching and leading.”
Following his time in Minneapolis, he took his first call as a principal to Luther East High School in Lansing, Illinois. Several years later, Rollins, his wife and their three sons moved to Las Vegas where he became principal of Faith Lutheran High School.
“The public schools were terrible in Las Vegas, and our growth was astounding. I learned so very much about administration in a school that grew to over 700 by the time we left in 2007. Although working at Faith was a blessing, my family was getting ‘homesick’ for the Midwest by the time we left.”
Following service at Concordia Academy Bloomington in Minnesota, he found himself seeking an opportunity to serve elsewhere. He served in Kansas City Lutheran high school as executive director for one and a half years, then served as the head of school at a K-12 school in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“The Lord had need of my skills and gifts in Springfield, Illinois, as there was need of a principal at the Lutheran high school there in fall 2015,” he said. “The Lord moved us there using my experiences around the country to help the school in various ways. We weathered internal strife and helped build a new addition. We added curriculum and expanded the dual credit classes in many ways.”
Throughout the years, Rollins noted increasing difficulties in finding and calling new teachers to positions in Lutheran schools. Following many conversations with Rev. Dr. James Baneck, Rollins began working with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Set Apart to Serve church work recruitment initiative in July 2022. The initiative seeks to form pastors and church workers who will hand over the saving faith to God’s people, passing on the Christian faith from one generation to the next.
Rollins said Baneck has greatly grown the program from the idea that was espoused at the last Synodical convention to the many aspects the group is now involved in: a pilot program for resources that involves 35 different ministries throughout Synod, outreach to a variety of groups within Synod such as the Lutheran Education Association, the Association of Lutheran Secondary Schools, the National Association of Directors in Christian Education and various other vocational collections of our Synod.
“I am involved in helping establish strategy for the rollout of our initiative which will culminate in the availability of resources for Synod-wide church worker recruitment,” he said.
Rollins, who now lives in Wisconsin, said that there’s no typical day in the office.
“I do travel quite a bit. For example, as our pilot program finishes next month I will be traveling to St. Louis for the culmination of that program and the gathering of its data for repackaging for Synod release. I will be attending the LWML conference this summer to spread our word, as well as attending the LCMS convention in late July/August. I will be presenting our ideas at a number of LCMS district education conferences this fall. I recently wrote an article for the LEA journal “Shaping the Future”. I am often in contact with Lutheran high schools and others about our program as we look to determine how best to utilize our resources in the ministry venues in which they are shared. I have various other projects including working together with Concordia admissions representatives to put together webpages that compare Concordia costs for each of the eight church work vocations. I will be helping with the editing of the new Concordia Publishing House curriculum units that focus on vocation and church worker recruitment. There are many Zoom meetings! It is never boring!”
He said he is honored and blessed to be a part of the Set Apart to Serve initiative.
“It is amazing to see the possibilities coming together,” he said. “To be a part of this is very fulfilling. Since the last century, when I made the decision to attend Concordia and move toward church work, I believe there have been so many changes to our church and American culture that have resulted in almost hindering young people from making a church work decision. To be a part of helping to change our church culture back toward a lifting up of those vocations and helping to establish new 21st century methods to do so, has been exciting and a blessing.”
Rollins and his wife Susan have three grown sons, three daughters in law and one grandchild.
“Church work is challenging, it can be tiring and there are times where what one has to deal with what doesn’t make sense in light of it being work for His church,” he said. “However, while we all know the tremendous challenges inherent in choosing to follow a church work vocation, if you are like me, you have savored in your heart the quiet joy of being part of His ministry to His people. While I’m not sure why the Lord moved us around the country as He did, I do know that for every position I worked at, the previous positions were part of the training for that particular call. And those experiences that I have gained, led to the experience I’ve needed in helping our synod understand that we are all set apart to serve.”
Are you interested in exploring church work preparatory programs at Concordia Nebraska? Learn more here.