Story Magazine - Third Quarter, 2004

An M.A. Grad’s Story

by Christopher Kramer, master of divinity student

Dawn Alitz spends some quality time with her daughters.

One year after graduating from Luther with an M.A. in Christian Leadership, Dawn Alitz directs Children's Ministries at Farmington Lutheran Church in Farmington, Minn. "I was consecrated in November as a diaconal minister. The position means I get to work with families who have kids ages birth through sixth grade in family faith formation," she said. "We are re-empowering the ministry of the baptized, getting the parents back into the drivers' seat of faith formation. It's about letting the church be a good resource and a place to come, but letting the Spirit out of the God-box, out of the home and into the community. The family unit is the evangelical tool. How they live their faith outside the house is what grows the church."

Schooled in music,Alitz never imagined herself in children's ministry. "I came to Luther through the strange quirks of God," she explained. "For many years I was relatively un-churched, but I came back in shortly before having children. I realized when I took on a youth position (teaching confirmation) how vitally important parents' involvement in faith formation was. I had no idea how to do that with my own family. So I thought I'd take a few classes, then I took some more; and now I'll be back at Luther again this fall doing a Ph.D. in Pastoral Care in Youth and Family Ministry."

Numerous voices at Luther Seminary have contributed to her evolving ministry, "...first and foremost Roland Martinson (Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Children, Youth and Family Ministry), because I came from a different angle and he encouraged that," she said. "I was able to be creative, more true to my call working with families." [Professor Emeritus] Bill Smith's classes also were foundational to Alitz. "He introduced me to spiritual formation. It's taught me so much about sitting and listening to people's stories and seeing where God is in the midst of all of that.

Bill also introduced me to spiritual direction: It's not head work so much, but the heart work that we need to do." To Martinson and Smith's influences, Alitz added that "[Professor of New Testament] Craig Koester's raw energy about the gospel changed the way I saw it working in the world." Alitz also warmly credited Mary Hess, assistant professor of educational leadership, with presenting an entirely new ministry opportunity to her: "She has a way of opening up Christian education to being new, different and exciting.

I never would have looked at a director of children's ministry position without what she showed me of its vital importance."

One year later, Alitz summarizes her work in the parish: It's about putting Jesus in front of people, and it's a humble and wonderful privilege to minister to families in this way."

Alitz helps out with a Vacation Bible School art project.