At the 2016 CLB Biennial Convention President Paul Larson sat down with Steve Tonneson, the CLB’s new Associate for Advancement Ministry.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a graduate of Minot (North Dakota) High School and Minot State University, where I earned my degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting. I’ve been married to Lynette for nearly 36 years. We have three married daughters and five grandchildren, ages 2-5, who I love very much. The whole family lives in Minot. So one of the hardest hurdles in taking this job was that it meant moving. At our age, most people are trying to figure out ways to get closer to their kids and grandkids, and here we are leaving them!
Prior to accepting this job, I worked ten years for Norwest Bank, three years as president of a small Hospital Credit Union, and 25 years as president of a $120 million community-chartered Credit Union in Minot.
Most importantly, I love the Lord as my personal savior! I came to faith when I was baptized, but first became conscious of my faith in Ken Austin’s 3rd grade Sunday School class in our little white church in Minot.
What has been your involvement with the Church of the Lutheran Brethren over the years?
I have been part of Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Brethren Church in Minot for 52 years. My one year at Lutheran Brethren Bible College was a huge positive influence on my life. It helped me grow spiritually and as a leader.
Over the years, I have served in many different teaching and leadership capacities at Our Redeemer’s, including co-chairman of a successful building fund campaign, elder board for thirty years, and congregational chairman for ten years.
Tell us briefly about your journey to accepting the call to be the Associate for Advancement Ministry for the CLB.
Many months ago, CLB President Paul Larson called and told me my name was on a short list of people that they were contacting to see if they were interested in this new position. When he asked if I would be interested I told him, “Probably not, because I am not looking for a new job, but I will hear what you have to say.” After a few more phone calls with Paul and CLB Director of Operations Matt Rogness, I became very interested in the position. We decided to set up an interview with the CLB Mission Team. I assumed that, once I went through the interview, I would find that this wasn’t for me and I could stop thinking about it.
What was supposed to be a one-and-a-half hour interview ended up going over three hours. Instead of being less enthused about this position, I became very excited.
When my wife asked how the interview went, I said, “It went way too well! I could see myself doing this job.”
When I asked for prayer from family, friends, and the church elders, everyone was very encouraging and they thought I would be a good fit for this position.
With each step along this journey, God continually opened doors for us. For example, we bought a home in Fergus Falls in one day and sold our home in Minot in two days. In both cases, the prices we paid and received were very fair. God is faithful and good!
Why did you decide to take this position?
First, I decided to take this position because I love the CLB and what it stands for. I am excited for the opportunity to serve God in a way that will help spread the good news of Jesus Christ to others through our missionaries, future pastors, and new church plants.
Most of all, I feel that I have been called by God to serve in this position. Why he called me and not someone else is beyond me, but I am really looking forward to serving him in this way.
What does an Associate for Advancement Ministry do?
I told Paul and the Mission Team that if I am supposed to “guilt” people into giving money to the CLB, then I would not be interested in this job. They assured me that was not going to be the approach.
Consider the term Advancement Ministry. It actually means we are taking the Ministry God has given us and Advancing it to a higher, more involved level. In order to accomplish this, it takes more money, and that is where this job comes into play.
This position has various aspects to it:
Help build relationships between churches and individuals and the CLB denomination. It is not about us and them, but who we are together, carrying out common goals.
Help churches and individuals understand that the CLB is the child of the churches, not the parent. The CLB came about because churches had the goals of providing seminary training for future pastors, sending missionaries to other parts of the world, and planting new churches in North America. The churches needed a denominational structure to carry out these goals. Some people have the reverse view. They think the churches are there to serve the CLB. Rather, the denomination is here to serve the churches.
Help younger generations understand the importance of this. We need to build relationships with them so that they have a sense of ownership of the CLB. When our older generation passes on, the goal is to have the future generations already partnering with us supporting the cause.
Build a network of people in our churches along with our Mission Team and Regional Pastors that will help spread this message.
Raise financial support to continue our advancement initiative and provide a solid financial base for CLB operations.
To do these things, we need to build trust with church leaders—that we are not trying to redirect giving from their local church, but we are trying to raise support from money that is not being given to the local church.
A wise man put it this way: We as humans think of finances in term of a closed pie. There are only so many funds to go around, you can only cut the pieces so small, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. However, God works in terms of an open pie. It’s not limited to what we can imagine. The Bible says God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That is not meant as a limit, but instead it conveys that his resources are limitless. He will provide for all the needs of our local churches and the CLB.
We need to help churches and individuals understand and change from being transactional givers to relational givers. A transactional giver gives out of duty or obligation. A relational giver gives out of a desire to partner with us to spread the message of God’s grace to people they can’t reach on their own.
I don’t want to see the CLB have to make a desperate plea to churches to help us meet our fiscal year-end needs. Instead, my ultimate goal is that at the end of our fiscal year we can send thank you letters to all the churches, sharing how God has supplied all our financial needs for that year because of the faithful churches and individuals who chose to partner with us.
If you would like to set up an appointment with Steve Tonneson to discus how you can partner with the mission and vision of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, please contact him: