Historically, deaconess students were required to have a Bachelor’s degree in Theology, along with taking classes in deaconess studies. As the educational requirements adapted to the changing demographics of the LDA, students who had degrees in other disciplines sought to also be formed for lives of service through the LDA. This week’s story is about the first student who was a Business major. The following was written by Deaconess Johnna Georgia.
I’m 30 years old. I married Michael Georgia in 2016 and we live in Waunakee, Wisconsin. I was raised in Cranberry Township, PA. I have seven brothers and sisters in a blended family. I was baptized in the Catholic tradition, but with the challenges of raising six kids in a “Brady Bunch” fashion, it was easier for my mother to have us attend the Lutheran church with my step-siblings. It was there that I found my love of music and in the seventh grade, I joined the adult choir, as one of the only members under 50. My experiences at Hope Lutheran Church in Cranberry Township were fundamental to my faith formation. I happened upon Valparaiso University at a National Youth Gathering in San Antonio. It was in seeing the Christ figure in the Chapel that my mind was set on attending the university.
I graduated from Valparaiso University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. I did my deaconess internship in Valparaiso, Chile, splitting my time between serving the German Lutheran Church and the soup kitchen at a YMCA community center. It was here that I became bilingual in Spanish and it was the sort of humbling service that leaves a life-long imprint.
My first job out of college was as a Youth and Family Lay Minister at Burke Lutheran Church in Madison, WI, in 2012. I was consecrated in November 2012 with Reverend Walter Wangerin, Jr. preaching. In 2014, I became a Match Support Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, and in January 2017 became the Program Director where I manage twelve employees who ensure youth in our community are in safe and thriving mentor relationships. We served 642 youth in Dane County last year.
In the LDC Community, I continue to be an active participant in area conferences. I helped my area plan and host the Annual Meeting in Kenosha, WI, and serve as the conference registrar for most years.
It was odd to me when Lisa Polito pointed out that I was the first Business student in the diaconal formation program as I see no disconnect between the world of business and the world of religion. I personally believe all pastors and church leaders should be required to take business courses.
All the concepts I learned in business school had similar counterparts in the church world. The pastor can be equated to a manager (of church staff) and a church council is like a board of directors. And there are plenty of concepts that are exactly the same, such as budgets, by-laws, strategic planning, missions, and visions. When a business is poorly managed, it results in low profits, staff layoffs, and closing doors. When a church is poorly managed, it can lead to low offering collections, staff layoffs, and closing doors. But it can also have a big impact on people’s faith lives. Although I no longer work in parish ministry, I still need the skills and concepts learned in business school in my role as a non-profit leader and I feel called in the way that I serve in this secular ministry.