Dog Ministry? You Can’t Make this Stuff Up, by Pr. Tim Rossow

(Editor’s Note: In addition to the editor’s blog on occassion I update my column “The LCMS in Her Own Words.” It can be found on the “Regular Columns Page.”)

Just this morning I received the following e-mail story as a part of the Key Connections newsletter from the Lutheran Church Charities which is the human care arm of the Northern Illinois District of the LCMS. I guess we have gone beyond “Everyone a Minister.” Now it is “Every Animal a Minister.”

LCC Staff and Comfort Dogs available for Church Functions and School Chapels!
K-9 Parish Comfort Ministry
On January 6,  three of the LCC K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs and LCC staff did chapel at St Philip Lutheran Church in Chicago and visited with all 200 students!

On the morning of January 7th, the Comfort Dogs  were at Saint Paul Lutheran School in Mt Prospect.

For more information on scheduling LCC and the K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs for an event or chapel at your church, contact LCC at
866-455-6466 or email [email protected]

To help support the growing Ministry of the Comfort Dogs click here…  

To find out information on how your congregation can get one of the LCC K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs Click here  

Click here for some Photo Albums showing some of the many places the dogs have brought comfort….   And click here for the Dog Blog, featuring “Tara’s Twitter”

Did you notice that the article says that the “dog ministry” is growing? The Lutheran Church Charities does great work  but  does it seem odd that the LCMS is pulling missionaries out of the field but we have the resources to do “dog ministry?” Does it seem odd that a day school chapel, presumably a miniature version of the congregation’s worship, would include dogs?

We here at BJS are not opposed to animals bringing joy to people. Personally I get a lot of joy from my little kitty named “Happy Bob.” But I remind Happy Bob regularly that he does not have a soul and that he will not be with us in paradise. It’s going to be a lot tougher to convince him of that if he finds out that  at LCC he could be a “minister” and even do chapel.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Dog Ministry? You Can’t Make this Stuff Up, by Pr. Tim Rossow — 33 Comments

  1. Elnathan, it really depends whether or not they are churched or unchurched German Shepherds… doesn’t it? If we follow what seems to be a pattern we really need to focus the unchurched as every time we snap our fingers, another dog not only goes to hell but rolls over as well.

  2. Well, they are German (so they are probably Lutheran) and they are shepherds (so they know how to pastor) – I say their in!

    Pastor Rossow

  3. Naturally they’re “churched”, if they’re doggie ministers. I do hope they get to wear clerical collars. But seriously, folks….

    I’m curious about what confirmation we have that the LCMS is pulling missionaries out of the field in order to support Ablaze! projects. I know there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence that I’ve seen discussed in various blogs, but does Synod actually admit to as much? Or do we have a verified list of missionary pastors who’ve been brought home for financial reasons? (Please feel free to provide a link if I’ve missed a pertinent online discussion.)

  4. When God says that He will restore all things, that we will inhabit a new heaven and earth, do you think we will not have animals with us?

  5. Hmmm… I guess I can’t say that some hogs are in a “bacon ministry”. Although, some pork bellies are so good… they just have to be doing God’s work! Wouldn’t you agree, Pr. Rossow? 😉

  6. Jim,

    How come you thought of me when you mentioned “pork” and “bellies?”

    Yes, I am in full agreement – pork fat rules!

    I’ve got a killer pork fat bruschetta recipe. While the bread is toasting on the grill I steam a mixture of diced tomatoes with freshly fried bacon bits, the bacon grease, some really good EVO, and of course minced garlic. By the time you put that on top of the garlic rubbed toast and top it with some julienned (sp?) basil and a pillowy cloud of soft mozzarella, you are definetely doing God’s work.

    Yes, come to think of it, I have a “bruschetta ministry” since I do get asked to make it for church functions quite often.

    Pastor Rossow

  7. “Comfort Dogs”??? Thats funny!!! I just received my “Good News” magazine yesterday and it’s loaded with all sorts of “comfort things” but it doesn’t have anything about “Comfort Dogs”. My idea of a comfort dog is a “foot-long” covered with onions and meatsauce.

  8. I believe that it was the great Lutheran theologian Charles Schultz who pointed out that “god” is “dog” spelled backward.

    BTW– My wife has a Leader Dog service dog. The first time she communes at a congregation no one is singing when they approach the Lord’s Table. Her dog very reverently will place his head on the kneeler until the dismissal. He is a service dog not a ministry dog.

  9. “How come you thought of me when you mentioned “pork” and “bellies?”

    I plead the fifth. 🙂

    That bruschetta sounds excellent! Put it on the grill and it is “Bruschetta Ablaze!â„¢” Hmm… I think I am pressing my luck. 😉

  10. My mother would like to know if the canine trainers can be counted as dogmatic professors?

  11. Jim,
    If we send the puppy love “ministry” to certain parts of the world they might enjoy it in the culinary sense you have suggested in your “bacon ministry.”

  12. Erm…any recommendations about where to look re. my questions in comment #5? Not that I don’t like bruschetta, mind you….

  13. With this dog ministry in full gear, support for my thriving bar ministry can not be far behind.

  14. So are they sending in a report to the Ablaze! website on people sniffed by these dog ministers as contacts with the gospel? Just think of the numbers!

  15. Mollie, Mollie, Mollie…we confessionals would stick with the old,tried and true ministries…Clown ministry, Elvis impersonator ministry, and the classic, mime ministry.
    That bar ministry is sounding better all the time.


  16. Okay guys, here is the dissenting voice on this subject. I just spent a couple of days at the District Disaster Coordinators Conference in St. Louis and had the opportunity to down a few beers with Tim and Dianna of Lutheran Church Charities. Great people! I know you are not knocking them personally… but would it hurt for “us confessional types” to consider thinking outside the box where and when possible? I am as confessional as anyone here… Word and Sacrament grow the church. But, can’t other good gifts of God be used to help reach people. Now, I have NO IDEA what it means to have “dogs and LCC staff do chapel”… but my guess is that neither do you… unless you were there, or saw an order of worship or sum such. My assumption is that your beef really is with the use of the word “ministry”… which could feasibly require an entire new website dedicated to THAT topic alone.
    Long point made short. I have met the dogs… I don’t think they, or any of their handlers, have the intention of trying to replace their collars with a white model.
    They are simply trying to reach out to people, often hurting, who may respond to the nonthreatening presence of a large, soft, furry animal.
    For what it is worth, I lost my dog of 16 years this past summer. I prefer to think he is in Narnia… not based on scripture, just CS Lewis.

  17. I am a cat person. Dogs do nothing for me. In fact they tend to scare me. When I am old and in a home dogs will not be a comfort they will be a terror. This type of thing is not new, it is not special. It ho-hum. The local newspaper is full of such items, only the newspaper gives cats equal coverage.

  18. Karen,

    Thanks for the dissenting voice. It helps us to be the best that we can.

    I agree that Tim is a good guy. He even says that he wants to be confessional (although he promotes small group “ministry”).

    See my next post on this that clarifies the point. I think you will see that we are not opposed to dogs and the good gifts they can be. BTW – I did say that in the original post – referring to my wonderful cat “Happy Bob,” the reigning champion “world’s best kitty.”

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. Has there been a replacement?

    Thanks again for the comment. You are welcome anytime to offer dissenting voices. That is how we learn and grow.

    Pastor Rossow

  19. Pastor Rossow,
    Thanks for the reply. Your second post clarifies the quandary our synod has placed herself in by not paying attention to the words we use to describe things. As a DCE, I am often asked about “my ministry” by other DCE’s. Needless to say, I cringe every time the question is posed. I don’t find it necessary to confront the well-meaning colleague, but I have not thought of a great response to the question. I need something along the lines of Cwirla’s response to “How many do you worship?” “We worship one… or three… depending on how you count Him”.
    I’m not that clever:).
    As for our dog. We thought we’d replace him with new carpet:).

  20. “I remind Happy Bob regularly that he does not have a soul and that he will not be with us in paradise.”

    I am familiar with this argument, but it is not convincing to me. Does not this kind of thinking deny bodily resurrection? I am not able to assert one way or another with Scriptural certainty whether Happy Bob will be there or not, but this kind of logic is not helpful, is it?

  21. PPPadre,

    Scripture as far as I know is silent on this matter. As an earlier commenter mentioned the new heaven and new earth talk does give the impression that there will be animals, just as there were in the Garden but to think that every animal will be in heaven is pushing it. Some new ones created? Some existing ones raised? Possibly, but all dogs go to heaven – that is not deducible from scripture.

    Pastor Rossow

  22. Karen,

    LOL with the carpet line!

    To the serious question, our cantor (Phillip Magness) and I discuss this to no end. He agrees with me but he jokingly enters into some long phrase (to mock me) every time he would normally use the phrase “my ministry.” He says something like, “the Lord’s ministry of leading the people’s song that He does through me.” We have a good time with it and have yet to come up with an alternative. When we do I will post it.

    Pastor Rossow

  23. As for our dog. We thought we’d replace him with new carpet:). –Karen

    That would have been my vote.
    But a son (who wished to find a dog there when he came home to visit) “replaced” the dog…with TWO puppies.

    I don’t think you can replace a dog, any more than a son. You can come to love another one with no thought of “replacement.”

  24. Tlotliso, in case you’re still around … in partial answer to your questions in #5:

    I do remember someone on Luther Quest posting at least a partial list of missionaries who were no longer working for the LCMS due to financial concerns. It’s been a while ago … possibly in 2007.

    And IIRC, the list was part of an official LCMS information release that acknowledged the end of the paid missionaries’ assignments, in favor of missionaries who were paying the LCMS to be able to go abroad.

    The release might still be on the website. If indeed I’m not totally … mis-remembering.

  25. “all dogs go to heaven – that is not deducible from scripture.”

    Pastor Rossow,

    There is nothing in your reply that I would disagree with. I am not trying to assert “all dogs go to heaven.” As I said in my original post, I cannot assert one way or another with any Scriptural certainty. My beef is with the logic “he does not have a soul [therefore] he will not be with us in paradise.” There is a hint of Platonism (the soul being the true essence of being and the most important) in that argument that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t necessarily disagree with your conclusion, but I don’t buy the premise. The resurrection is a bodily one.

  26. PPPadre,

    I am with you on getting rid of the Platonism in Christian theology. However, that does not mean that we cannot speak of a soul or spirit.

    My point is that one reason we assert that animals do not go to heaven is that God did not create them with the potentional to go to heaven. God can create eternal cats and dogs I am sure, and I even think he does, but my particular cat Happy Bob would only stand a chance of being in heaven if he is the archetype of “cat.” (Oops, there goes some more Platonism :)) I mean, if he were one of the chosen cats to get recreated in heaven.

    Pastor Rossow

  27. Well, I for one do not see the need to snatch away any shred of happiness from the elderly or the disabled in order to maintain some goofy form of confessional consistency. Have any of you actually worked or been around a nursing home and seen the positive results that animals can have in the life of someone who maybe doesn’t have family visit regularly? I realize it’s no substitute for the Word and sacraments; but must you be the most dour people on the face of the planet when it comes to Christian ministry?

  28. Matthew:
    No, we are not that. (I have a service dog and he and I visit others and he makes them happy even while working for me). Some folks just don’t believe that “ministry” has to be connected to every activity that is done by church people. The coffee time after service before Bible class could be called a “coffee ministry” then. In fact we do operate a coffee shop with all the grandes and lattes etc. but thankfully it is NOT a coffee ministry.

  29. Matthew,

    Can you please point out where anyone on this website said anything that would “snatch away any shred of happiness form the elderly or the disabled”?

    Could you please establish from anyting said on this website that we are “dour” people? I just got back from five hours of worship services, Bible classes, and comraderie at the church I serve and there was all sorts of laughing, joking and people having a general good time.

    The notion that we are dour is contrary to fact and is assumed by you.

    Please read carefully again what is being said here. We have nothing against leader guide dogs or dogs going to hospitals and nursing homes. What we are opposed to is calling this ministry. What we are opposed to is taking time out of day school chapel where God is to be wroshipped and adored and his word read and taught, and replacing that with a nice story about dogs. This is not Christian ministry. There is nothing “Christian” about it. Moslems and atheists can take dogs to hospitals and use them for good.

    Dr. Nagel always said, “if you cannot nail it to the cross it is probably not uniquely Christian and has no place in the Divine Service.” These are great words by which to judge what we do in church.

    By the way, Dr. Nagel is anything but dour. There is no on the face of the planet more fun and entertaining to have a smoke and a few beers with than our own version of “stormin Norman.”

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on our website. You are welcome any time but try to be more careful and be able to back up your accusations.

    Pastor Rossow

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