Meet your MN South District staff

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Rev. Dr. Lucas V. Woodford
Phone: 952-223-2165

Read President Woodford's bio

President Woodford is a graduate of Concordia University, St. Paul (1998) and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (M.Div., 2002 and S.T.M., 2003). His first call was to First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Cedarburg, WI. He was then called to serve as senior pastor of Zion Lutheran Church and School, Mayer, MN (2005 – 2018). He holds the D.Min. in Christian outreach from Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne (2011). His project dissertation was published as Great Commission, Great Confusion, or Great Confession?: The Mission of the Holy Christian Church (Wipf & Stock, 2012).

President Woodford is the author of several articles that have appeared in The Lutheran Witness, LOGIA, and Seelsorger. Most recently, he published another book coauthored with good friend Harold Senkbeil, Church Leadership & Strategy: For the Care of Souls (Lexham Press, 2019). President Woodford also serves as a fellow with DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel, which provides advanced training in the classic care of souls to help pastors become better pastors.

President Woodford and his wife, Rebecca, are the parents of Isabella (2003), Thaddeus (2007), Aletheia (2009), Ekklacia (“Klaci”, 2011), Soteria (2014), and Titus (2017). He enjoys reading, writing, hunting, fishing, and spending time with his family.

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Executive Assistant to the President

Rev. Stefan Wismar
Phone: 952-223-2154

Read Pastor Wismar's bio

Pastor Wismar serves as Executive Assistant to the President. In this position, he assists the District President in his administrative responsibilities and provides counsel and guidance to congregations and church staff in times of transition, conflict, or crisis. Pastor Wismar's duties include the orientation of new workers in the District, particularly new pastors in their first years of ministry.

Pastor Wismar previously served nine years at Mayer Lutheran High School as the Director of Christian Faith Development. Prior to MLHS, he served as a parish pastor for almost 10 years at Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Slidell, LA. Pastor Wismar earned his B. A. in secondary education / social sciences from Concordia University Wisconsin in 1996 and his Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 2001. During his seminary training, he also studied abroad for a year (1998-1999) at Westfield House in Cambridge, England. In the summer of 2009, Pastor Wismar traveled to Israel to study at Jerusalem University College—a truly enriching experience!

Pastor Wismar grew up in New Orleans, LA, so he loves seafood, but he doesn’t miss the weather. Believe it or not, this southern boy has learned to love Minnesota winters. His hobbies include fishing (open water and hard water), hunting, boating, and camping—or pretty much anything that will get him outdoors enjoying creation.

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Assistant to the President: Missions

Rev. Dr. William Utech
Phone: 952-223-2151

Read Pastor Utech's bio

Pastor William Utech is Assistant to the President for Missions. In this role, he works with pastors and congregations to plant new churches and begin new Gospel ministries that will introduce un-churched people to the person and work of Jesus. He encourages and promotes creative and new approaches to evangelism and outreach, and he facilitates the assessment and training of future church planters.

He comes to this position after serving as associate professor of practical theology and director of resident field education at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis for 17 years. Before that, he served as pastor of Holy Emmanuel in Bloomington, MN.

Pastor Utech has also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Lutheran Haven Retirement Center of Oviedo, Florida; the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Worship; and the Board of Directors of Grace Place Lutheran Wellness Ministries.

He and his wife, Lori, have two daughters: Annmarie and Claire.

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Assistant to the President: Congregation Mission Formation

Dr. Phillip Johnson
Phone: 952-223-2161

Read Dr. Johnson's bio

Dr. Phil Johnson serves as Assistant to the President for Congregation Mission Formation. In this position, he helps pastors and congregations develop intentional, purposeful engagement in ministry beyond their current membership by facilitating training and developing resources that contribute to a long-term process of mission formation and outreach leadership development.

Dr. Johnson graduated from Concordia, St. Paul in 1982 as the second graduate of the newly formed director of evangelism program. He served for 20 years at Christ Lutheran in Lincoln, NE, and Peace Lutheran in Arvada, CO, as a director of Christian outreach (DCO). Prior to his current position, he served for 12 years as an instructor at Concordia University, St. Paul and as the coordinator of their DCO program.

Dr. Johnson and his wife, Sandy, have four adult children (Sarah, Andrew, Benjamin, and Philip) and four grandchildren. In his leisure time, he enjoys golfing, fishing, hunting, and spending time with family.

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Public Policy Advocate

Rev. Fredric Hinz
Phone: 507-317-9634

Read Pastor Hinz's bio

Pastor Hinz serves as Public Policy Advocate for both Minnesota North and South Districts of the LCMS. As such, he represents the LCMS in matters pertaining to life issues (abortion and doctor-assisted Suicide), issues related to marriage, family, and sexuality, and issues related to religious freedom, including parental choice in education. A graduate of Trinity Lutheran School (Waconia), Mayer Lutheran High School, Concordia University, Nebraska, Chicago State University, and Luther Northwestern Seminary, Pastor Hinz has taught biological science at both the high school and college levels, owned and operated retail shoe stores, and served as a parish pastor in St. James, MN, and Gaylord, MN. In addition to active engagement in the public policy matters of the Synod, Pastor Hinz also advocates for the advancement of intelligent design theory.

Pastor Hinz and his wife, Rachel, have been married for 40 years. Together, they have three married children who have so far given them 10 grandchildren. They reside in Gaylord, MN.

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Assistant to the President: Education & Commissioned Ministers

Sean Martens
Phone: 952-223-2152

Read Sean's bio

Sean serves as Assistant to the President for Education & Commissioned Ministers. In this role, he provides consulting services and assistance to the schools, administrators, and teachers of the District. Martens previously served as principal at Trinity Lone Oak Lutheran School, Eagan, MN; teacher and interim principal at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward, NE; assistant football coach at Concordia University, Nebraska; and teacher / coach at Faith Lutheran, Las Vegas, NV.

One of Sean's passions is coaching, and he currently is an assistant football coach at Apple Valley High School. Sean and his wife, Brenda, have four children: Devin, Zachary, Madeline, and Luke.

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Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) District Vice President

Kai Larson
Phone: 952-223-2163

Read Kai's bio

Kai began his work with LCEF and the District in March 2017. Kai comes to LCEF with a communications degree from Minnesota State University and has worked in various roles in sales, banking, and management for the past 14 years in Minnesota and most recently with New York Life. His dad was an LCMS pastor who served in a variety of roles and districts in the Upper Midwest. Kai knows the LCMS culture, has a strong banking background, and looks forward to building relationships with congregations, pastors, and leaders.

Kai and his wife, Kimberly, have one child, Paige. Kai and his family are members at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Plymouth.

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Treasurer & Business Manager

Rick Marko
Phone: 952-223-2160

Read Rick's Bio

Rick has served as the Treasurer and Business Manager for the District since May 2014. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, with a degree in accounting. He is also a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor. Prior to working at the District office, Rick held various accounting and auditing positions with public and private organizations, including Control Data, NRG Energy, RSM McGladrey, Digital River, and St. Paul Public Schools.

Rick and his wife, Jill, have two children, Josh (wife Brianna and new grandson Carter) and Kelsey. Outside of the office, he enjoys golfing, walking, bike riding, and working on projects around the house.

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Gift Planning Counselor

Matthew Steiner
Phone: 952-223-2155 or 651-641-8243

Read Matt's Bio

Matt is a gift planning counselor with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Foundation. He serves the Minnesota South District and Concordia University, St. Paul. A lifelong LCMS Lutheran, his passion is supporting LCMS organizations and their members. Matt’s past experience includes teaching in a Lutheran grade school and as a financial advisor.

Matt and his wife, Bethany, have two daughters.

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Administrative Assistant for President Woodford and Pastor Wismar

Debra Connolly
Phone: 952-223-2158

Read Deb's Bio

Deb serves the District as an administrative assistant, a role she's enjoyed since her first days at the office in January of 2007. Most of her time has been spent working with the District president and his assistant. She also enjoyed a short time serving in missions and mission formation. Deb attended Concordia University, St. Paul back in the early 1970s when it was still a college. She completed the work for a degree in organizational management and communications in 2006.

Deb married her college sweetheart, Bruce, in 1976, then stayed home to raise five very wonderful and diverse children, which was and is the best job ever! She and Bruce are blessed to also have nine grandchildren. In her free time, Deb enjoys reading, gardening, and watching family members in sports, music, and drama events. God has been very good to her, and she loves walkin' with Jesus every day!

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Julie Bigler
Phone: 952-223-2159

Read Julie's Bio

Julie serves the District working with accounts payable and donors. She attended Minnesota State University, Mankato, and has worked here at the District since 1995. She previously worked as an administrative assistant in the aerospace and legal fields.

Julie is married to Bruce. They have two grown children and recently experienced the joy of their first grandchild. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her kids, granddaughter, and dog as well as reading, designing and creating jewelry, playing piano, and learning new things about our interesting world.

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Administrator for 604.20 Background Checks

Kelly Lamkin
Phone: 952-223-2157

Read Kelly's Bio

Kelly serves as the background check administrator for both Minnesota South and North Districts of the LCMS. She coordinates with congregations and schools to make sure they've done their due diligence during the calling and employment process. Kelly has degrees from the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay and Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, WI. As a Lutheran school teacher, she has taught at Northeastern Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Green Bay, WI; Lake Country Lutheran High School in Hartland, WI; Concordia University, St. Paul; and Concordia Academy in Roseville.

Kelly lives in the Twin Cities metro with her husband, Pastor Timothy Lamkin. She enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and three schnauzers.

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Communications Manager & Commissioned Workers Assistant

Sarabeth Marcello
Phone: 952-223-2156

Read Sarabeth's bio

Sarabeth serves as Communications Manager & Commissioned Workers Assistant. She tells the stories of the congregations, workers, and members of the District through online and print media. She also assists commissioned workers with rostering paperwork and serves as a support to the Assistant to the President for Education & Commissioned Ministers.

Sarabeth is a 2016 graduate of University of Northwestern—St. Paul with a degree in English and Bible. She was part of the 2017-18 Lutheran Young Adult Corps group placed in Boston. She is a member at Golden Valley Lutheran Church. In her free time, she bakes, dances, reads, and gets lost on bike rides.

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Administrative Assistant

Debbie Borchardt
Phone: 952-223-2162

Read Debbie's bio

Debbie serves as the general office administrative assistant and receptionist. She supplements the work of the other administrative assistants in the office. Debbie is a graduate of Concordia University, St. Paul with a degree in business administration. She has previously worked in the fine arts industry, publishing and licensing art images, and settlement administration.

Debbie lives with her husband, Bruce, on a farm just outside of Prior Lake. There have been sightings of her on a tractor, but only during desperate times! She and Bruce have two adult sons (Isaiah and Samuel) and enjoy camping, biking, hiking, and kayaking. They are members at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Prior Lake.

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Phone: 952-435-2550

The District archives contain records, materials, and documents relating to the life and work of our congregations and the Minnesota South District through the years. The archives contain congregational histories, congregational files, and the papers of former District presidents and other church workers, among other materials.

If you would like to access the District archives—or are interested in taking on the role of District archivist—please contact our office using the information above.