Longtime Westminster Presbyterian Church Associate Pastor Mike Olmsted was recently installed as senior pastor. EricJohnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Longtime Westminster Presbyterian Church Associate Pastor Mike Olmsted was recently installed as senior pastor. EricJohnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Familiar face takes new role at Westminster

Published 11:30am Friday, April 18, 2014

As the Rev. Mike Olmsted settles into his new role as senior pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, he doesn’t have to look far for a reminder that his mission is based on a rock.

On a shelf in his office is a jar filled with stones that his parishioners and supporters signed and wrote Bible verses on during his installation last Sunday. A sign next to the jar reads, “Show your support to be a ‘rock’ for Pastor Mike.”

“It builds on that idea that we’re built on Christ the solid rock and the church is the rock of Christ,” Olmsted said.

Though Olmsted has been a rock for Westminster since becoming associate pastor in 2003, his recent promotion to senior pastor wasn’t necessarily a given. In fact, it was a first. According to Olmsted, he was the first Presbyterian pastor in Minnesota to be promoted from associate to senior pastor. The church recently changed a rule not allowing associate pastors to move up to the senior pastor post in a church. But Westminster was behind the change.

Stones with parishioner names and prayers written on them fill a jar in senior pastor Mike Olmsted’s office at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The stones are symbolic of the church being a rock of support for Olmsted.
Stones with parishioner names and prayers written on them fill a jar in senior pastor Mike Olmsted’s office at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The stones are symbolic of the church being a rock of support for Olmsted.

“The biggest blessing has just been the support I’ve received from the congregation,” Olmsted said.

Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area leaders expressed worries since the transition hadn’t been done before in the state. But thanks to help from Interim Pastor Susan Li and church leaders, Olmsted said it went off without a hitch.

“My philosophy was ‘We’re going to show them how to do this the right way,’” Olmsted said. “Our leadership here did a great job.”

The pastoral nominating committee, the congregation and the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area all unanimously approved Olmsted as senior pastor, something the pastor and his family saw as a sign that this was God’s plan.

“Me and my family really just trusted in God’s guidance and knew that if this was where he wanted us, then this was where we were going to be,” Olmsted said.

Olmsted takes over for Andy Lindahl, who moved to a different church on the West Coast a few years ago. Li served as interim pastor for about a year.

As associate pastor, Olmsted had been in charge of family and youth ministries. As senior pastor, Olmsted has more of an all-encompassing role. As his new motto states: He’s serving people age zero to 100.

Even with familiar faces, Olmsted is promoting a message that the church will undertake new ventures.

“There’s plenty of room for growth and new programming and new ideas,” Olmsted said. “So it’s not just a ‘let’s keep doing what we’ve always done’ way of thinking.”

Olmsted is looking ahead to new prayer ministries and new ways to explore God’s word like retreats, new Bible studies and more.

Still, the church philosophy won’t change, nor will the slogan: Growing in faith, reaching out in love.

The church will also build on its many current outreach ventures locally and around the world as Olmsted said he wants to put a stronger emphasis on local projects like the Community Home Improvement Project, a group the church has already worked with.

“As the community changes, we want to be able to change with it and meet those needs,” Olmsted said.

But the process for the church isn’t done, as it will now look for an associate pastor to take Olmsted’s old job. Olmsted hopes to have someone in place late this year.

Staffing is a challenge right now, as Olmsted said he quickly learned he can’t do everything. However, church leaders have called on congregation members to help. Members are helping lead the youth group and are filling other roles.

“They’ve been fantastic providing support,” Olmsted said.

There are positive signs already. Westminster has just under 400 members, and Olmsted said they’re welcoming a large class of new members on April 27.

“There are signs of growth already, and we’re encourage by that,” Olmsted said.

Olmsted, who grew up in Southern California, is glad to call Austin home. He attended Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., then worked in Long Beach and Phoenix as a youth director before coming to Westminster in 2003, his first pastoral call.

Olmsted’s wife, Coleen, is a teacher at Woodson Kindergarten Center. They have two sons: Jeremy, 17, is a junior at Austin High School, and Tommy, 19, is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“This town has been a blessing for me and my family,” Olmsted said. “My boys have really flourished.”

Olmsted is happy to be staying in Austin, which he described as a great place to raise a family.

“This is our home, this is a great community, and we feel like God’s still got a place for us and a calling here,” Olmsted said.


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