Part 1: Economics and Fights


October 1, 2018

Rev. Todd Salzwedel, the Senior Pastor at FUMC Odessa, came to ministry via economics and fights. It is an unusual combination, to say the least, but, for Todd, it was exactly the combination of experiences he needed to be a more effective pastor.

Growing up, Todd’s mom was the spiritual leader of their home. She was passionate about church and was involved as much as possible in the life of their home congregation. During an unfortunate accident, she fell and 12% of her brain died as a result. His mother was no longer able to go to church or lead the way she was accustomed to. Todd was only nine. It was a life-shattering event that made him question why God would allow something like this to happen?

As he grew older, he was a self-described angry child, who disassociated himself from church until he was a teenager. As a teen, suddenly, he was being asked to lead the youth group, even though he had never really been a participant. He took on the challenge but was surprised when adults began encouraging him to think about ministry.

“I did not really consider it, because I thought I made too many mistakes to be in ministry. I wasn’t an angel. I had this perception of what it meant to be a pastor and I didn’t fit that image,” Todd expressed. “You see, I was a fighter growing up. Then I went on a youth mission trip and that was the first time I had ever prayed. After that trip, I knew I needed to apologize to everyone I had been in an altercation with.”

The list was long, but Todd made the rounds apologizing to the students he had harmed. All but one person forgave him. “That was a formative moment when he said he would not forgive me,” Todd shared. “From that moment forward, I have thought about grace and growth differently.”Todd went on to study economics in college and when he finally decided that maybe God really was calling him to ministry he asked one of his trusted mentors if he should switch majors. The mentor unequivocally said, “No. You will learn enough about the Bible at seminary, but they won’t teach you anything about finances.”

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Todd took his advice, gained a degree in economics, pursued seminary, and was ordained.

Several years ago, he was appointed to St. Stephen UMC in Albuquerque, a flagship church for the New Mexico Conference. This was a major transition from Community UMC in Ruidoso, so during his tenure, he was invited to participate in TMF’s Entrepreneurial Pastors Group.

This Leadership Ministry group of 10 pastors provided a network of colleagues with similar situations, who could help one another troubleshoot problems, grow professionally, and provide safe spaces for open conversations. “The TMF group was really important,” Todd said emphatically. “It brought together a group of pastors who were all in the same age range; we were serving in higher profile churches as younger adults and TMF recognized there would be a lot of pressure on us.”

With the right mentors and peer group, however, TMF believes pastors can work through the pressures and challenges of pastoral leadership by learning how to be adaptive, exploring how to be more innovative, and multiplying these learnings by sharing them with others.

After his experience in the Entrepreneurial Pastors Group, Todd believes this as well.

In Part 2, Rev. Todd Salzwedel describes what he has learned as a result of his participation in this TMF Leadership Ministry learning community.