Paul Koehler’s long history with Motley church leads him to become its pastor

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

On June 16, Paul Koehler was both ordained and installed as pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Motley. St. John’s was not only the church he attended as a child when visiting his grandparents in Motley, but also the church his father, Edward Koehler, was the pastor of from 1995 – 2011.

“From the time I can remember, I wanted to be like my father,” said Koehler. “In college I wanted to serve God, but didn’t feel I had the tools. I also loved working with children so I went into teaching.”

Paul Koehler was both ordained and called to be the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Motley, June 16. Pictured is the Koehler family (from left): Erica, Paul, Lesa and Jessica.

Paul Koehler was both ordained and called to be the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Motley, June 16. Pictured is the Koehler family (from left): Erica, Paul, Lesa and Jessica.

Koehler spent 20 years teaching in Lutheran Schools. He and his family, wife Lesa and daughters Jessica and Erica, moved to the Baxter area in 2006 when he was hired to  be both principal and teach at the Family of Christ Lutheran School.

“The school closed in 2010, and that’s when I decided to attend school through Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo.,” he said. “I took courses online in a specific ministry program designed for those people who had prior ministerial experience. My years working in Lutheran schools gave me that.”

In 2011, Koehler became the vicar, or apprentice, at St. John’s. He had all the duties of an ordained pastor, leading worship and teaching adult and confirmation classes. Being vicar gave him the practical experience with the intention of being called to become the official pastor.

Koehler got that call the same day he was ordained. It was the first ordination ever held at St. John’s.

“I will now be officially supporting the congregation, and they, me,” he said.

Koehler’s father, Edward, ended his pastor’s job when he had a stroke in 2011. He worked with and mentored his son for five weeks before he passed away in 2012.

“I do wish I was able to work with him longer,” said Koehler, who is now paired with, and mentored by, retired pastor Paul Biegner in Brainerd.

When the school in Baxter closed, Koehler said he knows another door opened for him. He thought becoming a pastor was what God wanted him to be and as it turned out, it was.

During his ordination and installment as pastor of St. John’s, Lesa said the congregation had tears in their eyes.

“It was sad to lose Edward, but it was also great to be supporting and welcoming his son, too. It was a sad, but happy day,” said Lesa.

Lesa said that her husband is a great teacher and she cannot think of him doing anything else.

“He’s engaging and he speaks from the heart,” she said. “When he teaches, people listen, and when he’s with children, he has lots of patience.”

In their spare time, Paul loves to play guitar, both acoustic and electric. Both his children also play instruments and together they play in church with other members of the congregation.

The Koehlers also love a good movie and enjoy traveling to visit family.

For St. John’s, Koehler would like to implement both a choir and a bell choir, more Bible studies and both a men’s  and youth group. He knows it will take time.

“I feel privileged and honored to be received so well at St. John’s,” he said. “I hope  to also become more involved in the Motley community.”

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