'The predictability here can be comforting'

The Local Germany
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'The predictability here can be comforting'
Jeff with his wife Anne. Photo: Submitted

In this week's My German Career, US pastor Jeff Ingram, 54, talks about life in the church and the advantages as well as the downside of Germany's desire for order.


Where are you located and what do you do?

I live in Dresden with my wife, Anne. I am a church planting pastor with the German Association of Evangelical Free Churches (FeG). We have been invited by the FeG in Dresden to help them start daughter churches in the greater Dresden area.

What brought you to Germany and how long have you been here?

We moved to Kaiserslautern in 1999 in order to help some friends start the FeG there. In 2003 we took a team from Kaiserslautern and started the FeG Ramstein, about 20km. After a 15-month assignment in the USA, we moved to Dresden in December 2013.

How did you land your job and do you have tips for anyone seeking similar work?

After serving for three-and-a-half years as an assistant pastor in a big church in Pennsylvania, we applied to work overseas with TEAM, or The Evangelical Alliance Mission. We were accepted and we began to seek funding for our work in Europe. We are financed exclusively through donations from interested friends and churches, primarily in the USA.

Anyone interested in doing the work we do must have a close relationship with and abiding trust in God, a clear sense of purpose, good communication skills, a willingness to endure hardship as well as a deep love and compassion for people.

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Is it important for you to be able to speak German in your position?

Absolutely. I do a lot of public speaking in German so I have to speak German well. Consequently, I have worked very hard at it. If I could not speak German well, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to gain a hearing for our message of reconciliation.

What are the best and worst parts about working in Germany?

I appreciate the emphasis on order. Most things in Germany don’t just work - they work well. One can usually count on things functioning as they are supposed to. Most processes are well thought out and logical. There is a predictability here that can be comforting. There are not a lot of surprises once one gets accustomed to how things run here.

The flip side of the coin might be the worst part about working in Germany. The emphasis on order and predictability tends to stifle creativity and spontaneity. When we were preparing to hand the leadership of our church in Ramstein over to a young German pastor, our leaders told me: “We’ve really appreciated your willingness to try all sorts of crazy things. With you, we experienced the freedom to fail. We Germans have a difficult time trying new things because, for us, failure is not an option.”

Do you plan on staying?

Yes! Our work cannot be accomplished in a few short years. It takes time to build trust and, considering the spiritual nature of our work, trust is essential. We’re figuring we may finish out our career here in the Dresden area. 

SEE ALSO: 21 phrases to help you out in a German office


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