About Us

Our Vision

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” —Jesus, John 10:10

Divine Service

The most important part of an abundant Christian life is the Sunday Service. We call it a “divine service,” following a term used by German and Norwegian Lutherans for what happens on Sunday morning. The primary focus of the service is God (the “divine”) serving us by bringing us Christ, our Savior, and all his gifts. Christ Jesus has promised to be present in his Word (the Bible), Baptism and its continuation of confession and forgiveness, and the Lord’s Supper. These are channels of God’s grace (favor and love) where he changes our hearts, forgives our sins, and empowers us for new lives. Our order of service (liturgy) reflects these ways God delivers his grace. The three high points of our main liturgy is Confession and Absolution, reading God’s word and having it explained in a sermon, and the Lord’s Supper.

Once we know God and his grace, we respond by serving him (service from people to the divine). We serve him by praising him, thanking him, saying that what he tells us is what we believe, and giving offerings to the work of the church. From the Divine Service we go out and continue to serve God by serving others.

Our services might seem a little foreign, and that’s okay. They’re meant to bring us out of the everyday and into a special time when we encounter God in a powerful way. Part of the strangeness comes from the fact that our order of service is extremely multicultural. The words we speak and sing have been passed down for over 1500 years through many cultures. That means you’ll hear a few foreign words (some of them you already know like “amen,” “alleluia,” and “Christ”). We also use the best of time-tested Christian music, encouraging strong singing and deep reflection on what’s being sung.

The sermon usually lasts 15–20 minutes, and the service as a whole runs 50–70 minutes. We encourage visitors of all ages and backgrounds, but we ask that visitors refrain from receiving the Lord’s Supper until they have been instructed in the faith of our church and are spiritually prepared. This follows the guidance of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 11:27–29; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17) and the practice of the church since ancient times.

In the Divine Service, God pours into us the abundant life of Jesus, giving us the eternal kingdom, a place in heaven, and power for life.


The Bible, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are treasures that you can spend your whole life studying and meditating on and yet never find the bottom of them. At the same time, they are treasures that young children can understand and take comfort from. God tells us in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The Christian life is a journey with Jesus, growing and learning, so we make it a priority to guide people on that journey. Having a trained pastor who has studied the Scriptures in depth gives us confidence to say, “This is what God says.” We offer Sunday School for preschool–4th grade, advanced instruction two hours a week for 4th–8th grade, and Bible classes for high schoolers and adults.

St. John’s also hosts a homeschooling group one day a week, following the curriculum of Classical Conversations. The congregation is exploring the possibility of opening other formal youth programs, also, such as a daycare.

In all the forms of education, our members of all ages are taught and guided in the abundant life God lays out in his word.


St. John’s is a community church in two ways. First, we are a community that cares for each other. Christians in a congregation are appropriately called “brothers and sisters,” as members of a family under God, our Father. You’ll see that we hold events at church, enjoy time together in our homes, and show compassion when a member is hurting or in need. Second, we are a church placed in the community of Frankenmuth and the surrounding region, and we work to be an integral part of our community. Our members are involved in numerous civic groups, contribute to business and government, and represent St. John’s in their neighborhoods and friend groups.

In a time when genuine community is lacking, we strive to live abundantly in community, embracing the blessings of neighborhood, deep friendship, and gospel witness to others.

Where We've Come From

In the 1800s, German Lutherans immigrated to Michigan and founded Frankenmuth to begin life in a new place. They didn’t come to begin a new life. They brought the new life with them – the new, eternal life given to sinners through faith in Jesus.

Where We're Going

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church continues to carry on this work. Founded in 1880, it remains rooted in the mission of the Franconians – to be boldly biblical, happily Lutheran, and making use of the best the German Lutheran tradition has to offer. Active in the present, St. John’s continues to bring the beautiful truth of Christ to the world around it. Those in the Frankenmuth area will find at St. John’s a place to explore faith, ask questions, live in community, raise families in Christ, and experience week in and week out the richness of God’s Word.

Our congregation is carried forward by the Lord of the church, Jesus himself. He comes to us with all his grace and power when we remain in his Word (John 8:31–32), receive the Lord’s Supper for forgiveness and life (Matthew 26:26–28), and “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing … and teaching them” (Matthew 28:19–20). These activities form the center of our church life.

St John's Cemetery

Our cemetery is located on the corner of Tuscola Street and Gunzenhausen Strasse.

Our Staff Our Staff

Patrick Ernst


Pastor Ernst provides leadership to the congregation, teaching and preaching, and spiritual care to its members and the community.

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Jean Warnemuende


Jean handles the day-to-day operations of the church office.

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Keith and Sally Jammer


The custodians keep the church building clean, neat, and organized.

Chuck Nemec

Council President

The council president oversees the organizational function of the church, supports the work of the pastor, and acts as the face of the congregation in official business.

More About the Pastor

Pastor Patrick Ernst

has served St. John’s since 2019. He was trained at Bethany Lutheran College and Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary (Mankato, Minnesota). Before coming to St. John’s, he completed his pastoral vicarage (internship) at Faith Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas. Pastor Ernst has contributed to the Lutheran Synod Quarterly, a professional journal for pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and is translating the German works of Werner Elert into English.

He and his wife, Kate, were married in 2018. They live in Frankenmuth with their son, August. Outside of work, Pastor Ernst enjoys running, cooking, spending time with his family, and working on their mid-century modern home!

A note from the Pastor

Welcome! I am Pastor Ernst, the pastor of St. John’s since 2019. In John 10, Jesus says about himself, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). Did you know that “pastor” is the Latin word for “shepherd”? As a pastor, my role is to be a representative of Christ among the people. I’m not up to the task—believe me, I have as much of a need for God’s forgiveness and grace as you!—but Jesus is the one doing the work. My job is to speak his word to his people. I get to speak his words of forgiveness to those wracked by guilt and insecurity, words of comfort to the sick and depressed, words of peace and hope to the dying. I get to speak his words of blessing to the couple about to be married, words of new life and acceptance to the baby being baptized, and words of saving power to those who don’t have the power to change themselves.

My calling as a pastor is a huge part of who I am, I take it very seriously, but I’m also just like you in many ways! I enjoy cooking (and eating!), running, reading, and music. I spend a lot of time with my wife, Kate, and our son, August. We live in Frankenmuth and enjoy all the city and community has to offer.

It’s my pleasure to be a pastor, and I want to be your pastor! Get in touch!

Our Past Leaders & Events

St. John's Timeline

  • 1879

    Our Beginning

    In September 1879, nine men from Bethel Lutheran Church met with five men from St. Paul's Lutheran Church (located 4 miles south of Frankenmuth in the Butler schoolhouse on Canada Rd) and 11 male members from St. Lorenz to form one congregation in the village of Frankenmuth. The group gathered at the J. L. Veitengruber home in Frankenmuth for the meeting. One month later, on October 31, 1879, (Reformation Day) a nucleus of 25 members from the three congregations met and voted to form St Johannes Lutherische Evangelische Kirche. The original church building was built in 1880 on Tuscola Street.

  • 1934

    Pastor Kehrberg Years

    Throughout the years various pastors have served St. John’s. Pastor August Kehrberg served from 1934 to 1961; he started the first Sunday School program in Frankenmuth in 1948. He also was instrumental in establishing a new parsonage and continued as pastor emeritus for twenty-four years.

  • 1965

    Pastor Ehlert Years

    In 1965 Pastor Joel Ehlert was called to serve St. John’s. The church grew, and in 1969 the congregation built a parish center. Pastor Ehlert was instrumental in establishing the Frankenmuth Lutheran Hour in 1972, and it continues today broadcasting Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM on WKCQ (98.1 FM). During Pastor Ehlert’s tenure, he helped establish Bethesda Lutheran Group Home in Frankenmuth. A Broadcasting Committee, organized when St. John’s began broadcasting on the radio, researched the possibility of doing something devotional or instructional on a television station. That possibility became a reality in June 2002, when St. John’s televised the preceding Sunday worship service on Monday night at 7:00 o'clock on Charter Cable TV channel 16 (now on Charter Cable channel 191). The program continues today.

  • 1996

    A Tornado Hits

    In 1996 the Frankenmuth area was struck by a tornado which damaged many buildings, homes, and churches; including St. John’s Lutheran Church. The church was declared unsafe. After the tornado, services were held in the parish center. In late 1996 construction began on a new parish center and church at 1200 East Genesee Street, where the congregation continues to gather.

  • 2007

    Joined the Synod

    After belonging to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for most of its history, St. John’s joined the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) in 2007.

  • 2019

    Current Pastor

    St. John’s is currently served by Pastor Patrick Ernst.

How We're Governed Our Structure

Final authority over the operations of the congregation rest with the voters assembly, which is made up of men over the age of 21 who have formally agreed to uphold the constitution of St. John’s. The voters call pastors to serve the congregation, they approve an annual budget, and they determine what projects the church will undertake. The voters normally meet four times per year, unless additional meetings are called. While only men serve as voters (in keeping with biblical principles of leadership in the church [1 Timothy 2:11–12; 1 Corinthians 14:33–34]), women and children are invited to attend voters meetings, give their input, and talk to the voters, much like citizens do with their representatives in civil government.

From the voters assembly, a church council is elected. The council meets monthly and looks after the operations of the church on more of a day-to-day basis. Around 20 voters serve as councilmen at any one time, and they meet to discuss issues, make recommendations to the voters, and ensure the smooth operation of the church as an organization.

Under the voters and council operate numerous different boards and committees specializing in different areas of work in the church. Our system of governance includes checks and balances so the leadership are staying true to the Word of God and encourages active participation from all members.

St. John's Foundation Our Foundation

Our St. John’s Ev. Luth. Church Foundation is money invested to create a source of future income for our congregation. As individuals often invest funds to save for college or retirement, our congregation invests funds to save for the future, too, and maximize today’s gifts for tomorrow’s ministry.

The foundation reflects the prudent, forward-thinking nature of our congregation. It lives up to its name by laying a solid financial foundation for continued preaching of the gospel, education of all ages, and outreach through genuine community. The foundation represents gifts that keep on giving, so that “future generations will be told about the Lord” (Psalm 22:30).

The foundation is divided into various funds meant to support different areas of the congregation’s work and also includes several private scholarships that families have established. A five-member board, along with the pastor and current church president, is responsible for the foundation. Gifts can be made to the foundation in many forms, including cash, stocks, bonds, retirement funds, life insurance, real estate, or personal property.

Community Involvement Our Community

St. John’s has been a fixture of Frankenmuth for almost a century and a half, and while the needs of the city and surrounding communities have changed, the commitment of St. John’s to meet those needs has not.

  • Christmas Giving Tree and Thanksgiving Food Drive for charities in the Great Lakes Bay Region
  • Endowed scholarships
  • Our congregation is like a big family
  • Frankenmuth Holiday Home Tour luncheon

St. John’s members are active in numerous civic, service, and professional organizations. They live out their Christian faith in the many callings of life, thankfully serving God by serving others.

Pastor Ernst is a member of the Frankenmuth Noon Rotary Club. He is also involved in the Frankenmuth Emergency Task Force. This is a group of Frankenmuth leaders who worked together in the wake of COVID-19. They continue to collaborate to serve the community and address other emergencies that may impact the community in the future.

More about Frankenmuth

Our Affiliations Our Affiliations

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) is a US-based Protestant Christian denomination based in Mankato, Minnesota. It describes itself as a conservative, Confessional Lutheran body and has 130 congregations along with missions in Peru, Chile, India, South Korea, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Latvia.

The ELS is in fellowship with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and is a member of the international Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). In 2010, the ELS had an estimated number of 19,394 baptized members. The ELS also has 130 congregations and missions in Peru, Chile, India, South Korea, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Latvia. Note that the ELS uses the term synod differently from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is a separate denomination.

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod teaches that the Bible is the only authoritative and error-free source for doctrine. It subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions (the Book of Concord) not in-so-far-as but because it is an accurate presentation of what scripture teaches. It teaches that Jesus is the center of scripture and the only way to eternal salvation, and that the Holy Spirit uses the gospel alone in Word and Sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) to bring people to faith in Jesus as savior and keep them in that faith, strengthening them in their daily life of sanctification.

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod traces its history back to 1853 when the Norwegian Synod was organized in the Midwestern United States. They practiced "fellowship", a form of full communion, with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) during the 1850s and 1860s. In 1872, they, along with the LCMS and the WELS, formed the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America.

In 1917, the Norwegian Synod merged with two other Norwegian Lutheran groups and formed the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, later named the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This led to disagreement among members of the Norwegian Synod. The people who became the ELS had concerns regarding fellowship with those who did not share the same doctrine. The Norwegian Synod had taught that conversion and salvation were entirely the work of God without any cooperation from humans. The new merged church allowed that conversion depended in some degree on humans accepting God's grace. A group of people therefore gathered at Lime Creek Lutheran Church near Lake Mills, Iowa, on June 14, 1918, and reorganized as the Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church (also known as "Little Norwegian" Synod). The name was changed to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod on June 25, 1957. In 1955, the ELS suspended its fellowship with the LCMS over doctrinal disagreements, and in 1963, it withdrew from the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America. It retained its fellowship with the WELS. The WELS severed its fellowship relations with the LCMS in 1961, and also withdrew from the Synodical Conference in 1963.

In 1993, the ELS and WELS, working with a number of other worldwide Lutheran churches, some of which had been founded through mission work by both synods, founded the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC).

The ELS published a hymnal, the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, in 1996. This hymnal is in the tradition of the 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal as well as earlier Scandinavian hymnals.

Bethany Lutheran College (BLC) is a private Christian liberal arts college in Mankato, Minnesota. Founded in 1927, BLC is operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The campus overlooks the Minnesota River valley in a community of 53,000.

Bethany Ladies College opened in 1911 with 44 students and a faculty of four. In 1927, the Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, now known as the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, purchased the campus for dual use as both a high school (Bethany Lutheran High School; closed in 1969) and junior college (Bethany Lutheran College). In 1946, Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary (BLTS) began as a department of the college, becoming a separate institution in 1975. In 2001, Bethany awarded its first baccalaureate degrees, completing a five-year transition from its 74-year history as a junior college.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), also referred to simply as the Wisconsin Synod, is an American Confessional Lutheran denomination of Christianity. Characterized as theologically conservative, it was founded in 1850 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

As of 2020, it had a baptized membership of 349,014 in 1,269 congregations, with churches in 47 US states and 4 provinces of Canada. The WELS also does gospel outreach in 40 countries around the world. It is the third largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. The WELS school system is the fourth largest private school system in the United States.

The WELS is in fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and is a member of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), a worldwide organization of Lutheran church bodies of the same beliefs.

Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS) is a coeducational, private preparatory school for boarding and day students in grades 9 through 12. Located in Saginaw, Michigan, the school encourages students to become pastors and teachers in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, continuing their education at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota.

Founded as a preparatory school in 1910, MLS is operated by the Wisconsin Synod. Michigan Lutheran Seminary reached its largest enrollment in the 2000-2001 school year with 381 students. Financial crises in the United States and within the church contributed to a decline in enrollment and reduced faculty in the early 2000s. In 2007, Wisconsin Synod leadership proposed eliminating MLS from the synod's budget. The proposal was rejected by the 2007 synod convention, reasoning " is not prudent to downsize proven programs in vital areas of our work, like the production of pastors..."

In 2017, the school enrolled 199 students. The school's curriculum focuses on theology, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. MLS sponsors 12 interscholastic athletic teams and provides ministry experiences domestically and abroad.

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