A family affair

Husband-and-wife team new pastors at Lakeland church

John McEachran
Pastor John McEachran
McEachran, Judy
Pastor Judy McEachran

LAKELAND — St. Croix Valley Methodist Church got what could be called a “two-for-one” deal with its new pastoral team.

The husband-and-wife pastor team of John and Judy McEachran took the helm of the Lakeland church in June. It is the first time the McEachrans have worked together as pastors in the last 10 years, having previously been appointed to different churches, and they are enjoying the experience of leading a church together.

“We’ve been married for a long time, and we like it, so there haven’t been many challenges at all,” John McEachran said.

For the last 14 years, John was the pastor at Mt. Bethel UMC in Inver Grove Heights and also served the Newport UMC congregation. Judy McEachran was solo pastor in New Prague from 2003 until 2013. The couple said both knew they wanted to enter the ministry at a young age and together they’ve served churches in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa. They have two married sons and eight grandchildren.

Since their arrival in the St. Croix Valley, the McEachrans have been adjusting to their new home and working to enhance the spiritual growth of their church community.
“We’ve been packing up and moving, unpacking, memorizing names and working on getting into our community. It’s been a challenge doing all that at once but it’s certainly been worth it,” John McEachran said.

“We’re definitely enjoying it,” Judy McEachran added.

The pair were appointed to the Lakeland church by the United Methodist Church’s bishop for the talents they possess.

“We’ve experienced significant growth in the churches we’ve led in the past, and we’ve been through three building projects,” John McEachran said.

“We’re looking at building our music portion of our church and creating large Easter and Christmas performances going forward,” Judy McEachran added.

“She’s a very talented musician,” John McEachran said. “Several thousands of people have come through some of our Easter time and Christmas performances and we’ve done a living cross performance in the past, like a passion play, with live animals and we work on our music together.”

“We’re hoping to draw youth and kids to build programs for them in drama and music and this has resulted in drawing a crowd as far as engaging in the church and the more people we engage the more people we can teach to know the Lord more and live in a  way that is pleasing to God,” Judy McEachran said.

Although most of those plans could take time to implement, they noted that Sunday school crowds have increased since last year and a recent abridged Bible Study, called “The Story,” is a journey the pair is currently implementing in all aspects of their church from sermons to Sunday School and youth groups. The 31-week study is done as a church family, which they feel helps families and the various generations to connect because they are reading the same thing.

“The significant thing about our ministry is that we sometimes have people who come to church but have never read the Bible. This study can help them understand the story of God in an easier way and introduce them to the life of Christ. The Bible for me is a textbook to being Christian and like some of my classes in school I’d sometimes skip the textbook but you can’t do that, even if it’s just to know the basic rules,” John McEachran said.

“We’re hoping that reading ‘The Story’ will drive people back to their Bibles to fill in more information they may want and expect on the specifics,” Judy McEachran added. “We also encourage the people in a family who are all studying the same book to talk about it and put it into their every day life.”

John McEachran said that their life in the ministry has been great with great experiences.

“[Stillwater’s] an absolutely beautiful area, we love it here and [the church] just has a lot of potential. But the challenge is that the culture of church attendance isn’t as usual or common as it used to be and we need to involve people and make them the best authentic representation of the gospel they can be,” Judy McEachran said.

Their hope for the future of their church is to follow the UMC mission statement of making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, and though it sounds a bit daunting John McEachran said that they can make an impact with people one by one and in the mean time teach people to seek and love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.


Worship events on Sundays include
7:30 a.m. ecumenical service
9 a.m. classes
10 a.m. mid-morning service

Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]