The Rev. Dean Pfeffer and his family love the beach. And his congregation at Hope Lutheran Church knows that.
So, to celebrate Pfeffer’s 20th anniversary since his ordination, the church decided to throw him a tropical-themed party, June 8. The fellowship hall was transformed into an oasis — complete with beach balls hanging from the ceiling.
It was a surprise party. But, Pfeffer came ready. He and his wife, Liz, had just returned from a Caribbean cruise; their skin was bronzed by the sun.
“It’s an awesome congregation, awesome people,” Pfeffer said. “There’s lots of churches looking for pastors, but I don’t want to leave.”
Pfeffer has been at Hope Lutheran Church for 18 years. Since then, he’s gotten to know his congregation, too. And although he always had it in the back of his mind he wanted to go into the ministry, he didn’t start that way.
Now a true Southerner, Pfeffer is originally from Long Island, N.Y. He attended Long Island University and received his bachelor’s degree in political science and his master’s degree in public administration.
Pfeffer grew up 15 minutes away from his wife. They even worked at the same department store in college but didn’t meet until a mutual friend introduced them. Hitting it off, they were married in 1983 and had their first child two years later.
After the birth of their daughter, the family moved to Huntsville, Ala., when Pfeffer was transferred by his company, Grumman Airspace. Pfeffer was working as a domestic relocation administrator. Deep down, though, he knew he wanted to serve Christ. His childhood pastor, Otto Fink, had left a lasting impression on his life.
“He modeled a good life,” Pfeffer said.
With the support of his family and friends, Pfeffer finally decided to take the plunge after four years in Alabama. The family put their house up for sale. A couple days later, he got offered the full asking price in cash.
They packed their bags and headed for seminary at Concordia, in St. Louis, Mo. Pfeffer completed his third-year internship in Wisconsin and lived just a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan. Pfeffer’s first job after ordination was at Faith Lutheran Church, in Sebring — whisking him away from the bitter winters.
“It was flat — very different,” Liz said of Florida. “It was so hot. Could we live in this heat?”
After Sebring, the Pfeffers headed to Plant City. Since he’s been pastor, Pfeffer has worked to expand Hope’s reach into the city.
“We’ve really turned it around and looked outside to our community,” Pfeffer said.
Pfeffer is starting a new scholarship based on community outreach for Plant City High School students. The community garden has supplied the United Food Bank of Plant City with hundreds of pounds of fresh produce. A turkey supper has been held for years, with proceeds going to local charities.
“My philosophy is that ministry is supposed to be fun,” Pfeffer said. “David said it in the Psalms.”
Contact Amber Jurgensen at [email protected].