It may not be surprising that a husband and wife anchor each end of Crosslake as pastors at their respective churches.
What may come as a surprise is that those churches are of different denominations.
Pastor Kristin Oltmann has been the senior pastor at Crosslake Lutheran Church toward the south end of Crosslake for the past five and a half years. Pastor Tony Oltmann became pastor at Crosslake Presbyterian Church in the northern part of the city just over a year ago.
This begs the question: What denomination is their son, Kyle, age 8?
“He goes between the churches. He’s probably the most well known person in Crosslake,” Pastor Tony said as both laughed, adding with a smile that Kyle has 500 grandparents thanks to both churches.
Embracing both denominations, a Presbyterian pastor married the Oltmanns at First Lutheran Church in Brainerd, where Kristin was pastor at the time. Similarly, a Presbyterian pastor baptized Kyle at First Lutheran in Brainerd. That pastor happened to be Tony’s mom, who followed in her son’s footsteps and became a Presbyterian pastor in her second career.
Looking back at their childhoods, both Oltmanns were destined to enter their line of work.
“When I was little, I played school and house like kids do. But I also played church,” Kristin said. “Even when I was young the Holy Spirit was stirring in me.”
As a child, Tony also played church - with his G.I. Joes.
Their childhoods were spent far apart though.
Kristin grew up in Burnsville, graduating from Burnsville High School, St. Olaf College in Northfield and Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Attending summer Bible camps as a camp counselor during her college years helped her feel the call to ministry, she said, and studying world religion in India during her senior year of college solidified her decision to go to seminary.
Her first call was 15 years ago at First Lutheran Church in downtown Brainerd, where she served for just over 10 years before being called to Crosslake Lutheran Church.
Meanwhile, Tony was born in Iowa and moved a lot until the family settled in Oklahoma when he was 13. After graduating from high school in Edmond, Oklahoma, he earned a degree at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and ultimately went to the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa.
“It was something I just knew growing up. I remember sitting in church at a young age and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” he said of working for the church.
Tony felt he’d do something else first, so as a photography major in college he worked as a photojournalist at the city newspaper. After covering both a boating accident and car accident in one day on a holiday weekend, he realized he wanted to help people rather than just document them.
He listened to that call and changed his college major to chemical dependency. He worked at a group home for boys ages 6-12 for one year before going to seminary.
During his second year at seminary, when Kristin was a pastor in Brainerd, the two met in 2006 on eharmony, an online dating website. They talked for an entire summer before meeting in person. When Kristin attended his graduation from seminary, Tony went to breakfast with her parents on the morning of graduation day to talk to them about marriage.
Their marriage brought Tony to the lakes area, where he worked during the week at different places - including as a hospital chaplain and for a foster care program - and did part-time ministry at two different churches on Sundays - Waukon Presbyterian Church and Calvary Presbyterian Church in McGrath. He took Kyle along on those 125-mile roundtrip ventures on Sundays.
“This position became open,” he said of the pastorship at Crosslake Presbyterian, “and was an opportunity for us to be in churches in the same town, which is just rare, especially in a smaller area.”
The family moved from Brainerd to Crosslake in May.
Kristin was no stranger to the lakes area. Growing up, her family vacationed at a resort on the Whitefish Chain every summer before her parents bought a cabin here.
While being pastors is a demanding profession, the Oltmanns said in their case it’s easier because the Presbyterian and Lutheran denominations are closely related.
“It’s nice to be able to talk through church things,” Kristin said.
Last year, their two churches did Bible studies together, which they may do again.
“Our beliefs work for us, and it’s important to each of us that the congregations know we’re not so separate,” Tony said.
As parents, they do try to find time to disconnect from their professions to give time to Kyle. Both Tony and Kristin expressed that Crosslake is a great community and both churches have been good to their family.
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.