Pastor Stephen Blenkush is surprised daily that he became a pastor. That’s because he grew up as a pastor’s son.

“I had no intention of going into the ministry. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I knew what I would be getting into,” said Blenkush, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Pequot Lakes for the past two years.

“It became apparent that being a parish pastor is not a 9-5 job, nor is the church an oasis free of pain, hurt, anger, whining, entitlement and so on. The church is made up of broken and recovering people, and despite the image the church might like to portray, we bring all that into the church with us.


"I had no intention of going into the ministry. Growing up as a pastor's kid, I knew what I would be getting into."

— Pastor Stephen Blenkush.


“In short, I had few illusions of what being a pastor would involve and I was not sure I was either up to it or interested in that sort of calling,” he said. “So I avoided it. But I must admit there was always a quiet voice within nagging, inviting, challenging and enticing me to ‘come and follow with the intent to lead.’"

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Blenkush ended up taking “a more scenic route” to eventually follow in his father’s footsteps.

Living in Lakeville at the time, Blenkush spent his senior year of high school as an exchange student in Germany, which he called “one of those life-changing experiences.”

He’s a proud graduate with a religion major of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, where he also studied philosophy and history and where both of his parents went, as well as his son.

“For four years after college I was doing everything from working at Dayton’s to working for a movie production crew out of Bloomington,” Blenkush said.

He spent three months traveling Europe by himself, then spent a year in New York at a Lutheran camp in the Koinonia community teaching environmental studies and outdoor education during what he called his "four years of wandering in the wilderness."

“While it was not my intent, it turned out to be a year of discernment which eventually led to applying to attend Luther Seminary in St. Paul,” he said. “Admittedly, there was part of me that hoped they would turn my application down. I thought that would silence the inner voice and I could move on to something else.”

He tried to make his time at seminary as unconventional as possible as well. To that end, he spent a semester in a Catholic seminary in Washington, D.C., interned for a year in Anchorage, Alaska, and during his senior year he spent time with four classmates living in the projects in north Minneapolis.

“It’s good to have the tables turned on you,” he said of his experiences.


"Eventually I had to come to terms with the thought of serving a parish, and I did that with great respect and, admittedly, fear. It was at this point I figured I would take the leap of faith and see where it would take me."

— Pastor Stephen Blenkush.


He was ordained on Sept. 11, 1988.

“Eventually I had to come to terms with the thought of serving a parish, and I did that with great respect and, admittedly, fear. It was at this point I figured I would take the leap of faith and see where it would take me,” Blenkush said.

"It has now been over 30 years and I am still plugging away. And much to my surprise, it has been a mostly joyful experience,” he said. “Yes, all those things I was aware of as a kid growing up in the parsonage have been true, but all of that has been outweighed by the many wonderful people who are trying their best to live up to their own callings and vocations and to do so faithfully.”

Blenkush had his first call to Lutheran churches in Pillager and Cushing for five years. While his focus during seminary was multicultural, Blenkush admits moving to Pillager was one of the biggest cultural jumps he ever made.

While there, he met his wife, Julia, on a blind date set up by mutual friends. They were engaged within a month of their Feb. 14 first date.

The couple moved to Mora, where Julia taught and where Blenkush was pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church for 12 years, and then at Zion Lutheran Church in Milaca for 13 years. They have two children, Katie and Ted.

Two years ago, Blenkush turned 60.

“I realized if I’m going to do one more last hurrah, I have to do it now,” he said.


"It has now been over 30 years and I am still plugging away. And much to my surprise, it has been a mostly joyful experience."

— Pastor Stephen Blenkush.


Julia retired, their kids were grown, so Blenkush interviewed at a variety of places, including St. Louis, Missouri; New England; and Pequot Lakes.

“This came along, and it’s been a great call,” he said of Our Savior’s.

It hasn’t been without its challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged in Blenkush’s second year here. He’d planned to reach out to folks who were on the fringes and disengaged with the church, but instead found himself recording sermons in front of any empty church and learning how to do podcasts. Sermons are still streamed on YouTube and shared to Facebook, and he plans to continue his podcast.

“It reaches a younger demographic,” he said, adding the online sermons also reach people who otherwise wouldn’t attend in-person services here. “People can safely test the waters. If you haven’t been doing church, this is a safe way to see what you can expect. And if it’s out of your comfort zone, go to the next spot.”

What he enjoys most about the area is the community.

“Because I’ve lived in lots of places, the trick is, where you live to make it home, and I do that by getting involved in stuff,” he said.

Blenkush is a member of the Central Lakes Rotary Club, Pequot Lakes Welcome Community Advisory Group, Paul Bunyan Bike Club, and his church helps serve CommUnity Meals in Pine River and Backus.

During his first summer here, Our Savior’s hosted three community meals and three concerts. This year the hope is to host a combined picnic and concert with an eclectic assortment of music for the community.


"I am very appreciative of the wonderful folks here at Our Savior's during all this time of upheaval. They have been supportive, encouraging and patient. They have allowed me to experiment and try new things. And they have demonstrated one of the greatest attributes of the faithful - they have a sense of humor. They are capable of laughing when others have succumbed to fear. And this has been a blessing. And I am grateful."

— Pastor Stephen Blenkush.


In his free time, Blenkush enjoys photography and has some of his work displayed in his office. He enjoys the outdoors, state parks, canoeing, and last summer logged 1,000 miles on his bike.

Regarding his future plans, Blenkush said: “As long as I’m having fun. As long as I feel I’m being helpful and productive and doing what I’m supposed to be doing … we’ll see.”

He added: “I am very appreciative of the wonderful folks here at Our Savior's during all this time of upheaval. They have been supportive, encouraging and patient. They have allowed me to experiment and try new things. And they have demonstrated one of the greatest attributes of the faithful - they have a sense of humor. They are capable of laughing when others have succumbed to fear. And this has been a blessing. And I am grateful.”

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.