Mission and Purpose

The mission of Higher Things® is to assist parents, pastors, and congregations in cultivating a distinctly Lutheran identity among their youth and young adults.

To fulfill this mission, Higher Things:

  • Catechizes youth through instruction in Christian doctrine and life from the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions;
  • Publishes literature, curricula, resource materials, and articles using print media and electronic media;
  • Organizes regional conferences, local retreats, and other events;
  • Encourages youth to consider vocations of service in the church;
  • Resources parents in nurturing and catechizing their children;
  • Equips youth to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people;
  • Equips church workers and youth leaders for confessional Lutheran youth ministry;
  • Encourages youth to consider vocations of service in the church.

Higher Things® is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Board of Directors

Higher Things® is an organization of pastors, teachers and laity that seek to teach the faith to the youth of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.


Rev. George Borghardt
Bossier City, LA

George Borghardt graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Classics and then received a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Pastor Borghardt is the Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bossier City, LA. Pastor Borghardt is a fan of Louisiana State University, the New Orleans Saints, and the New York Mets. He and his wife have three children-George, Thomas, and Sophia.


Rev. Duane Bamsch
Terra Bella, CA

Pastor Duane Bamsch is a born-and-bred Texan who thoroughly enjoys living in California, where he is pastor to the people of God at Zion Lutheran Church and School in Terra Bella. He has been married to his wife Stephanie since 1991 and has two children, Emma (17) and Andrew (15). Pastor Bamsch serves as Vice President of Higher Things and has been a member of the HT Board of Directors since 2015.


Rev. Joel Fritsche
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Rev. Joel Fritsche was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Concordia University Nebraska in 1996 with a Bachelor’s Degree in music. He graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 2000. He has served parishes in Wyoming, Texas, and Illinois as well as on staff at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. As a missionary in the Dominican Republic since 2015, Pastor Fritsche serves as a church planter as well as Director of Concordia Seminary the Reformer, teaching courses in Greek and Hebrew. He is married to Clarion and has three boys adopted from Russia (Viktor, Sergei and Andrei). Pastor Fritsche has served on the Board of Directors for Higher Things since 2007.


Anthony Pellegrini

Marysville, WA

Anthony Pellegrini resides in Marysville, Washington Where he and his wife, Kim run a growing small business. In 2016, Mr. Pellegrini left a career at Boeing to focus on his business. He has spent over 20 years in Manufacturing Management and Operations. His education background is in Manufacturing Technology (AA and ATA), planning and design.

Mr. Pellegrini and his wife have eight children and 2 grandsons. In his free time he likes to travel, ski, hike, ride dirt bikes, play the drums, and might even pick up a book now and then.

Mr. Pellegrini is a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Marysville, WA. He is his congregation’s president, youth leader, and a Sunday school teacher.


Rev. Dr. Carl Fickenscher

Fort Wayne, IN

The Reverend Dr. Carl C. Fickenscher II is Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, teaching primarily in the area of homiletics. He is also Chairman of the Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department, and Director of Pastoral Formation Programs.

Dr. Fickenscher received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science (1976) and a Master of Business Administration (1978) from Southern Methodist University. After working in business and politics, he earned his Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in May 1984. Dr. Fickenscher pursued his doctoral degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, receiving the PhD in Homiletics from that institution in May 1996, making him the first in the LCMS to hold a PhD in this field.

Dr. Fickenscher is Editor of Concordia Pulpit Resources, the synod’s preaching journal published by Concordia Publishing House, and Chairman of the LCMS Preach the Word Project, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. He has published numerous articles, essays, sermons, and curricular pieces, receiving an award from Concordia Historical Institute in 2012 for a series of articles on the preaching of C. F. W. Walther, has edited CPH’s Faith Alive Bible (a study Bible for youth), and was a theological consultant on the current CPH Sunday school curriculum Growing in Christ.

Pastor Fickenscher has served congregations in Michigan and Texas, and has been at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne since 1999.

Dr. Fickenscher and his wife, Claire, have three children and one grandchild.


Becky Clausen

Beverly Hills, CA

Becky Clausen, her husband James, and their two children call southern California home. The daughter of an LCMS pastor, Becky is a life-long Lutheran. She worships at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Beverly Hills where she and her husband both serve on the church board.

After receiving her Bachelors in Recreation and Leisure Studies from CSULB, Becky has put her talents to use running special events for the City of Los Angeles Recreations and Parks, and has served as an Athletic Director and teacher. Currently, she runs her own studio of strength and one day a week teaches writing classes to students 2nd-12th grade. In her leisure time, she studies American Tang Soo Do having earned her 3rd Dan Black Belt and is a blue belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.


Rev. Chris Rosebrough

Oslo, MN

Pastor of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church (TAALC), Oslo, Minnesota. Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University, Irvine in Religious Studies and Biblical Languages, Masters of Business Administration from Pepperdine University and Masters of Theology from American Lutheran Theological Seminary. Founder and Captain of Pirate Christian Media, Host of Fighting for the Faith, a daily comparative theology and apologetics podcast. Husband of Barbara and father of Joshua, Christina and Faith.


Kurt Winrich

San Clemente, CA

Kurt Winirch is CO-CEO and a Portfolio Manager for WCM Investment Management in Laguna Beach, CA. WCM provides innovative, equity investment advisory services for a variety of clients, including corporations, private individuals, public and private funds, Taft-Hartley plans, endowments, and foundations.

Kurt has a BA from Westmont College, and a BS and MS in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Kurt is married to the love of his life, Debi. They have three children-Kris, Kelly, and Kevin, and two granddaughters, Presley Rose and Charlie June.

Kurt and Debi have been members of Faith Lutheran Church in Capistrano Beach, CA (Faith Capo) since the mid-nineties. They have taught high school Sunday School since 2007 with an emphasis on apologetics and the truth of Christianity. Their hope is that none of their students will ever find themselves asking, about some challenge to Christianity, “why didn’t my church tell me about that?”

Kurt and Debi are founding board members of 1517. The Legacy Project. Today 1517. is a publishing house, Podcast network, collection of conferences, blogs, and an on-line academy.

His many hobbies include wine, collecting, music, audio electronics, theology, sports cars, and travel.


Deaconess Ellie Corrow

St. Louis, MO

Ellie lives in Ballwin, Missouri with her son, Andrew, three dogs, and two cats.

She serves as the Missionary Care Coordinator for the LCMS Office of International Mission, providing support to 126 missionary families worldwide, and holds two MA’s from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in church history and theology, and an MA in Deaconess Studies from Concordia Theological Seminary.

In her spare time Ellie enjoys her patio, single malt scotch, and laughing with friends—sometimes all at the same time.


The executives are roll-up-your-sleeves action types who oversee and coordinate the various operations that make up Higher Things®: Magazine, Web, Conferences, and Leadership Development and Training. They, and the talented people who work with them, are the folks who make Higher Things® happen.


Sandra Madden
Conference Executive and Deputy
Plano, TX

Sandra has been involved with Higher Things since 2001 when she was first elected to the Board of Directors. From 2001‐2010 she served as the Secretary of the Board. In 2007, the first year HT began having multiple conferences each summer, she coordinated her first HT conference as a part‐time volunteer under the Conference Executive (George Borghardt). In 2010, Sandra resigned from the Board of Directors to become the full‐time Conference Coordinator. When Pastor Borghardt was elected as President of HT in 2013, she became the Conference Executive and was instructed by the Board to train staff and delegate coordination and planning to them. In 2016, Sandra was first elected by her peers to serve as the Deputy Executive for the Executive Council. Sandra graduated from Valparaiso University in 1994 with a B.A. in Theology, and Luther Seminary in 2000 with an M.A. in Christian History. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Missiology from Concordia Theological Seminary. She’s also finishing up her 3rd and final term on the Board of Regents for Concordia University—Irvine, elected to that position by the Synod in convention. Sandra also served on the LCMS Task Force on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse, writing a prayer book for victims and survivors of abuse as well as speaking frequently on the subject to groups of pastors and church workers around the country.


  • Crysten Sanchez Conference Coordinator
  • Cyndy Bishop Conference Registrar
  • Tana McKenna Logistics Assistant/Retreat Coordinator

Connie Brammeier
Business Executive
Kansas City, MO

Connie was hired as the Business Executive for Higher Things in 2008 and thoroughly enjoys working for the Higher Things organization. She coordinates the recording of receipts and expenditures for the organization, compiles financial statements, files tax returns, coordinates payroll, etc. She also enjoys volunteering with her husband, Tim, to help at conferences in the transportation area. In her “day job”, Connie is the Controller for The Salvation Army – Kansas and Western Missouri Division. She just celebrated her 30th employment anniversary with them. Tim and Connie are members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Kearney, MO; she serves on their Board of Directors, currently in dual roles as Youth Director and Treasurer. They began taking the Trinity youth group to Higher Things Conferences in Duluth in 2002. Trinity has had a group at the conferences every year since then.


  • Emily Goodroad Business Assistant

Erica Jacoby
Development Executive
Plymouth, MN

Erica has a B.A. in International Economics and Spanish from Valparaiso University and M.A. in Education from the University of St. Thomas. She works as a public high school Spanish teacher in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Erica has a teenage son and a daughter and got involved in Higher Things because of them. She also has three standard poodles to help round out the circus that she calls home. Erica has spent time as a church youth leader and chaperone to Higher Things conferences. She worked as the entertainment coordinator at several summer conferences before becoming the Development Executive.


  • Zachary Moore Development Assistant

Patrick Sturdivant
Marketing Executive
Conroe, TX

Patrick Sturdivant attended his first Higher Things conference in 2004 in Seattle, WA, and every year thereafter until CCVing in 2009. He has worked for Higher Things since 2010 and has attended over 30 conferences. His roles have included Conference Coordinator (Here I Stand 2017–San Antonio, TX), Event Coordinator, Assistant Registrar, and Logistics Coordinator. He has coordinated more than 45 Higher Things Retreats since 2014. Patrick received his Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Houston in 2013. Patrick works for a family entertainment center in Houston, Texas for his “day job”. He and his wife, Amanda, are members of Zion Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas.


  • Kelsey Lunsford Social Media Manager

Rev. Aaron Fenker
Media Executive
Bremen, KS

Aaron and his wife Sarah were married in August 2013. They have 3 children. Aaron was ordained in June 2013 and served Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bossier City, LA as Associate Pastor until July 2015. Since July 2015, Aaron has served Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Bremen, KS as sole pastor; those two churches are part of an association that operates Good Shepherd Lutheran School in Marysville, KS. Aaron attended Concordia University Chicago and graduated in 2007 with a degree in Theological Languages. He earned his Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN in 2012. During the 2012‐2013 school year, he completed his Masters of Sacred Theology course work at Concordia Theological Seminary. Aaron has served as the Higher Things Media Executive since August 2016.


  • Katie Hill Managing Editor
  • Rev. Donavon Riley Online Content Manager
  • Rev. Chris Gillespie AV Manager
  • Ryan Morales Tech Manager
  • Rev. Rene Castillero Audio Editor
  • Kay Maiwald Reflections Editor