Steve Schroeder is up to his elbows in bread dough at his Great Harvest Bakery these days. After 34 years of pastoring Mennonite Brethren churches, including nine years as moderator of the U.S. Conference, Schroeder and his wife, Penni, have moved to Greenwood Village, Colo., to run a bakery.
Why did you move from pastor to baker?
Part of what prompted my thinking is that this is the year I turn 60. My dad died at 62, and I wondered how I would want to spend my life if I only lived as long as my dad. And what would I like to do going into retirement years? The Lord was nudging us to go from a season of leading to a season of learning.
Was there a lot to learn?
Every new owner goes through three solid weeks of nonstop training. But my staff knew what they were doing, too, so I’m learning how to make bread from people in their early 20s.
Do you bake the bread yourself?
Our main baker works five days a week so I get my hands in the dough on her day off. I get up at 2:30 a.m. to bake. By 7 a.m. we all get around the kneading table and talk while we knead the bread by hand. Every day we make around 150 loaves.
Where does your pastoring experience show up?
Shedding the title “pastor” has been freeing to me, but I haven’t lost my pastor’s heart. If my worker or a customer has a problem, I take time to love on them, pray with them, help them.
What have been the challenges?
It’s way harder than being a pastor. If anyone is sick or anything is broken, it’s up to me. Like right now the yogurt machine isn’t working right. Every day there’s something like that and it all lands on us because we are the owners.
What gives you delight?
I enjoy making sure my workers have all the tools and products they need. And I love the chance to be generous. When a homeless man comes in, I can make him the biggest sandwich and give it to him for free. When you own the store, you don’t have to ask anybody.
Interview by Kathy Heinrichs Wiest