Have you ever had a deep calling to do something or become someone?
Being a person of faith is one thing — it’s another to turn your faith into your profession. Brian Suter was a guest on one of my favorite podcast episodes to date. I have known him for almost 10 years now. He is currently the lead pastor at Branch Church having been a pastor for almost 20 years now.
Friends, I’m so excited to share his inspiring journey with you all. He is a joy of a human being, and I know you’ll be encouraged by him and this episode.
We talk a little bit about work-life balance, rhythm and seasonality, how he became a pastor, some of the people who were most influential in his life growing up, and a host of other nuggets as Brian shares some of his practical tips and tools.
Who Is Brian Suter?
Brian has been in church ministry since 2001 with leadership roles in student and adult ministry, teaching, and development. In 2020, he felt called to start a church called “Branch Church.”
Brian has been married to his wife, Courtnay, for 13 years, and they have two children, a son, aged 11, and their daughter, aged eight.
Brian was born in St. Paul, Minnesota growing up in Shore View, about 20 minutes north of St. Paul, and currently lives in Excelsior, Minnesota, a southwest suburb of Minneapolis.
Brian credits his grandfather with being one of the most significant people to make an impact in his life. A World War II fighter pilot, his mom’s father shared his life’s love of aviation and faith with Brian from a young age. While Brian still enjoys aviation, the groundwork with faith cemented his grandfather gave him ultimately led to Brian pursuing ministry.
I usually ask guests, “What’s one piece of advice you tend to give out the most?” but not many are in a position like Brain, who often counsels people through challenging circumstances.
“Lately it has been, ‘Wait just long enough, and you’ll know exactly what you need to do.’” – Brian Suter
That’s definitely the type of sage advice I was expecting from a pastor, and certainly wise words we can all live by.
Brian’s Journey To Become A Pastor
Becoming a pastor is not a usual choice for a career these days. Brian shares how his journey unfolded after the early strong influence from his grandfather.
“It started with a little interest when I was in high school. I had a great youth ministry experience when I was growing up and thought, ‘Man, that would be kind of cool to do in life.’ I started to feel that [deeply] in college and beyond, and then slowly but surely took more steps toward that. After college, I graduated and went into full-time youth ministry at a church here in the Southwest suburbs in Minneapolis. That sense of calling continued to grow and swell until I was around 30 — then it locked in for me.” – Brian Suter
Following the impulses to explore opportunities within the seminary led Brian to interact with people who added fuel to his fire. Brian started experiencing what it was like to be alongside people in their most expressive moments in life — from joyful moments like weddings and marriages to the painful moments when a loved one passes away.
“The sense of … opportunity to serve at both those highs and those lows and everywhere in between [was really meaningful]. And the other thing is — I believe that God gives gifts to people, and when we use those gifts, it feels like there’s extra momentum, something larger than ourselves that is using us in a way that’s bigger than who we are.” – Brian Suter
Just because he’s a pastor doesn’t mean he’s become immune to the frailties of human flaws. Brain feels this in particular with raising young children and the expectation of teaching them and being an example for others, but he has a practical way of dealing with this.
“When I stop and think about it long enough, my humanity and insecurity gets the best of me. I start to think that if I don’t do X, Y, or Z as a parent, fill in the blank, [and] people will view me differently. Then I stop myself, and I think, ‘Who’s this about? Is it about me and people’s perceptions of who I am? Or is it about God and who He wants my kids to become?’ I focus on that and remember Courtnay and I get the incredible privilege of stewarding these two young lives.” – Brian Suter
Brian is fully aware of the potential downfalls of being a pastor as they openly share their loneliness with pastoral leadership. Making hard decisions that disappoint people and the tendency to be viewed on a different level up on a pedestal all contribute to pastors becoming isolated. Thankfully, Brain hasn’t experienced that yet.
“God has blessed us with great people and friendships that have helped us to become who we are and who will continue to help us to become even better than we are today.” – Brian Suter
The intentionality to surround both himself and Courtnay and their kids with other moms and dads and kids that have the same ultimate desires is something I think is really important.
Work-Life Rhythm (Balance)
Most of us have heard about work-life balance, but I’ve been playing with the phrase “work-life rhythm” to explore going through seasons of intense focus followed by seasons of rest, recovery, recharging, and refueling. I borrowed that from Jesus because I notice that there’s a rhythm to what He did. He would pour Himself into preaching and then retreat and oftentimes go into the mountains. Brian shares his approach to understanding and trying to practice balance while having a young family and starting a new church.
“For 17 years, I served at a church called Westwood in Chanhassen and loved it, and in January, I started to pursue full-time planting a brand new church. I’m at home, and Courtnay and I are working together, which has just been a gift. I have found that I am wired to crave a sense of discipline — I like to know what time I’m waking up and then exactly what I’m going to do throughout the entirety of the day.” – Brian Suter
Adapting to the entrepreneurial lifestyle means learning to deal with things like interruptions and scheduling. While there can be great reasons for interruptions, having that rhythm and discipline built into the day’s schedule clearly defines what’s important and what’s trivial every day.
“When I’m able to accomplish those important things, I can rest easier at night. I would say to discipline [my] days [and] to know what it is that [I’m] trying to achieve and accomplish every single day and give some sense of structure, has been a real life hack for me. … One thing we committed to early on was that between the hours of five o’clock to bedtime we just set aside [and] have that time where we’re able to give full, focused attention to our kids and to our family.” – Brian Suter
Having clearly defined boundaries, especially when working from home, helps prevent work from creeping into your family time. It’s just boundaries that are needed, though, and Brian has some nifty tools to inspire productivity.
“I’m finding that I have been energized by the concept of finish lines. In terms of every day, every quarter, every year — what’s the finish line that we’re aiming at? If we don’t have those finish lines, oftentimes we won’t be able to stop [working] and be able to rest and enjoy our life.” – Brian Suter
Why do we work if not to create moments to enjoy life? Vacations are a great idea to inspire your hardworking attention for a season that has the reward of a trip booked already. The weekly and daily finish lines, as Brian calls them, are still a work in progress for him in his new life.
“My rhythms have been changing for 17 years. I [used to] work Sunday through Thursday and my day off was Friday. Now we’re trying to figure out what’s our weekly finish line. Friday when the kids get home from school, we’ll attempt to do some Sabbath activities and stop our work and [be] present to God and to each other. I admit that balance is something that’s elusive — it’s more harmony that we’re trying to approach.” – Brian Suter
What Brian Defines As ‘Rest’
Sometimes I think the words ‘self care’ are thrown in with “rest” erroneously. Understanding that Brian uses finish lines daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly — I wondered what “rest” looks like for him.
“I think rest is a satisfaction in a release in the work that we’ve been able to accomplish and a trust, knowing that all things will work in the direction that we’ve gone. My belief in Christ drives me to understand that God is working for me in ways that I can’t see, so if there are things that are done and are not accomplished and finished, we just know that, ‘Okay, God is doing some things that are bigger than everything that we can see.’ [We can rest] in that sense of trust and just believing that we are going to trust that God is doing something bigger than we can see right now, and he’s putting the pieces together.” – Brian Suter
Brian sees rest as a soul mentality and uses four operative words to help himself accomplish this practice: rest, reflect, pray, and play.
Brian practices rest by making sure no alarms are set on Saturdays to wake up and allow the body to rise when it’s ready. Next, Brian reflects every Saturday morning by building a practice to stop, pause, and take inventory of his relationship with God and evaluate the week. Pray is about submitting his reflections over to God. Play is the final piece of the puzzle that Brian uses as a way to connect with his children more too.
“I’ve just absolutely [enjoyed] playing with my kids [with] this hand-me-down trampoline in our yard. Lately one of the most joyful activities that I’ve done is simply jumping on the trampoline. I always feel like my mental battle is submitting to the fact that, ‘No, there’s nothing more important that I need to do right now than that.’ Playing with [my children] and enjoying them — I always find the end of those days are so much more fulfilling when I’m able to do that.” – Brian Suter
I love that. Don’t just play — play like a kid! The framework offers incredible value to all of us.
Why You Should Listen To This Brian Suter Podcast Episode Right Now…
Guys, this was such a great interview with Brian Suter. It was a great honor to chat with Brian, and having known him for the past 10 years made this particularly special for me.
To conclude our episode, I asked Brian one last question: If he had to give a TED talk on something he wasn’t known for, what topic would it be? This was his answer:
“I’d title it, ‘The Journey of Becoming.’ We are always becoming something that is better than we were before. We always have an opportunity to have a journey of continual improvement in our character and who we are.” – Brian Suter
Considering the journey that Brian has been on thus far and how he’s just started one with his new church, this is a talk I would certainly listen to! If you’d like to learn more about Brain’s church, head over to branchchurchmn.org and connect. I hope you’ve been inspired by this conversation and feel driven to explore more of what excites you!
Thank you so much for reading this post.
Cheers to your success! I’m rooting for you.