Called to Make a Difference

Pastor, addictions counselor shares views on finances, generosity.

< Back to magazine home

Rev. Kal Rissman wants people to understand the disease of addiction.
This article (PDF) | Current issue (PDF) | Archive

By Donna Hein ‚óŹ Photo by John Bragg

Rev. Kal Rissman was serving a small congregation part-time 40-plus years ago when the door opened to hospital chaplaincy training and then an addiction counselor internship. That led to a career counseling people with numerous addictions: drugs, alcohol, tobacco and food, among others.

Although retired, Rissman continues to serve as part-time pastor to two congregations and raises beef cattle as a hobby. He’s author of Knowledge to Power: Understanding and Overcoming Addiction. A Thrivent member since 2005, Rissman and his wife, Deborah, live in Alexandria, Indiana, and have four adult children and seven grandsons.

What does financial stewardship mean to you?

It means we do a good job using our money in all phases of our lives. It’s being ready to support the generation behind us and the generation ahead of us. From making sure our kids and grandkids have the resources they need for education to helping our parents as they get older.

What’s your best piece of financial wisdom?

I have several of them. We’re blessed by God to be a blessing to others. When we use our wealth and resources to help other people, it always seems like we have enough. We can’t out- give God. It’s also important to get in the habit of saving every month. Even if it’s just a little bit, it adds up. Also, I’d say get people on your side who are good in dealing with finances. We’ve been blessed to have our Thrivent Financial professional, Michelle Walker, on our side. Finally, don’t ask yourself as much what you want, ask yourself more often what you need.

What drives you to make a difference?

I think that all of us who are Christians are called to make a difference in whatever sphere we’re in. As a farmer, it’s to be a good steward of the land. As a pastor, it’s to shepherd my flock. All of us have a calling to be Christians where we are.

What led you to a career in ministry?

I knew I was going to be a Lutheran minister when I was in sixth grade. I enjoyed my confirmation class with our pastor, and his son was my best friend, so I spent a lot of time at the parsonage. I just knew I wanted to do something with eternal significance.

You spent your career counseling people with addictions. What is addiction?

It’s an unhealthy relationship with something or someone. It can be with drugs, alcohol, food or an unhealthy person. At its core, it’s a brain disease. With chemical dependency, there are actual changes in the brain. And like with any other disease, addiction affects ethnic groups differently, and it also runs in families. I want people to understand the disease of addiction the same way they understand the disease of diabetes, cancer, etc.

Can people have an addiction to money?

Absolutely. Money is a seductive, powerful and addictive thing. One-third of the parables Jesus told have to do with money and possessions. Whatever you put your trust in is your god; money shouldn’t become your god. We have to be cautious and wise in how we deal with money—how we earn it, save it and use it.

The member's experiences may not be the same as other members and does not indicate future performance or success.