Because he was born April 19, 1923, and reached retirement age in the last century, he is best known to America’s senior church leaders. Schaller outlived many of those whom he most influenced, dying on March 18, 2015, at the age of 91.
Lyle certainly was a major influence in my life and ministry. And a long time personal friend. When he was at the peak of his career we led conferences together, co-authored an audiobook for Abingdon Press (The Best Is Yet to Come: For Churches Ready To Change) and made the dedication pages of each others’ books. After his retirement, we exchanged letters (he wasn’t much into computers) and every year Charleen and I went to visit Lyle and Agnes in their Naperville, Illinois, and Oklahoma City homes. We wanted them to know that they were important to us long after the spotlight of fame moved to others on different stages.
The road to national influence started in Lime Ridge, Wisconsin, where Lyle was the youngest child of dairy farmers. He married Agnes Woods Peterson in 1946—she became his lifelong partner, typist, editor, and stay-at-home wife while he consulted with thousands of churches across the nation. His journey to church consulting and writing began in the planning office of the City of Madison, Wisconsin’s capital. His understanding of demographics and analysis of urban structures gave him a sociologist’s view of human interaction that he brought to churches and denominations.
The switch from urban planning to parish ministry came in his decision to enroll at Garrett Theological Seminary on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In keeping with his Methodist roots and education, he was ordained and became the pastor ...1