Paul Youngdahl, who served as senior pastor of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis for nearly four decades, has died. He was 73.
Mount Olivet, one of the country's largest Lutheran congregations, confirmed the pastor's death this evening.
"The thing that will be most remembered about him is his tremendous pastoral heart, his love and loyalty to his family, to his congregation, to us who served as staff and pastors here," said Mount Olivet associate pastor Stephen Cornils.
Cornils said Youngdahl had back surgery recently and struggled with complications. The senior pastor had been in Lutsen, Minn. serving at Cathedral of the Pines, a youth summer camp, when he fell ill. He was transported from a hospital near Lutsen to North Memorial Medical Center, where he died of a ruptured aneurysm.
"It was a very mercifully short period of time," Cornils said.
Mary Brown, a former pastor at Mount Olivet who now serves as a pastor in New York, said Youngdahl was passionate about encouraging young people to enter the ministry. She said that commitment drew him to spend his summers at the youth camp.
"His greatest joy was spending summer at Cathedral of the Pines with children teaching them about the faith," Brown said. "He knew that was the heart of the ministry and that was the future of the church, and he was profoundly interested in the future of the church."
Youngdahl spent most of his life at Mount Olivet. As a child, he watched his father, Pastor Reuben Youngdahl, build the congregation to include more than 10,000 members.
But friends said they always thought he would become a famous basketball player, not a minister. The 6-foot 7-inch senior pastor was a star player in high school.
However, Youngdahl told friends he found his true calling in the church. When his father died in 1968, Youngdahl returned to the church to serve as associate pastor. He became senior pastor in 1974.
Cornils said many knew Youngdahl for his attention to detail and his love of sports. The senior pastor made sure everyone in the 13,000-member congregation received a birthday card, Cornils said.
Memorial services will be held on Friday, June 24 at noon and 3 p.m. at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 5025 Knox Ave S. Minneapolis.
Church leaders are meeting this week to discuss the a transition plan.
Youngdahl is survived by his wife and family. His daughter is the church's youth director.