Pulpit Shortage and Prayer: UPDATED

April 21st, 2011 Post by

One of the first postings I wrote on BJS had to do with the ongoing pulpit shortage in the LCMS (other Lutherans are suffering from it as well).  It seems like this year’s seminary placement will reflect the same problem again.  I think if I remember it right, the placement of 2008 had something like 32 men unplaced on call night, and the 2010 placement was very similar (I think 2009 placed everyone, correct me if I am wrong).  This year may even be worse.

On top of this, there are still a number of ordained men (larger number than the graduating sem class) who do not posses a call right now as well.  These men have various reasons why they have no call, some for good reason (example of resigning due to medical or family concerns) and some for not so good reasons (forced out by illegitimate congregational removal or coerced out by threats from others).

Another contributing factor to men in the field without calls  are the cuts in staff at various organizations which has created more ordained men who have a need for a call.  The recent postings about the seminary counselors should suffice for an example.

Many of these men, either from the seminary or from the field, have families that they are trying to support.  They wait anxiously for that day when another call may come.  For many at the seminary, these next two weeks will be filled with concerns over the future.  With that in mind, I would suggest that BJS readers commit these people in their prayers over the next weeks:

Seminary Graduates waiting on their placement

Seminary Graduates who may have to make things work in situations not normally given to seminary graduates (worker-priests and so forth)

Families of Seminary graduates (especially wives)

Congregations that are struggling with issuing a call

Ordained men who wait for another call while in the field

Families of ordained men who wait for another call while in the field

District Presidents who are struggling with all sorts of call issues (besides the groups mentioned above, there are men who are serving in pulpits who have legitimate reasons for needing another call)

The Placement Committee, involving both members of the Council of Presidents and the Seminary Placement Directors

Admissions staff and prospective seminarians (whose numbers are bound to decrease with the pulpit shortage)

Faithful members of congregations just at the level of being able to support their pastors, that as the economy worsens they would still see fit to give as they are able to support their pastor

If there are others which I have forgotten about, please add them in comments below.

Stay tuned for more information about placement, and if the congregation you belong to currently supports a seminarian, you may want to consider extending additional support to them if they do not receive a call (student loan payments are usually due 6 months after graduation).  If your congregation doesn’t presently support a seminarian, please consider it.

UPDATE:  It sounds like right now almost all of the men at seminary have been placed.  Certainly an opportunity to thank God, the congregations involved, and our placement committees.  The other men out there still could use our prayers and support.

 






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  1. Joshua Woelmer
    April 22nd, 2011 at 01:16 | #1

    I am a seminarian at CTS, and we were told last week by Prof. Harvala, our representative on the call committee, that there were a total of 14 unplaced men left needing calls. This is not 14 just from our seminary, but 14 between both seminaries. Prof. Harvala explained that it is looking like 7 men from each. This number may have decreased since I last talked with him. Please pray for these 14 men to be placed, even if it may be within a month or two after call night. And, while the situation is not as bad as years previous, everyone from those previous years has gotten placed. Praise God that he has congregations for these pastors!

    JW

  2. Carl Vehse
    April 22nd, 2011 at 08:11 | #2

    “…the ongoing pulpit shortage…”

    I haven’t seen data on how many Missouri Synod congregations do not have pulpits in their churches. However, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the number of Missouri Synod congregations has been flat for at least a quarter century, while the total membership has declined over that time. ARDA also shows the number of Missouri Synod clergy has continued to increase. Those clergy either have a divine call as pastor to one of the congregations, are working in a synod/district position, or are retired (and possible working part-time in a congregation or synod position).

    Yet each seminary must graduate some mimimum number of seminarians each year in order to financially maintain the seminary, faculty, and staff. It is a Catch-22, the effects of which are now being seen. Furthermore, the seminaries and the Concordia University System have also been graduating DCEs, deaconesses, and other church workers who have been doing some (or more) of the work previously done by pastors in their congregations. Thus congregations that are growing and may have considered calling two pastors can fill their needs with other certified church workers supporting a single called pastor.

  3. Richard Lewer
    April 22nd, 2011 at 09:28 | #3

    Then there are the pastors whose congregations have closed or reduced staff and are on CRM and forgotten about by the district presidents.

  4. April 22nd, 2011 at 09:39 | #4

    No reason why every congregation in Synod cannot adopt at least one seminarian from each seminary thus allowing everyone to graduate debt free. No reason why we cannot place new graduates in vacancies or else as church planters in places where there is little or no LCMS presence. No reason except a lack of faith, hope and love. Go ahead, call me a dreamer:)

  5. Martin R. Noland
    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:09 | #5

    Dear Pastor Scheer,

    Thank you for writing a very helpful post for all concerned. It shows sensitivity to those who are trying to place candidates (seminaries, placement officers, District Presidents), congregations struggling to make budgets, as well as all church-workers affected by the recession. Prayers for all concerned is just the right way, the Christian way, to approach this matter.

    Regarding the recession, you state “as the economy worsens.” I am not a financial prognosticator, nor do I have investments in the markets that cause me to check up on things several times a day, like some folks. But I have noticed that the first quarter activity report for loadings for Class One railroads is significantly up. That indicates an upswing in the sale of commodities and the manufacture of durable goods, which will affect both equity and corporate bond markets. New York magazine, April 18, 20011, reports on how Wall Street is back to normal (at least those who have survived). Of course, state and federal budgets are in disarray, and the housing market is depressed due to excess foreclosures and short sales. Looking at all these domestic factors, my sense of things is that we are at the bottom of the recession and things will NOT get worse. Of course, I could be wrong, but the indicators do not say “getting worse.”

    I do hope and pray that all candidates get placed by Call Date; and that those congregations who have not been successful in calling from the “field” consider calling a candidate, which is a “sure deal.”

    Yours in christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. Pastor Joshua Scheer
    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:32 | #6

    @Martin R. Noland #5
    Martin,
    I am not quite sure of your economic forecast, but I hope that you are right. $4 a gallon gas seems to make me skeptical.

    Norm let me know that placement is almost completed for all seminarians, and I pray he is right, I have updated my post accordingly.

  7. #4 Kitty
    April 22nd, 2011 at 12:15 | #7

    @Carl Vehse #2

    I haven’t seen data on how many Missouri Synod congregations do not have pulpits in their churches. However, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the number of Missouri Synod congregations has been flat for at least a quarter century, while the total membership has declined over that time. ARDA also shows the number of Missouri Synod clergy has continued to increase.

    Current figures from LCMS At A Glance suggests that there are 765 congregations without a pastor. That is to say there are 6,169 congregations while only 5,404 clergy serve in a parish.

  8. April 22nd, 2011 at 12:18 | #8

    As I was talking about this concern with a brother pastor some time ago, he brought up the theory that, because of the economy, older pastors who would be taking retirement at this time are not, simply because they can’t make it financially work for them at this moment (again, because the economy took a massive hit on investment funds, retirement accounts, etc.). Definitely a factor in these challenging times … yet, as we all know, God is in control, and He conducts all things for the good of those who love Him.

  9. Sojourner
    April 22nd, 2011 at 12:35 | #9

    @Richard Lewer #3

    Richard Lewer :
    Then there are the pastors whose congregations have closed or reduced staff and are on CRM and forgotten about by the district presidents.

    This is an unfortunate truth. There are far too many good confessional men in this situation.

  10. Carl Vehse
    April 22nd, 2011 at 13:03 | #10

    #7: Current figures from LCMS At A Glance suggests that there are 765 congregations without a pastor.

    This is comparable to data from an April, 2010 Reporter article. At that time there were 224 congregations calling a full-time pastor, 181 congregations without a pastor that were temporarily in a non-calling status, and 375 congregations in a permanent non-calling status for a total of 780 congregations without at least one called pastor.

  11. Mrs. Hume
    April 22nd, 2011 at 14:43 | #11

    “ARDA also shows the number of Missouri Synod clergy has continued to increase.”

    Okay, but what is the age distribution? If many are older and nearing retirement, then perhaps this current situation is something of a wrinkle that will iron itself out just as a matter of course. Is the age distribution known? I am guessing someone knows. We don’t want to be in the reverse situation in 10 years after a spell of increased retirements.

  12. Carl Vehse
    April 22nd, 2011 at 16:37 | #12

    According to God’s potters: pastoral leadership and the shaping of congregations (Jackson W. Carroll, Becky R. McMillan, 2006, p. 73, Figure 3.2), the age distribution for conservative Protestant clergy was: 29% under 45, 23% 45-50, 26% 51-60, and 22% >60.

    By comparison, mainline Protestant percentages were 27%, 21%, 38%, and 15% respectively, while the Romanist clergy was 16%, 23%, 33%, and 37% respectively.

  13. Rev. James Knuth
    April 22nd, 2011 at 19:00 | #13

    During the past 50 years many of our Districts have used creative
    thinking to construct dual parishes. This is a healthy way to
    keep parishes alive with the potential down the road to revert
    to independent status and eliminate the dual parish.
    I have seen dual parishes eliminated because of tremendous
    outreach efforts by young pastors. May the Lord bless our
    parishes that want to still alive and not close down.

  14. Rev. Loren Zell
    April 24th, 2011 at 20:14 | #14

    Just to add a little info.

    Many of the vacant congregations that are not calling are being served by a retired pastor or a pastor from another local cong.

    There is no reason to expect the shortage of pulpits will not continue. The LCMS is shrinking in total membership, baptisms and confirmations, both adult and junior, are down. Add to that the results of a recent survey in the LCMS. Almost 90% of pastors nearing retirement are planning to continue to serve in some capacity in their office after retirement. This is already going on. Its not hard to take an Lutheran Annual, look at about 10 pages of the directory of those on the ordained clergy roster and find quite a few men still serving past 65. We have one church in our area being served by a pastor who is almost 80 and another one that was, until recently, being served by a 75 year old pastor.

  15. April 24th, 2011 at 22:41 | #15

    “These men have various reasons why they have no call, some for good reason (example of resigning due to medical or family concerns) and some for not so good reasons (forced out by illegitimate congregational removal or coerced out by threats from others).”

    I there a way that one could find out more about this, some sort of attribution or wiki? A wiki where one could look up this sort of thing would be good.

  16. helen
    April 27th, 2011 at 14:02 | #16

    @Matthew Pancake #15
    Is there a way that one could find out more about this, some sort of attribution or wiki? A wiki where one could look up this sort of thing would be good.

    Matthew:
    Pastors aren’t supposed to be “forced out of their calls by illegitimate congregational removal or coerced out by threats” so you can bet that you will not get numbers by writing the district office. One of the DP’s jobs is to defend Pastors in such a situation and ‘educate’ the congregation, failing which, it should be a long cold day in [Houston] before they got another pastor.

    Somehow, it doesn’t seem to work that way in the “new” Missouri (unless a “praise in polo shirt and khakis” preacher is threatened. Then headquarters can bestir itself. :(

    [Luther described a usurper as "no better than a thief or a murderer, because he takes another man's living". That doesn't worry the "new" missouri/district office either.]

    Since even ‘fairminded’ confessionals, who should know better by now, will assume that the removed man “must have done something wrong”, Candidates Active aren’t likely to volunteer their names for a [black] list such as you propose.

    [warning:sarcasm]
    God forbid that we should consider that a Voters’ Assembly might have erred. Popes and councils, no doubt, but not the “supreme” voters!
    [sarcasm mode off]

  17. Michael
    May 3rd, 2011 at 10:44 | #17

    My Pastor said their was 60 last night.

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