Financial problems, by Mollie

While Synod, Inc. highlights how much money it has raised through it’s Ablaze! fundraising arm (somehow neglecting to mention that they’ve only netted a few million after all the consultants and other expenses were paid), here’s some sad news out of the St. Louis seminary:

Faced with an expected $4 million operating deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, and a significant decrease in expected income for the following fiscal year, the Board has authorized trimming payroll expenditures by some 20%.

Early retirements are being offered. Salaries have been frozen. The President and VPs took pay cuts. Maintenance work is on hold. Other options considered — but rejected — were increased tuition charges, deficit spending, and cutting further into the value of the Seminary’s endowment.

It’s a tough economic environment and all institutions are deciding how to proceed. Please keep the seminary and its faculty and students in your prayers.


Financial problems, by Mollie — 34 Comments

  1. The seminary has fallen prey to the same problem that faces Synod, Inc. It has become more corporate, more “business-like” and less like “church”. They have outsourced maintenance, and hired more upper-level staff. On top of that, enrollment is down, giving is down and the capital campaign isn’t producing like they thought it would. In the mean time they continue to promote SMPP and other programs that actually take students away from the resident programs. Do pray that the Lord of the Church would continue to provide pastors for His church and that all of our administrations learn that Church is Church and the corporate model just doesn’t work.

  2. Is this a coincidence? Ablaze! reports $15m raised (with only $5m cleared after fundraisers and consultants took their cut), while Concordia Seminary reports severe shortfalls.

    Ablaze! is cutting into the funding for our Seminaries. And, Ablaze! is mis-spending the the money it does raise.

    I ask, how many pastors could be trained for the $10m Ablaze! has squandered on fundraisers and consultants?

    I thought Ablaze! was supposed to be about sending workers into the harvest field.


  3. So there is NO possibility that this could somehow be related to the general state of the nation’s economy?

  4. $100M could pay the full tuition for 4000 students.

    What was it I heard some radio host say during a symposium regarding the consultants??

  5. Hang ’em. If what Rev. Kumm says is true, perhaps the best thing to do is let it go under. From his description it sounds like they don’t know what they’re doing.


  6. Why doesn’t all the Ablaze money go to funding the seminaries and church work majors at the Concordias? Just an idea.

  7. I’m a seminarian at Ft. Wayne and it frustrates me to no end when I see the Reporter next to my mailbox with headlines on this stuff. I have had more than a few friends (good men) who have had to quit and go home because they can’t afford to pay for classes. We shouldn’t have to choose between books for class and food for our family, but that’s sometimes the reality. And the ones who do make it, more often than not have tens of thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt (including myself). Millions of dollars would put a big dent in the load we carry while providing the mission field with well-trained men (imagine that) wanting nothing more than to lead God’s people with integrity and wisdom. Consultants get to line their pockets while I have to turn mine out.

  8. I have argued for a long time that the synod’s approach to the seminaries is totally wrong. If the intent of the seminary is to train pastors for the ministry, then that is what they should concentrate on. That means that once a man is accepted as a candidate for the ministry, the entire staff works to give him the training that he needs. And the total cost should be born by the synod as the cost of training. Instead, the seminaries are run like a “Grad School” and too much attention is placed on accreditation. And the candidates, even though they are hoped to be the future pastors of the church, are left to sink or swim on their own.

    But what could one expect if the seminaries take as their role model, LCMS Inc?

  9. Maybe we need to re-learn the vital truth that the “mission field” is first and foremost in the local parish and that the local pastor is our children’s first “missionary” and our old folks’ last “missionary.” Then maybe we would not resent having properly trained and fairly paid pastors in parishes. It is also true that each congregation is, increasingly in our post-modern post-Christian culture, truly a “mission outpost.” May the Lord grant wisdom to those in leadership to explore proper ways to “man the mission” and to fund the education of those who will serve immortal souls with the life-giving Gospel. You sem students, please try to hang in there — with some of the changes in the “how” of training future pastors, I think there will be a greater and greater need for you who have had solid seminary training to be in places where you can be of wonderful influence upon souls.

  10. Pay speaking fees for Emergents like Leonard Sweet and Dan Kimball to talk about how to be relevant to the world in the name of growth…

    Pay consulting fees for Church Growth gurus to tell you what to do to look “cool” and how to be “seeker sensitive” in the name of growth…

    Don’t publish papers against either the Emergent Church and the Church Growth movement and lose money…


  11. I would note that lots of colleges across the country are also having financial difficulty during this recession. With job losses, fewer students can afford to pay list price. Endowment values have fallen, and so has new giving.

    I would be curious to know how income has fallen at the seminary. If
    total revenues = (# of students) * (average tuition) + other
    is the decrease in # of students, or the amount they want to pay, or on the non-tuition income?

  12. I think it would be wise to heed the words of Dr. Pieper (given to us through Rev. Harrison):

    Why Should we Very Faithfully Provide for Our Synodical Teaching Institutions?
    Sermon by Dr. Franz Pieper

    God is very merciful. God is merciful in all his works. God gives food to all flesh and fodder to cattle. He also takes to heart the physical misery of mankind. Thus when the Son of God walked upon the earth he also eliminated physical misery. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and brought the dead to life. In our text it says that he not only “taught in their schools and preached the gospel of the kingdom,” but it adds, “and he healed every disease and every affliction” among the people. This mindset is also given to the Christian. In general Christians take on the physical misery of their brothers [in the faith] and their neighbors. Wherever Christians encounter physical need, they take it to heart and they take pains to alleviate this need as much as they can. But the Christian knows that the physical need of man is not the greatest need of man. He knows that the mercy of the Christian would be a poor mercy in deed if it would stop after it had addressed the physical need. Indeed, it is the case that if Christians were to achieve the alleviation of all physical need on earth, if they achieved the feeding of all the hungry, the clothing of all the naked, and find homes for all the abandoned, healing all the sick and making all the poor rich, but cease with their mercy at this point, they would they be very imprudent, unmerciful and pitiless. The Lord said: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” [Matthew 16:26] Every person must suffer damage to his soul, that means, every person must be lost eternally in hell, who does not have and believe the gospel of Christ the crucified. If we therefore want to show true mercy to the world and to those around us, doing the most important work of Christian mercy, then we must educate and send out teachers of the gospel. That is also taught in our text. Our text reports that while Christ taught he also healed all sorts of illness among the people. But when he sums up the desperate situation of the people and places it before our eyes he does not say, “Pray to the Lord for doctors.” He says rather, “Pray to the Lord that he send workers,” that is, teachers and preachers, “into his harvest.” It is not that the Christian should not be merciful also over against physical need, but rather because he desires to emphasize that they do the most important work of Christian mercy in the preparation and sending out of teachers of the gospel. (Translated by MCH)

  13. Is this top down role modeling from Synod, Inc., or is this bottom up emulation from our parish schools? I have never been in favor of tuition driven schools in the church. The tuition driven model negates the understanding that these schools are part of the mission of the church. When you charge tuition for your first grader to learn about Jesus, why not charge your seminarian, too? What is next? Selling tickets to Sunday worship? A cover charge for the Lord’s Supper?

    –The Padre

  14. “Every prince, nobleman and city should boldly forbid their subjects to pay the annates to Rome and should abolish them entirely;[1] for the pope has broken the compact and made the annates a robbery, to the injury and shame of the whole German nation. He gives them to his friends, sells them for large amounts of money, and uses them to endow offices. He has thus lost his right to them, and deserves punishment.”

    Martin Luther, “Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate (1520)”, published a year before Luther’s excommunication in 1521 (Decet Romanum Pontificem) by the Roman Pope.

  15. Pastor Frahm: Just because I think it’s so neet to read through it, and because you mentioned it, Luther’s Excommunication (Decet Romanum Pontificem) is on the web at: It is one of the “source” documents on the Book of Concord site that help people to understand the context of the times of the development of the Book of Concord.

  16. When talking about Ablaze money cutting into the money for our seminaries? Synod hasn’t been funding our seminaries for years! Just a few short years ago, funds from Synod were less than $200K a year against a $20 million budget. Today, that amount is somewhere around $700K, if I heard right. Ablaze isn’t “cuting into” money for the Sem. Synod has intentionally not funded the seminaries for years. I’m not sure why this is such a big surprise for everyone. Just because Synod was originally begun for the training of pastors and teachers doesn’t mean they’ll actually “fund” same! (sarcasm intended!)

  17. I can see funding for ablaze competing with funding for the seminaries. While it’s true that the synod has not supported the seminaries for many years, their source of funds is the same. If there is only so much money available, and part of it is diverted to ablaze, then the seminaries are necessarily affected.

  18. Mollie, et al,

    Let’s think about this very carefully. Below is article III of the synod’s constitution. Does synod do any of these things any more? They certainly do less of 3 than they ever have. Do they mean LCMS World Relief here in 4? I know MoSyn, Inc. has engaged in funny accounting with donor’s money, like keeping the interest on unspent funds. Anyone know of any nurture (5) your elementary school has received from MoSyn, Inc.? There is quite a bit in here about providing and resourcing. Does CPH get a big grant of money from MoSyn, Inc. every year? Number 8. I have yet to be provided with evangelical counsel and care from MoSyn, Inc. Number 9. Is there some superfund insurance out there that protects me in the performance of my duties? Number 10. does MoSyn, Inc. fund any part of my worker benefit plan?

    I just don’t get it. MoSyn, Inc. does not fund missionaries. They don’t fund CPH (to my knowledge). They don’t fund the seminaries and colleges. They don’t fund the WBP. How can I in good conscience continue to ask my congregation to financially support an entity which seeks only it’s own existence and has ceased to do any of the objectives it was established to do? Membership fees for the use of this franchise name are not worth it.

    Article III Objectives
    The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall—

    1. Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor. 1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy;

    2. Strengthen congregations and their members in giving bold witness by word and deed to the love and work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and extend that Gospel witness into all the world;

    3. Recruit and train pastors, teachers, and other professional church workers and provide opportunity for their continuing growth;

    4. Provide opportunities through which its members may express their Christian concern, love, and compassion in meeting human needs;

    5. Aid congregations to develop processes of thorough Christian education and nurture and to establish agencies of Christian education such as elementary and secondary schools and to support synodical colleges, universities, and seminaries;

    6. Aid congregations by providing a variety of resources and opportunities for recognizing, promoting, expressing, conserving, and defending their confessional unity in the true faith;

    7. Encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith;

    8. Provide evangelical supervision, counsel, and care for pastors, teachers, and other professional church workers of the Synod in the performance of their official duties;

    9. Provide protection for congregations, pastors, teachers, and other church workers in the performance of their official duties and the maintenance of their rights;

    10. Aid in providing for the welfare of pastors, teachers, and other church workers, and their families in the event of illness, disability, retirement, special need, or death.

  19. When the “laying off” is over, the “dust bunnies” will have a job, and real Lutheranism will be weakened that much more in lcms inc.
    If you don’t want a Lutheran church (and Jerry fairly obviously doesn’t) you don’t want faithful seminary faculty. Or students.

    Licensed “lay ministers” will do very well for his purposes.

    Heard a description of an llm’s job the other day: he can preach, baptize, administer the Supper…but he cannot pronounce Absolution.
    Can anyone explain that ‘line in the sand’?

  20. Weaken KFUO…sell it off. Weaken the seminary…sell it off. Sounds like a pattern is coming together.

    What’s the difference? Why do we really need two seminaries anyway?

  21. “I would note that lots of colleges across the country are also having financial difficulty during this recession. With job losses, fewer students can afford to pay list price. Endowment values have fallen, and so has new giving….” –visiting Anglican

    I work for a University. The upper administration has been told their salaries will be frozen this year.
    However they are doing their best to maintain faculty salaries,(and may even raise them) on the grounds that these are the most important people to the university’s program.
    Anybody see that happening in lcms inc.?

    We need two seminaries so that at least one will be Lutheran at any given time. At least, that is our prayer!
    [Whenever they have talked about closing a seminary, they were talking about the wrong one, IMHO.]

  22. Every time a pitch is made for “lay ministry,” we’re reminded that there is a shortage of pastors in the church. This is one of the main excuses for these liberal “reforms.”

    So wouldn’t the obvious answer be to build up the seminaries and help eligible men pay the high tuition?

  23. The St. Louis seminary has a budget of just under $24 million. It went up $2 million in one year. I met with Dr. Meyer in July of 2007 with a group of fellow students to basically tell him that the students are drowning in debt. He expressed concern, and like I already said, the budget was then increased by $2 million. This meeting we had was long before the “recession” that the country is currently undergoing.

    Enrollment will continue to plummet, considering the fact that admission now depends on how much debt a potential student has from undergraduate studies. Did Paul ever say anything about this to Timothy or Titus? No, but because of purely irresponsible spending decisions, this is pathetically “necessary”.

    The worst part now is the decision of whether or not to support a completely irresponsible academic institution or not give money and watch students be driven even further into debt.

    Right now, the administration is trying to figure out how to cut 20% out of the budget, and it is my hope and prayer that it will include something that can help the students enter the ministry without owing $40,000 – $60,000 from the seminary alone. The cost of a seminary education in St. Louis (including room and board for on campus students) is around $15,000 a year. As I approach graduation, I have been charged $99,166 for the four years I have attended classes at the seminary. I received $11,400 a year plus just under $4,000 a year from my home church and home district. As you can see, the math is not on the side of the students, and it can bring enormous amounts of pressure on most of them.

    Prayers are needed!

  24. #23 Matt Jamison,

    “…a shortage of pastors in the church.” That’s another false premise that the church is asked to believe without questioning. Forgive me if I’m skeptical, but after 2 1/2 years without a parish (and only being contacted by a total of 3 in that time period) I find it hard to believe that there is such a vast shortage. For that matter, I’m personally aware of at 3 other fine pastors who are without a congregation at this time. Two of those three were on CRM status longer than I was and still are. Thanks and praise to our Lord God that I am no longer without a flock since I will be installed to a new parish on the 29th of this month, but there are many more men still waiting while we have a “pastor shortage.” What’s wrong with this picture?

  25. Confessional Pastors, who will do a liturgical service (vested and without a “praise” band) drop off the bottom of the DP’s list.
    There is no shortage of good Pastors but there is a great unwillingness to support them in their efforts to be Lutheran and teach their congregations what being Lutheran means.

    I am glad for you, Pr. Mathey, but I am concerned about others, some of whom have given up and gone into secular employment to support themselves.

  26. Helen,

    I think he means that the net charge per year is $15,000 after the scholarships are taken out – that makes it add up a little better. I am also assuming he is talking about married student housing.

    Jack – can you help us out here?


  27. To clarify:

    I was charged just under $100,000 for the time I have spent at the seminary, but I received tuition grants and congregational/home district support as well. In the end, with all of the help from both the seminary and other outside sources such as my home church and district,the actual cost to me came down to about $15,000 a year.

    I now live off campus because I got married last fall. My wife and I are renting a house and paying $200 a month less than the provided on campus married student apartments. Because I am married now, I do not have to pay the roughly $2,500 a quarter for room and board. Obviously my wife and I still have to pay for our own food, rent, and utilities, and that is to be expected. Since moving off campus, the actual cost to me (per quarter) has been about $2,500. This is after all of the help that comes in from the tuition grant and home church and district support.

    My total bill may be a little higher because I did not take the languages in college, so because I wanted to graduate in four years, I took two summer terms. Also included in the total charge is the tuition fee for my year on vicarage. I was charged $9,995 to be away from the campus, taking up no resources, and not getting a visit from the head of the vicarage program. Now, over this year, I received the yearly support from my home church and home district (again, totaling about $4,000), and the tuition grant covered the remainder. I did not have to pay anything out of my own pocket for this year, but it seems that the money given to me from my home church and home district simply vanished. Either way, the seminary got just under $10,000 for me being away on vicarage, again, not from me personally, but the money came in regardless. Also, even when my class went out on vicarage (academic year 2007-08), we were not assured that we would receive the help from the tuition grant until just before we left. If things continue this way, it seems very likely that vicars and deaconess interns will be responsible for the remainder of the $10,000 after whatever assistance they get from their home churches/home districts.

    You may wonder what we are told when we ask about how to afford the costs. When I was attending the pre-vicarage meetings, we were told to avoid taking out much in loans (nothing over $15,000 total) and some students asked how that would be possible. The response was something along the lines of “be married to a wife that works full time and don’t have any kids, and if you have kids, don’t buy a pet.” After we were told this, when I met with Dr. Meyer with some fellow classmates, we asked him to see to it that this advice was never given again, and as far as I know, it hasn’t been. Either way, it shows a brief glimpse of the mindset of the administration. Also, when we met with Dr. Meyer the first time back in July of 2007, we discussed the realities of the debt and projected one student’s debt to be around $60,000 for his time at the seminary. Meyer’s initial response was something along the lines of “where are your parents in all of this?” Thankfully, he seems to have seen that students shouldn’t have to rely on their parents to pay their seminary bills, but this is another example of how the administration seemed to look at finances when we first started these meetings and conversations.

    I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how the seminary is in such financial duress if you take $99,166 and multiply it by 80 or 90, which represents the number of students in my class. This is the amount of actual money that has come in as a result of the students of one class over four years. It hasn’t all come from the students themselves, but the aid I have received from the seminary and home church/district has covered about 40% of the costs.

    In summation, around $100,000 has come into the seminary because of my enrollment there. It hasn’t all come from me, in fact some came from the seminary’s fund raising tactics (mostly through the Adopt-A-Student program, which is extremely misleading and is currently being examined and will hopefully improved).

    Please keep the seminary’s future administrative decisions in your prayers.

  28. Thanks Jack for laying it all out there for us. Your comments are leading us to conclude that this whole matter needs to be laid out very clearly for the synod to understand.

    Let me just throw in my two cents here. I do not like to blame things on sytems but I think most of the blame in this situation goes to a long term, systemic problem in the LCMS. We have slowly drifted away from understanding that the pastoral office is the frontline of the work of the Gospel (for about the last generation I suppose). We have drifted away from putting doctrinal purity first and instead making personal evangelism the priority, forgetting as the Lutheran Manifesto professes – that preaching from the pulpit is evangelism, as the Bible defines it.

    Now let me lay some personal blame. LCMS Inc. has been at the forefront for the last several years of misplacing this priority and Ablaze is an all too clear example of this. I know that President Meyer would agree, he has even said it himself, that Ablaze has taken $$$ away from the seminaries.

    We need to get back to our grandfather’s church, where therer were indeed problems, but not of the magnitude of those facing us today.


  29. How does the seminary pay for the $11,000 tuition discount on every student? It sounds like it’s just a write off used for recruitment purposes, which would be deceptive.

  30. I just wish the current President and all who support him in his efforts to undo the teachings of the Lutheran church would
    just be honest and join some Baptist church body since their
    ideas on missions, etc. are more conducive to those teachings!

  31. 80] But they themselves should remember that riches [estates and revenues] have been given to bishops as alms for the administration and advantage of the churches [that they may serve the Church, and perform their office the more efficiently], as the rule says: The benefice is given because of the office. Therefore they cannot with a good conscience possess these alms, and meanwhile defraud the Church, which has need of these means for supporting ministers, and aiding studies [educating learned men], and caring for the poor and establishing courts, especially matrimonial.
    Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,
    The Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops, 80

  32. Recently I had a discussion with a pastor who went through seminary in the early 70’s. He was at the beginning of having to pay for seminary, albeit at a very low cost. He told me historically that LCMS was concerned about education and missions, especially the education of future church leaders. The way I understand it, up to the 60’s at least 95% of synod’s budget went toward paying the education of church workers at all levels and missions and only about 5% went toward the “central government”. It is amazing how this has turned 180 degrees.

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