Thirty seminary grads to not receive calls?

Dr. Daniel Gard, Professor of Exegetical Theology and Dean of Military Chaplaincy at Concordia Theological Seminary, has the following note on Facebook:

To my students: I am just now learning about the shortage of calls. Please remember that Lord of the Church knows exactly what is happening even if we do not. My heart is breaking for those of you and your families who must wait. Pray for our Synod as the Convention meets this summer. Something is wrong and God’s people will respond. I could not be prouder of all of you and I thank God for you.

We’ll keep you updated with details as soon as we receive them but early reports indicate that as many as 30 of the 67 graduates of the Fort Wayne seminary will not receive calls. Of a similar number of St. Louis grads, I’m hearing that only a few will not be placed. Others say the number could be more than a few.

If anyone has any better information, please let us know.

For a Synod that has repeatedly claimed that we’re facing a shortage of pastors, this does not make sense to me.

But no matter what is going on here, we must pray for these men who are facing an uncertain future — after working so hard to serve as pastors. And we must pray for our church.

Over at Facebook, one pastor wrote in response:

The Synod is broken.

Another wrote:

As someone has written, “It is time”. In 2007 we are told that there is such a critical shortage of pastors that we need a new “program” to fix it. I warned that this would happen – now in 2010 we have men not getting calls and hundreds of CRM pastors languishing. Kyrie eleison!

And another wrote:

Professor Gard, please let your students know that many are praying for them. After leadership of The LCMS has been telling us, repeatedly, that we have a crisis in the number of men willing to serve as pastor, it is way, way beyond disgraceful to think that when we have have now men saying, “Send me, send me” we would… have a shortage of calls. I’m ashamed and embarassed, and yes, angry!

Incidentally, here is one 2007 article from an official Synodical publication saying that a clergy shortage is looming.


Thirty seminary grads to not receive calls? — 82 Comments

  1. I don’t believe congregations don’t have the money to pay for a ‘huge’ pastors salary. At $80k that is less than $35/week for 50 members.

  2. Quoting from The Lutheran Study Bible, 1 Corinthians 9:14, “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” The footnote for that verse states in part, “The teaching applies both to the missionaries of the apostolic period and to present-day servents of the Gospel. living. The resources necessary to allow servants of the Gospel to dedicate themselves fully to their work.”

    I have recently corresponded with two pastors who attended seminary at the same time I did. Both are compelled to work secular jobs in order to support their families. There are certainly congregations comprised of members who honestly cannot support their pastors. However, there are also congregations whose members refuse to forgo ocean cruises, luxury cars, multiple realty holdings while their pastors subsist on half or less of the pay he received the year before while depleting his family’s savings. I wonder why circuit counselors and district presidents have not stepped forward to admonish congregations to heed St. Paul’s aforementioned inspired teaching.

  3. @Anonymous #50

    @rontheranchhand #51

    @Rev. Wesley T. Kan #52

    Stewardship continues to be a troubling issue in the LCMS, and probably others church bodies, for that matter. I don’t know the reason or the solution. Perhaps 50+ years of poor catechesis is partially at the root of this problem. The kind of money we’re talking about here is often more than most of the parishoners earn, and I have heard resentment expressed: “It isn’t right that I have to give money so he can make more than I do.” Perhaps people just aren’t thankful enough for the spiritual and material blessings they receive from God. The habit of giving generousy needs to start early in life. And, let’s face it: there are some entire congregations that are just plain tight. I’m willing to bet that all of us could tell horror stories. ‘Nuff said.

    It’s very troublilng, and very sad.


  4. @Johannas #53
    I have no problem with supporting those Pastors that stand in the place of Christ. My problem is supporting the great numbers of those that are supposed to be working to support congregations, yet think they are above the congregations. The SP and DPs are a case in point. Most are more concerned about retaining their status then about supporting the congregations. Perhaps if all were shepherds of a congregation they would be more likely to give proper sujpport to the congregations. Instead, they sit in their offices thinking up programs rather then preaching and teaching the Word of God. The organization breaks down when the programs become more important then the Word. That is what has happened to Missouri and will continue to happen until the Word of God becomes more important then programs.

  5. I have no problem supporting the local Pastor who needs to make more than I do!
    He has greater responsibilities than I have. (Our parents took pride in providing a pastor with a living equal to those best off in the congregation. Some of it was “in kind” but a pastor’s family has to eat, too.)

    I need my Pastors. OTOH, if the district office dropped off the earth, a couple of members might be out of a job. The rest of us in the congregation wouldn’t notice, while our Pastors might actually have more time for their primary duties.

  6. @helen #55

    I agree–I wasn’t making a case for parsimony (or “in kind” parsnips). When I first heard the statement I was floored. I had never thought of that. It’s just an example of some of the thinking that’s out there (out here, actually.)


  7. As a recent grad who was placed last year I know for a fact that this has been happening for the last few years. Last year many congregations requested St. Louis candidates only (this is a fact). In part this has to do with Ft. Wayne’s reputation. The fact that 30 or 20 of a class 67 will not be placed is really scary whereas St. Louis has a class near a 100 and 20 or 12 will not be placed. This ratio between the two is rather telling. Part of the reason for the divide has to do with preferences for contemporary worship as well as other issues that people have named on here.

    Furthermore, there are many guys who are looking for that perfect congregation in the suburbs that Pastor Wilken pointed out. That’s why they only stay 18 months in a rural congregation or a congregation that is less ideal to them. Congregations are apprehensive and rightfully so. Many have been burnt badly and don’t want to feel that hurt again.

  8. @Scott #57


    As I, and others, pointed out to you in another forum, the “FW-reputation” is perpetuated far more by certain DPs and other district and circuit officers than by apprehensive congregations. In many (probably, most) cases, congregations end up requesting SL candidates simply because they’ve been told “from above” that they should. That is where the real blame lies. Try to understand that. I’m convinced that a smart fella like you can.

    Also, since you seem to enjoy accusing those of us who support Harrison as having a “man crush,” I wonder if the reason you keep dogging FW is because you have a “man crush” on SL. 🙂

  9. Grads not being placed, the final numbers, unconfirmed:

    Fort Wayne: 21

    St. Louis: 5 – 4 = 1

    The four is four people who aren’t in a postion to be certified at this point.

  10. Pastor Messer,

    You silly goose. I said “in part” and trust me I def don’t have a man crush on “SL”. But answer this question, what has precipitated certain DP’s to take such a position? Yes they have done so but what has caused such a reaction from DP’s. Unlike some I tend to believe that overall our DP’s are good guys.


  11. Objection, your honor. Calls for speculation. Counsel for the plaintiff is not seriously asking me to testify concerning what goes through the minds of DPs (and other officers within districts and circuits) who express their bias against FW to congregations, is he?

    Seriously, Scott, does it matter what has precipitated certain DPs (and others) to take such a position? It is wrong and sinful. Period. It shows a lack of trust in the profs who dedicate their lives to instructing and forming future pastors at FW, and passes judgment on their students without knowing jack about them. If DPs (and other officers within districts and circuits) cannot put aside whatever past “bad” experiences they’ve had and refrain from allowing those to influence how they guide and advise congregations, they should resign – whether they are “good guys” or not.

    And, please remember that I’m not speaking here about those congregations who have had “bad” experiences and make their specific request all on their own (even though, that too is less than salutary, no matter which way it goes – there are a couple of congregations I know of that would only request FW guys because of bad experiences with SL guys), but about those who guide otherwise unknowing congregations away from FW guys because of their own personal bias.

    You tell me: Is there justification for having, and acting upon, this biased attitude? If so, explain.

    Oh, and by the way, I will readily admit that I most definitely do have a “man-crush” on FW. 🙂

  12. I was told that: 1) that the actual numbers are 21-9; 2) that the disparity came from a majority of the associate pastor calls came from heavily contemporary congregations and primarily went to St. Louis guys; 3) that the outlook is good for most of the candidates being placed probably by the end of the summer.

  13. PPPadre :@Rev. David Mueller #36
    The 18 month figure is what I recall hearing from a Seminary professor about or so years ago. I’m not entirely sure where he got that number. I know that the 3 year figure we were cited going into the Sem. (17 years ago) was from an internal study done a few years prior.

    18 months sounds spot-on. Many are bailing out of their first congregation to work for RSOs or to become nursing home chaplains (gotta minister to those Baby Boomers soon!) Low-income congregations won’t call another seminarian because they’ve been burnt too many times. Who wants to start over from scratch every other year?

    Other congregations have become infamous for unscripturally deposing multiple pastors in a row while retaining synodical membership (CRM factories).

    It’s about as ridiculous as convertable vicarages, where if you’ve pleased their ears enough as a vicar they are somehow able to pick you as their next pastor.

  14. Chryst :Back in years past, didn’t seminaries often send out “surplus” graduates as church-planters? I wonder if we shouldn’t investigate something like that.

    Because the district officials are now recruiting and assigning SMP candidates as church planters, at least they are in the Missouri District.

    I thought that Dr. Hempleman originally explained SMP as a means to get more Called and ordained pastors into the congregations. Instead, it’s being used for everything but that.

  15. The SMP program is just another boondoggle. When the seminaries pushed it big time at the 2007 Convention, it still smelled. I figured they’d pass it with all their hollow promises, and then, like typical synodocrats, do as they please in a few years. You read it here first–in time, the SMP pastors, with their “limited” service and no-call eligibility, will become fully rostered and ordained. No matter that they have a sub-standard education. Worst thing is, it’s costing the men referenced here big time, and denying them calls. Why should anyone get the full education. Go SMP and away we go!


  16. Now that we have these graduates, perhaps 20 at CTS and 12 at STL, why then doesn’t each District send money from their budgets to support them? I do believe each District of the LCMS does have the money to send.

  17. @Scott #65


    Remind me: What is the charter of Christ’s Church? Is it not the forgiveness of sins?

    Yes, round and round we go, I suppose (btw, thanks for the trip down memory lane – Ratt rocks!). Yet, as I said before, it doesn’t matter what has precipitated certain DPs (and others) from having a bias against FW guys. It is a sinful indictment on the good professors there and a sick attitude to take toward the men who have given up so much to pursue the OHM and service in Christ’s Church. Remembering the sins of a few “bad apples” does not justify punishing the bunch. Not in Christ’s Church, where He remembers our sins no more.

    On that note, here is the anthem that is running through my brain during this discussion. 🙂

  18. @Rev. Thomas C. Messer #70

    I think I’m getting old with “hair bands” of the 80’s now considered “classic rock.”

    Please let me start with a disclaimer. I have never set foot on CS STL, but have been to CTSFW many times. So as to not start the STL vs. FWA debate, I will say that confessional and liturgical guys can come out of STL and that happy-clappy guys can come out of FWA.

    From my understanding, FWA is 2/3-3/4 second career guys, and STL is reversed. Given our youth-driven culture, I wonder if this is a factor this time around. To put it bluntly, maybe some parishes/districts do not want us “old codgers that won’t change.” Just a thought…

    Story time: During one of my past visits to CTSFW, I ran into a gentleman in his 60’s that was preparing to head to his vicarage. Although we Lutherans are not to rely on our emotions, I was truly touched by his enthusiasm and the sacrifices he and his wife made to serve Christ’s Kingdom. We struck up a conversation at lunch, for we are fellow aviators. He was looking for a place to cheaply hangar his bird not far from where I live. The point is that if my speculation has any merit, it is truly sad if indeed “old guys” are being thrown away.

  19. Dear Friends,

    Grace and peace to you in our living Lord Jesus,

    I have read with great interest your comments about the current Spring placement of candidates. As Chairman of the Placement Committee, a Regent (Elector) of the CTS Board of Regents and a graduate of CTS (like many DP’s including the Synod’s President) I have a vested interest in this topic. I do realize this is a blog where opinions are expressed, however care should be taken to not perpetuate erroneous information that leads anyone to sin. I do not have the time to enter debate on sites such as this. I would be happy to talk one on one with any of you especially with those brothers in my district who have posted here. My numbers are as follows Direct Office number 985-718-4855 Cell number 504-289-6481. I am currently in Ft. Wayne and have a 14 hour drive home tomorrow.

    Christ has risen!

  20. A couple questions if someone doesn’t mind answering:

    1. How are the graduates assigned in LCMS? Is it the congregation or district that decides which seminary to call from? Or is it one big combined field that they are selected from? In WELS, we only have one seminary so I’m not sure how it works.

    2. In reference to the duration of the first call/assignment, is there a suggestion as to how long a graduate should stay at the first call? Again, I know our system is different in WELS but I think graduates are asked to stay for either 3 or 5 years at least. Generally, they’re not placed on a call list until then. There are of course exceptions in some cases.

  21. @Scott Diekmann #64
    Despite Fort Wayne having men who are more than willing and capable to lead contemporary worship well, the vast majority of these posts went to St. Louis candidates.

    Ft Wayne men “willing and capable to lead contemporary worship well” is not good news to a Lutheran.
    Not that I am surprised. “Cooperate and graduate” has been around for a long time.

    [Has anyone tallied the graduating schools of our current DP’s?]

  22. “willing and capable to lead contemporary worship well”

    “Not good news”, Helen? It’s OXYMORONIC!

    BTW, does anyone have a guesstimate on how many of the seminarians today read music and can at least play (if only slowly) the melody of a hymn on a piano?

  23. @Scott Diekmann #64

    Scott D., if what you suggest is true (about leading “contemporary” worship), then it simply demonstrates the deep and growing division in our Synod over traditional, biblically-founded worship and imitations of pop music. Unfortunately, this is how lasting, enduring change for better or worse really takes root…at the congregational level. Congregations have faulty forms of worship that are reinforced by pastors who will not lead these congregations back to the liturgy through patient teaching and practice.

  24. @Carl Vehse #75
    “…how many of the seminarians today read music and can at least play (if only slowly) the melody of a hymn on a piano?”

    The choir people at least. I should think a few more than that.
    Not everyone who is choir trained has time for choir at that level.

  25. @Rev. Kurtis D. Schultz #72

    “I do realize this is a blog where opinions are expressed, however care should be taken to not perpetuate erroneous information that leads anyone to sin.”

    To which I say: Hope your collective process of assigning calls this year did not lead any of the 30+ men to commit the ultimate sin of unbelief!

  26. @Helen #74

    Helen, The “willing and capable to lead contemporary worship well” portion of the original quote was not an affirmation of contemporary worship, but rather a look at the realities that exist. I’m told that the majority of CTSFW students would prefer congregations that maintain the usage of the common liturgies. I believe the comment was intended to reflect an intent, if a person is called to a congregation that practices contemporary worship, that the pastor fill that church with as much Law and Gospel and liturgical practice, properly handling the Word of truth, as can be done within the constraints of the existing practice of the congregation (hence the use of the word “well”), with the intent to gradually catechize the congregants and move the congregation to a more liturgical practice.

  27. @Rev. Kurtis D. Schultz #72

    I can appreciate the concern regarding erroneous information, as it can lead to snowballing speculation and eventually to the acceptance of opinions as facts. But there are still raw facts that must be dealt with, and which Rev. Messer touched on, such as: it is a fact that LCMS districts have encouraged congregations to call candidates from one seminary over the other, as well as influence students in choosing a seminary. My district didn’t want me to go to Fort Wayne in the first place, and they told me so. Now, I was expecting this at the time so it didn’t come as a shock. But how many students get their first dose of synodical politics by having their home district tell them, “By the way, we don’t care for your choice of seminary.” I also know of men getting a NO-GO from their district interviews after being asked their opinion on the role of women in the church and giving a traditional answer. As long as things like these transpire among us, people will (and should) know.

  28. I am a CTS seminarian. The number of unplaced men from our seminary, at the end of the academic year was 20. I heard there were about 5 students from St. Louis without a placement, and most of them were not seminarians.

    I will be approximately $80K in debt from both undergrad and graduate loans after graduation. I have taken the minimum amount of loans necessary to pay for school and keep my family afloat these 6 years in pastoral formation. The average salary for an outgoing seminarian is $30-$35K/year. Sem grads are being asked to be “worker-priests” – that is to hold a secular job while serving as an ordained pastor.

    At a LCMS convention I was at last year in WI, there was talk of making sem grads serve a two year “internship” after graduation to assure that seminarians had the “people skills” to succeed before becoming ordained. It was my understanding this will be voted on at the national convention. They likened it to a trial period a doctor or accountant must serve. I know of very few doctors or accountants that make $30-$35K/year carrying a massive student loan debt only to be denied after 8 years (make that 10 years including a new possible internship) of hard study and formation due to a lack of “people skills”.

    Both synod and seminary must be honest with incoming candidates. If I am not placed next year, God’s will be done. He has and will continue to provide as He sees fit. But in my opinion both the synod and the seminary bear some responsibility for not being forthcoming about the real numbers of needed pastors. I have no other skills or trades useful . I will be unemployable in the secular market, which is even now is suffering a high unemployment rate, and will have to support a wife and two special needs children as well as pay back $80K in loans. These realities need to be contemplated by incoming candidates.

    Shockingly,”You shall not steal”, applies even to synod and seminary.

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