Pastor Blair Lundborg, Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership
Each year about 10% of the congregations in the Gulf Coast Synod experience a pastoral transition; most of those calls are accepted by experienced pastors. A handful of pastors right out of seminary accept calls to serve with us as well.
Across the entire ELCA, each year the number of requests for First Call pastors is usually double the amount of available graduates. That means, of course, that many congregations will remain vacant because there are simply not enough graduating seminarians to meet the demand.
Now consider this: our actively serving clergy roster is growing older, not younger. We are on the threshold of a large number of pastors who will retire in the next 5-10 years. Over 50% of our pastors are over age 50 and 10% are over age 66. Only 10% of our pastors are under the age of 35. I’ve never been a math whiz, but even I can tell you this just doesn’t add up. We are simply not preparing enough people for ministry.
Our ELCA seminaries are doing a good job of adapting to the changing needs of the church. Nearly all of our seminaries have been through a major curriculum overhaul in the past few years. We are preparing pastors equipped to serve the changing shape of mission.
Where will we find pastors to serve the church in these exciting times of mission? The answer is simple – in the pew next to you. Or maybe you are that person God is calling to serve. It’s really up to us to identify and encourage young people in our congregations to consider ministry. In every congregation, there are young women and men you know who have the gifts for ministry. Why not tell them what you see? Let them know that you are impressed with the depth of their questions or the joy you see in their eyes when they talk about their faith. Then send them to us! We would love to talk to them about the possibilities of serving in ministry. We call it “Candidacy”. Read more about the candidacy process.
Lifting up leaders for service in the church is not a new challenge. Listen to these words from Isaiah:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
Who needs to hear that invitation in your congregation? Is it you? Is it that inquisitive confirmation student who asks questions that challenge the teacher? Is it your daughter or son? Whoever it is, make it your business to plant the seed. Ask the question!