You are currently viewing A laudable goal . . . with some questions

A laudable goal . . . with some questions

The 2023 synod convention adopted an ambitious plan with the stated goal of opening one hundred new home missions in the next ten years. That effort began last year when the Board for Home Missions approved the opening of ten new missions in various locations around the country.

When the effort was under consideration, two challenges needed to be overcome: money and manpower. The questions were important and legitimate. Will we have the funds to open that many new congregations and provide the needed synodical support until they become self-supporting? And, how will we have enough pastors when we already have a significant shortage of pastors to serve in existing congregations?

God in his grace already has provided an answer to the first question. Almost immediately after the effort was adopted, God moved people and congregations to bring generous offerings to support the planting of new mission congregations now and in the years to come.

The second question (which is probably more frequently asked) still rests in God’s hands for an answer, but we trust that his answer will come in his own way and in his own time.

However, the question of manpower is valid and needs to be kept in perspective.

First, our synod historically has opened about six new home missions per year. That means that the increase to ten new home missions requires only four more pastors per year—not a huge jump. Larger seminary classes coming in the next few years should help cover that increase.

Second, even though we have many pastors in the baby boomer generation, those pastors are serving longer than pastors have in the past. In addition, more pastors are serving retirement calls in which they serve roughly half time.

Third, we are looking for every opportunity to fill ministry needs with laymen. For example, the Conference of Presidents (COP) has in the past year called laymen rather than pastors to serve as Christian giving counselors. The COP will continue to do that with other positions whenever possible.

Finally, in recent years some small congregations have decided to merge with other WELS congregations nearby. In that way, a congregation with a worship attendance of 30 can become a part of another congregation, thus freeing up a pastor to serve elsewhere. We believe that more congregations will do this in the coming years not only for the sake of faithful stewardship but also because they know that even though their congregation’s ministry will cease at that location, a new mission may be started in a place where no WELS congregation exists.

The concern about a pastoral shortage is valid and real. Pastoral vacancies, especially long ones, present real challenges to congregations. But that shortage should never cause us to back away from our synod’s mission to expand the reach of the gospel to new people in new places. Rather, it should lead us to pray all the more fervently that God would provide workers for his harvest field. And don’t forget to encourage that young man in your congregation to consider becoming a pastor.

Even as we experience the current shortage of pastors, pray that God help us remain committed to proclaiming the gospel to more people in more places, confident that God will bless our efforts.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 111, Number 07
Issue: July 2024

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry is part 1 of 53 in the series presidents message

Facebook comments