Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field!” (Luke 10:2).
God’s people have indeed prayed that he would send workers into his harvest field. And God has graciously answered those prayers. In May, the synod’s Assignment Committee had the privilege of assigning graduates of Martin Luther College (MLC) and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to their calls into the pastoral and teaching ministry. At Martin Luther College, 127 young adults answered God’s call for workers by saying, “Here am I; send me.” At Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, 32 men answered the same way. Soon those new workers will begin their work as pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. They are truly the answer to the prayers of God’s people.
But even after the assignments were made, the workers are still few. After both assignment days, our synod still had 140 vacant teaching positions and 131 vacant pastoral positions.
There are several reasons why the number of pastor and teacher vacancies is higher than it has been in recent years. Pastors and teachers from the baby boom generation, in which workers were more plentiful, are reaching retirement age. Resignations from the ministry are lower than what they have been in recent years, but they still occur and create vacancies. Classes at MLC and the seminary are smaller than they were just a few years ago. All of these factors combine to cause the number of vacancies to grow.
But blessings from God also create vacancies. The enrollments in our Lutheran schools are growing rapidly, creating the need for more classrooms and more teachers. Responding to opportunities that God is providing, the synod also is increasing the number of new home missions that will be established each year. The harvest still remains plentiful, and the workers still are few.
What can be done about this? Certainly, we do not want to stifle the growth in our Lutheran schools. And to be sure we do not want to lower our sights on opening new home missions. But things can and should be done—and some of them are being done already.
Martin Luther College is stepping up its recruitment efforts of high school students. The college is also working to find ways to increase financial aid to keep the cost of education as low as possible and student indebtedness to a minimum. Congregations are finding ways to support students from their congregations or districts. The Conference of Presidents has formed a task force to study how we can make use of second-career or non-traditional teachers. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary is doing the same for second-career or non-traditional pastoral candidates.
But there still is more we can all do. Parents and grandparents can encourage young people to consider preparing for the full-time ministry. Congregation members can speak to young people about the need for people like them to serve as pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. In the way that they go about serving with joy, today’s called workers can be role models who cause young people to say, “I want to be just like him or her!”
We can also continue to do as Jesus directed us: We can pray that the Lord of the church will send more workers into his harvest field. Those are prayers that God is certain to answer.
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 109, Number 07
Issue: July 2022