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Messages - Mark_Hofman

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Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: December 22, 2020, 02:45:06 PM »
Too many pastors are battling with their members.

Perhaps a first step could be shunning vagueness, such as when we use pronouns rather than proper names.  We all do it. We all hear it.  "They....them...those people...a person I know said..."  Even "this pastor I know..." or the infamous "well, the administration..."

Perhaps the thing to start doing is gently naming names.  Call out the behavior, and call out the person exhibiting it by name.

"Hi. I'm Mark. And I'm acting on the emotions caused by my untested assumptions. Thank you for calling me to account for my behavior."  I've got a name and it isn't "him" "xe" "that nutbag" "that bureaucrat in a cubicle" or <fill in the blank>.  Commend good, God-pleasing behavior. Call out the Satan-feeding behavior too, using names, since going to people (pastors or laypeople) privately doesn't seem to be helping?

Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: December 22, 2020, 02:14:47 PM »
My assumptions drive my emotions.
My emotions drive my behavior.
No amount of spoken logic or reason, no amount of blame or finger-pointing, will ever overcome that reality for any of us.

Lesson? Check every assumption being made, meaning don't take something as fact until it's been put to the test.

In the LCMS we act a lot on the emotions flowing out of those things we sincerely believe to be true, but perhaps - if closely examined - aren't fully true.

Your Turn / Re: LCMS Board of Directors Reduces Budget By $10 Million
« on: October 11, 2020, 08:14:04 AM »
Rev Likeness ... Thank you for this information ... were any details released pertaining to how program and staff would be effected.   

Rev. Likeness probably read the online Reporter article which covered the August and September Board meetings.

Minutes from the Synod Board of Directors meeting are publicly available online ( There may be some additional details in those minutes. Or I suppose a person could do the Christian disciple thing and call the Synod office to ask questions. A recent letter from the Synod President said anyone can do that and expect truthful, honest and forthright answers.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: June 02, 2020, 02:14:26 PM »
It’s 2020. And we’re still acting like we can predict the future? Seriously???

You are right. The boy came in for lunch, wearing a hard hat he had taken from the garage and talking about how much a neighbor makes operating one of those big hammerhead construction cranes.  We can't predict the future.

We don't know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: June 02, 2020, 01:19:14 PM »
Jim Baneck has been spearheading the hard work of gathering hard data from experts who know how to do that, and then applying that data through other experts to assemble actionable plans. He will probably never receive the credit he deserves.

Having worked six years in enrollment management at one of the CUS schools, and having talked eyeball to eyeball with potential pre-seminary students and their parents, then getting to know second-career students primarily at CSL, some of the yet-to-be released information is staggering in its implications. Do not expect a cookie-cutter plan. This won't be brochure we're supposed to put in worship folders for people to take home. But its not my place or role to release the droves of data and resulting recommendations to the public. That should be Jim's joy, and it is coming. He's already speaking about this publicly in small groups, including seminary classes and recent graduates.

The very bottom listing in the Pastoral Formation and Care catalog ( uses a photo of a small boy. He's holding a Portals of Prayer, pretending it is a Bible or an Altar Book. He is reciting the words of distribution, "Take eat...this is my body" and singing "Holy, Holy, Holy. Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are full of your glory!" He is wearing a blue VBS T-shirt turned inside out over a shirt and tie as a chasuble - because you can't get a clerical collar and vestment playclothes that fits a 2-year old.  I know all this because that child is my son, and we used that picture because it was easier than asking someone else to sign a parental waiver form. His interest in pastoral ministry was - and is - real. He loves and admires his pastors. He turns 11 this week, and the world is trying to beat the idea of pastoral or other full time ministry out of him with a stick.

So the mantra "enrollment, enrollment, enrollment" resonates in this house. That kid is my flesh and blood, baptized into God's family.  Please pray for him, and for every child like him. As I'm typing this my heart is racing and my blood pressure is up. The passion over this is very personal and very deep. So forgive me if I don't use precise words.

The piece of research I saw that hit me hardest was one particular fact: The opportune time for pastors, teachers, parents, grandparents and congregants to encourage and influence future church workers peaks when they are in the fifth and sixth grade, especially those who are not able to attend a Lutheran school. If that window passes and the conversation doesn't happen, the probability of a young person choosing to service Christ vocationally diminishes rapidly. The world beats it out of them with a stick. Not confirmation class. Not high school, and especially not their junior or senior year with a guidance counselor.  Not in college when they are choosing a major. Not when they are getting ready to graduate from college and might be thinking about seminary.  Fifth and sixth grade.

God may not call my son into pastoral ministry. We won't force that on him. But as hard as the world is trying to beat the notion out of him, we will work with anyone and everyone we can to lift up professional service in the church as an honorable and important option. And if God calls him into professional church work, we will support him.

Please pray for these young people. Watch for the signs. Give them encouragement and opportunities to explore the life of active service in the church. Get them to a CUS school and visit a seminary. The workers we want are out there. The culture of the LCMS itself needs to change, and that itself is no easy thing. Prayer will help. I will stop now, and go for a walk to calm down.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: May 31, 2020, 08:15:50 PM »
I wanted to add some comments about the phrase “Pastoral Formation and Care”. Maybe that was a poor choice of words to describe something, but the I.C. doesn’t have a marketing department, so we went with what sounded best.

The phrase “Pastoral Formation and Care” represents a collection of opportunities for God’s people to bolster our Synod’s formation of pastors and some slice of the commissioned roster, such as deaconesses. In addition, there are opportunities to provide care for ordained and commissioned workers.

Before there was a single advancement unit, each of those areas or opportunities had to fend for itself in terms of promotion and engagement of constituents, not always we equal or consistent success. In terms of self-promotion some were under one department, other were under different departments, and some were departments of their own.  One of my team members noticed how disjointed and lopsided that model was, and proposed pulling them together - for advancement (“fundraising”) purposes into one coordinated effort.  A online catalog was created, similar to the catalog of missionaries. A person who is philanthropically inclined can find, in one spot:

  • The LCMS Joint Seminary Fund (formation)
  • Direct support of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis only (formation)
  • Direct support of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (formation)
  • Global Seminary Initiative (formation)
  • Continuing education, including the PALs program (formation)
  • Unrestricted funds, the source of seminary subsidy (formation)
  • Graduate studies (formation)
  • Deaconess ministry coordination& promotion, both national and international (formation and care)
  • Soldiers of the Cross - active and retired workers (care)
  • Veterans of the Cross - retired/emeritus only (care)
  • Specialized Pastoral Ministry - institution and prison chaplaincy (formation)
  • Pre-seminary education - direct links to CUS schools (formation)
  • Endowments for pastoral formation and care (all)
  • RSO's involved in pastoral care - eg. Shepherd’s Canyon, Grace Place, Doxology (care, but promotion of those entities)
  • Student aid/tuition assistance at each seminary (pastoral care)
  • Recruitment/encouragement of future pastors **New** (formation)

So we lumped all that under a heading of “Pastoral Formation and Care” to showcase how people can influence (favorably) the care and education of our clergy from baptismal font to their last breath.

If the phrase is dumb and you are in the LCMS, please feel free to suggest something better that encapsulates all of this. Think of this as a focus group.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: May 30, 2020, 12:48:23 PM »
Just got a letter from a Rev. Dr. James Baneck, Executive Director, LCMS Office of Pastoral Education asking for a donation to the LCMS Joint Seminary Fund.  Not only am I solicited by each seminary individually, but am also asked to support both seminaries with one donation. This Executive Director of the Office of Pastoral Education -- can anyone tell me what his purpose is? What does he do that is not done by the administration and faculty of each of the two seminaries?  And I thought we now formed pastors rather than educating them.

From the LCMS budget summary document (Fiscal Year 2020), the Office of Pastoral Education is laid out this way:

Pastoral Education
The Office of Pastoral Education plans, promotes, and coordinates pastoral education in order to provide healthy, well-trained, and faithful clergy for the LCMS. The executive director of pastoral education assists the Synod’s chief mission officer in “providing leadership, coordination, and oversight for pre-seminary education programs, seminary education and post-seminary continuing education, and by providing advocacy for pastoral education and health with the Synod” (Bylaw

Planning includes the collection and integration of data gathered from the Concordia University System (CUS) schools and the seminaries in order to provide an accurate description of the present. Planning also includes identification of trends and patterns in data that could be predictive and signal prudent changes for the future. It includes ongoing visitation of university theology faculty and pre-seminary director. It also includes communication with, and serving as a resource for, the LCMS Council of Presidents and others who are key stakeholders in pastoral education.

The promotional efforts of the office include informing the church concerning the mission of both LCMS seminaries and how both seminaries are undertaking that mission. This takes place through visitation, the Pastoral Formation Committee, and bringing leaders from both seminaries together for ongoing cooperation and collaboration to foster rapport and advance mission effectiveness. They also include extolling the office of pastor and what God accomplishes through that office. These efforts are designed to advance the work of the seminaries with prospective students, potential donors, alumni and other key stakeholders in pastoral education.

The Pastoral Education budget also reflects the distribution of designated financial gifts and bequests to support both seminaries joyfully given by the church through the LCMS Joint Seminary Fund, Global Seminary Initiative, endowments contributions, and regular worship offerings (subsidy).

The coordination of pastoral education includes working toward the creation of a seamless system of pastoral formation in the Synod that begins at the baptismal font and continues throughout the life and service of the pastor. The office promotes ways in which those to whom God has given the desire to serve Him in pastoral ministry may be identified, informed, encouraged, nurtured and effectively formed for that service. It designs and advances to the Synod a plan of lifelong learning for pastors that begins with oversight of the Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) program, Preach the Word, and providing the COP with a system for tracking and reporting continuing education units on the pastor’s Self Evaluation Tool (SET)."

The budget summary document in which this statement is located is available at under the Finance tab, or at

The Office of Pastoral Education consists of two people: Rev. Dr. James Baneck and his administrative assistant, Robyn. (Ref.  He functions as the liaison between the seminaries, the CUS schools (pre-seminary ed), Council of District Presidents, and numerous other stakeholders.  Jim is a very gentle, pastoral soul, and a former district president. If anyone wants to understand what he does, call him. 

There is no longer a board for pastoral education. I believe that ended in 2010-11.

The purpose of the Joint Seminary Fund is two-fold:  1.) provide a way for any individual or organization to support both seminaries through a single donation, and/or 2.) give people a way to support seminaries while remaining anonymous to the seminaries.  For most who give through the Joint Seminary Fund, they do so for reason #1.  Convenience. They just want to see pastors prepared/educated/formed and sent, and to not have a personal preference for one seminary or the other.  If a person (in this case Fcdwyn) prefers to send donations directly to the seminaries and is receiving Joint Seminary Fund appeals, just call my office and let us know that. We'll stop sending Joint appeals. It's not a competition between Synod and the seminaries, but it is about providing the resources needed to form men for pastoral ministry, women for service as deaconesses, and more. It's your choice.

The money donated through the Joint Seminary Fund, after related expenses, goes TO the seminaries, currently transferred electronically each month. The seminaries are free to use those resources however each sees fit, without any restrictions. Expenses to facilitate and encourage gifts, provide 'customer service' to donors, and provide accountability for the Fund's activities/impact, are split between the two seminaries and The LCMS. The expense ratio is on par with the expense ratios of the two seminaries (between 10 and 12 percent), and well within the maximum acceptable limits endorsed by organizations like the BBB, GuideStar and others.

Joint Seminary Fund donations are divided between the two seminaries using a formula.  To illustrate using a $1 gift:  The dollar is divided in half.  The seminaries each receive half of half of the dollar equally ($0.50 divided by 2).  So each receives $0.25. That's to satisfy the expectation that there are two seminaries, neither greater than the other, so they get an equal share. For the second half, the 50 cents gets sliced according to enrollment figures reported to the Office of Pastoral Education. The percentage for each seminary will vary. This past year, Fort Wayne had 38.3 percent of total qualifying enrollment; St. Louis had 61.7 percent. So the second 50 cents is split using those percentages, to satisfy those who say the larger seminary should proportionally receive more. Put together, last year, Fort Wayne receive 44.2 percent of Joint Seminary Fund donations ($856,434.91); St. Louis received 55.8 percent (1,083,394.98). To that are added seminary-specific gifts and grants where the donor gave through[ the Joint Seminary Fund, but restricted the use of their donation to only one of the two seminaries. That added about another $70,000 roughly between the two.  The LCMS provided all rostered workers with a report on the distribution and nature of these kinds of contributions through a Pastoral Ed insert in the March 2020 issue of REPORTER, the last page. That insert ( is still available online as of the date I'm writing this.

The LCMS continues to solicit donations from the church for the support of its seminaries, in part because we recognize that subsidy levels are minuscule in proportion to the seminaries' operating budgets and the level of tuition/student aid required. Joint Seminary Fund gifts supplement subsidies, which are coming out of the share of worship offerings that make it to the national office. Congregations, because less is being passed on to districts and Synod, are either choosing - or being forced - to fund seminary education, missionaries and other mission work at the district/national level a different way - not through worship offerings. But that's a whole different discussion.

Information about the Joint Seminary Fund, including the operations manual and annual reports on the use and distribution of funds is found at

But, seriously, give as the Lord alone leads. It's not a competition. The seminaries are funded almost entirely by voluntary charitable gifts today, with some income from endowment (which also is the sum total of a certain kind of donation). Our seminaries deserve our support, and our help encouraging others to as well.

Your Turn / Re: A Theory of Thread Death
« on: May 22, 2020, 05:12:53 AM »
Suum cuique.

***munch, munch***

Your Turn / Re: A Theory of Thread Death
« on: May 21, 2020, 10:00:04 PM »
I admit it. I am a shameful human being. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Thanks be to God the Father, for sending His only Son, who took all of my sin and shame to the cross, died in my place, and rose again to give me the free gift of eternal life.

All because He loves me more deeply than I can ever imagine. Even though I enjoy popcorn and coffee, the breakfast of champions and the snack of western cowboys.

Your Turn / Re: A Theory of Thread Death
« on: May 21, 2020, 01:47:06 PM »
Rob (NCLutheran2), thank you for the great comment, and some flattery.  Always like to hear that someone thinks there is more signal in the noise than I fear.  And that sorting is worthwhile.  Sounds like you might be the guy to talk to to be sure I calculate my FTE's correctly to get my PPP forgiven.  Although my 56 day clock has not started yet.  I do agree about the name/post thing.  I'm pretty sure I am radioactive.  Which is just as fine.  One less thing to worry about.  Although I do wonder if that itself isn't a sign of decline, reference Rev. Niemoller and the unwillingness to say anything.  But on the outher hand, do we in the present always feel less that the past, at least those of us of conservative temperament, because we only compare ourselves to the courageously outspoken/active?

As to Will Weedon's post.  It shouldn't be forgotten.  It has been a long time now that anything verifiable from that article has been proven untrue and nothing else has been put forward as proof.  As far as I can tell, nothing here or elsewhere.  That said, there is a new Masthead editor since that who was not part of it.  While it would be a positive thing for the organization leadership to say something solid, I don't think it is going to happen. (Alas I know none personally to lobby.) And as much I don't like the bonfire of credibility, LF/LL occupies too important a place to just let it go.  And the new editor's encouragement to "Forum" addresses my worry above.  Fight the thread death!

Dave, subtweeting the forum is a wonderful hobby.  And we have 280 characters now.  Enough to address at least the one nature in Christ. How does the medium effect the message?  ;)

For what it's worth about Guests:

  • Sometimes a person with a user account is just too lazy to log in. If so, wouldn't they show as a Guest? I'm lazy. I don't always log in.
  • I'm logged in now, but my name doesn't show up in the list of named users online. I find that a curious thing.
  • The earlier observation about the bar being high for participation is, for a person like me, accurate. When you're not a part of the fraternity, it's noticeable. Like being Charlie Brown on the playground. I earned an MBA with a 4.0/4.0 GPA, but have no hope of ever matching the intellectual depth of someone with an M.Div.
  • Sometimes it's just more entertaining to come here and read, with a bowl of popcorn and a nice warm cup of coffee close by, than it is to binge-watch a DVD collection, a series on Netflix or even Disney+.  Sort of like we used to do when malls were a big thing; just sit and observe the grand tapestry of human behavior coupled to a spectrum of personal opinions. Maybe there should be two categories instead of named user and Guest: Gladiator, and Spectator. I'd sit with my popcorn and beverage in the bleachers, never logging in.

Rev. Weedon is spot on about paying money. I did that for a year, and the value-add failed the good stewardship test for a theology dummy like me. It is high value for others, I'm sure; just not me. Most of the time, the good content gets discussed here. The less-than-stellar content can get discussed too.

And as for thread death, I know my own comments have killed a few off. It can be a blow to one's ego, so why do it?  After all, perhaps this entry will kill off this thread.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: May 12, 2020, 05:25:30 PM »
Since questions of recruitment, seminaries, past and future trends seems to still fodder of interest, this piece was published today online with link to a white paper containing several pages of statistical data:

More is coming, like the age range when recruitment opportunities are the ripest.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: May 10, 2020, 02:02:04 PM »

Pastor Hofman's reply was responsive.

First, a clarification. I'm not ordained, do not hold an M.Div. and not an under-shepherd of a congregation. So not a pastor.

I apologize for my error. Your name is familiar. Perhaps you were at Sem StL when I attended, 95-99.

I am on the roster as a commissioned worker (teacher, secondary ed degree), but have spent the last 25 years serving Christ and his disciples in that horrible, unwanted, third-class profession of "fund-raising", sixteen years at CSL and now at the corporate Synod level. (So, what do I know?)

But, then again, what do I know?

Bowing out now. I'm not a member of the fraternity.

Are you irritated about something? I stated that your reply to Steve Bohler was responsive. Thank you for the insightful information.

Yes, I was at CSL then, but on staff not as a student.

And any irritation I feel periodically is of no consequence. That said, please look for a PM from me.  Assumptions drive emotions. Emotions drive behavior.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: May 10, 2020, 01:16:39 PM »

So, if I am reading that report correctly, of that $3.5 million almost $3 million is money the synod received specifically from donors specifically FOR the seminaries.  Not discretionary funding.

I’m sorry. I did not see this when I was replying to Rev. Geminn.

Correct. Not discretionary funding.

A little less than $2 million is raised by Synod FOR the benefit of the seminaries, around half in gifts designated to the Joint Seminary Fund (the other half via JSF bequests). Resources listed as the Global Seminary Initiative are solicited gifts from a collaborative effort by Synod and the two seminaries. Grants to the seminaries are either secured by grant proposals, or pulled from funds designated by donors for a use where a seminary grant is possible - but the grant amount is determined by Synod. We stopped soliciting student aid gifts in 2015, but still have LCMS Inc. owned endowments where the income is restricted to providing student assistance.

So, not only do donors care deeply about seminaries, most of us at the I.C. do too. Otherwise I (my team) wouldn’t still be soliciting and facilitating seminary-designated donations, or directing donors to contact the seminaries to supply student financial aid dollars.

If someone wants to see where the discretionary money goes, we do put our budgets and audited financial statements online.  Keep in mind that individual donors are now providing around $1.5 million in unrestricted contributions, separate from what districts send. Another $1 million usually, but not always, comes out of someones’ estate where they named the Synod as one of the beneficiaries. So not all of the discretionary funds are from congregation worship offerings.

Assumptions drive emotions. Emotions drive behaviors.

NOW I’m bowing out.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: May 10, 2020, 12:28:39 PM »

Pastor Hofman's reply was responsive.

First, a clarification. I'm not ordained, do not hold an M.Div. and not an under-shepherd of a congregation. So not a pastor.  I am on the roster as a commissioned worker (teacher, secondary ed degree), but have spent the last 25 years serving Christ and his disciples in that horrible, unwanted, third-class profession of "fund-raising", sixteen years at CSL and now at the corporate Synod level. (So, what do I know?)

Thanks for this, Mark.  I was actually thinking of you in relation to this conversation.  Given that you were at CSL before LCMS Inc.  This info is helpful because, as you note, both sems have a huge development apparatus, 50-60% of the budget coming from donors.  That’s simply amazing and crazy (sorry not intending to invoke Aerosmith). Moreover, via the Synod, a good portion of the subsidy is given specifically for and to the seminaries.  Only about $600,000 of the 3.5 million are undesignated, which is 17% of that entire amount.  Do you think Synod Inc would be willing to give 3.5 million to the sems if all of that money were undesignated funds?  That I think is a key question in all of this as well.  Because about 3 million going through Synod Inc is specifically for the seminaries.  That, at least, communicates to me that the people of Synod truly care about the seminaries, but when they give they must specify where that amount should go.  This goes back to my main point that a merger is hard for me to grasp because of the blood and sweat that has gone into making the sems financially secure on their own.  If that is the plan that is going to take a lot of time to implement.  Maybe the pandemic is the situation needed to really push this forward, but I don’t know.  Again, I just don’t see those involved easily giving that up, which is fair.


Your question is hard to answer because worship offerings passing to districts and Synod are declining both in real dollars and especially dollars adjusted for purchasing power (inflation). But my gut says that if a shift to undesignated voluntary contributions (or least-restricted donations), there would be more money going to seminaries and missionaries and mission projects - not less. The infrastructure required to seek out, receive and administer restricted funds - especially tightly restricted funds - wouldn't need to be near as big, nor near as complex, consuming less of the undesignated revenue stream. I say these would receive more because you can look at the Constitution of the Synod to see why it was formed in the first place:  prepare and send well-educated workers; call and send well-prepared missionaries. There are other purposes for the Synod (preserve and promote a unity in doctrine) that require funding as well.

Will that ever happen? Probably not. We (meaning the bulk of pew-sitters) don't currently possess the will or desire to go in that direction. We like telling others how to spend what we offer, so we can feel we are having an impact. And there are forces in play over which no one - not donor, not congregation, not boards - has control.

What I suggest holding on to is the important sentence in your reply: "the people of Synod truly care about the seminaries". They also care deeply about missionaries. For the first time, more money was given to support specific missionaries (almost 100 of them) than came to St. Louis from the districts. The unrestricted portion of the budget doesn't speak to the power the individual donor has to shape what the Synod is doing, regardless of the amount they contribute. People voluntarily giving direct gifts, and putting a designation on them, does; but, there is a cost to that.

But, then again, what do I know?

Note: These are my personal opinions as a member of an LCMS congregation and a private citizen, based on my own experiences and education. They are not to be read or taken as any sort of official comment by or from the LCMS, or indicative of the Synod's official position on such matters.

Bowing out now. I'm not a member of the fraternity.

Your Turn / Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« on: May 10, 2020, 09:18:29 AM »

1. The seminaries receive basically 0% directly from the synod budget.
2. The seminaries are "owned and operated" by the synod; whatever the convention says (I don't think any synod president or Board of Directors would ever close/consolidate without convention direction/approval), the seminaries MUST do.

This isn't quite accurate.

The two seminaries received $3,572,756 from God's disciples, routed through the Synod's budget (A detailed breakdown by seminary and type of assistance is publicly available at or by directly downloading the report from

The last time I looked, the combined budgets of the two seminaries were about $39 million to $40 million ($22M for St. Louis; $17M or $18M for Fort Wayne).  So $3.5M in support via Synod's budget would be around 8.5 to 8.9 percent.  Granted, it's not the majority, but both seminaries have very competent development/advancement teams who help individuals, groups and organizations like the LWML supply - directly - anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of their operating funds, and endowments that generate between 10 and 20 percent (until this economic situation drove endowments underwater).

Seminary financial statements can be secured through a written request sent to their Boards of Regents.

And since the discussion is now back on this repetitive topic, it would be more accurate to state that congregations no longer fund seminary education out of regular worship offerings sent from their budgets to their districts, who send funds on to Synod. That died years ago. People do that through their philanthropy.  We should all quit complaining about it. God is providing the funding a different way. It dishonors any person, group, congregation or organization who is generous to the seminaries - and to seminarians- directly.

Assumptions drive emotions. Emotions drive behaviors.

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