Author Topic: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment  (Read 5087 times)

Dave Likeness

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2017, 04:55:03 PM »
There is another factor in the current enrollment and the enrollment in seminaries 20 years ago.
Today, there are more second career people who enroll in a seminary at age 45 or 50,  and are
unable to serve full-time as a pastor for 40 years.  In the golden age of the Lutheran seminaries
the graduates were in their mid to late 20's.

Charles Austin

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2017, 06:53:28 PM »
Furthermore, older, second-career pastors, perhaps with children heading for college, may not be able to work at "beginner" salaries and compensation packages. Younger pastors are more assertive than in previous generations and will make demands about where they are willing to serve. (We were pretty much told where we would go.)
Overall, the statistics and other info clearly predict a severe shortage of clergy for the ELCA.
Add to that the large number of small congregations unable to pay adequate compensation. The clergy shortage might require synods to forcibly merge or close these congregations.
Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. Heading home from Sioux City after three days and a reunion of the East High School class of - can you believe it! - 1959.

Jeremy Loesch

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2017, 07:43:15 AM »
A question about Trinity/Capitol in Columbus: Didn't Cap assume responsibility for Trinity recently, like take over their decision making abilities and treat it as an "independent" school within the university? I'm trying to recall what I read here about these two schools. Cap is a fine school with a very good reputation in Columbus and throughout Ohio.

Jeremy
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Team Hesse

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2017, 08:13:10 AM »
The clergy shortage might require synods to forcibly merge or close these congregations.


Or think about other ways of serving the needs of God's people......


Lou

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2017, 08:29:43 AM »
This problem seems to affect everyone.  In the AFLC we are suffering a clergy shortage and, while we're celebrating the fact that the new first year class is larger than the last graduating class, it still won't meet our needs.  And if we were dependent upon young men just out of college, well, we'd really be in a mess.  Every denomination will have to find more ways to train pastors or things will only get worse.  The RCs are bringing folks in from other countries--maybe Lutherans will need to bring in pastors from countries where our missionaries have done such good work, or we'll need to commit more resources to distance learning or something else.  But I think it's clear to many of us that the old system is no longer getting the job done.
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Dave Likeness

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2017, 09:38:45 AM »
Many of the vacant Lutheran parishes are small ones with 75 people or less on an average Sunday morning.
Those are also the same parishes who do not have the financial resources to support a full-time pastor and
his family.  Seminary graduates  are no longer affordable for many small congregations.  In many instances
the Lutheran seminaries are producing a product that has priced itself out of the current market.

DCharlton

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2017, 09:47:50 AM »
A question about Trinity/Capitol in Columbus: Didn't Cap assume responsibility for Trinity recently, like take over their decision making abilities and treat it as an "independent" school within the university? I'm trying to recall what I read here about these two schools. Cap is a fine school with a very good reputation in Columbus and throughout Ohio.

Jeremy

Trinity and Capital did "reunite" recently.  "Reunion" is a slightly inaccurate word because Trinity is the result of a merger between ELTS (ALC) and Hamma (LCA) in 1978.  ELTS had been related to Capital while Hamma had been related to Wittenberg University, in Springfield, OH. 
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Dave Benke

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2017, 03:09:32 PM »
Many of the vacant Lutheran parishes are small ones with 75 people or less on an average Sunday morning.
Those are also the same parishes who do not have the financial resources to support a full-time pastor and
his family.  Seminary graduates  are no longer affordable for many small congregations.  In many instances
the Lutheran seminaries are producing a product that has priced itself out of the current market.

Bingo-ish.

The rate of decline in the great percentage of congregations is going to continue, because of the age of the congregants.  In the smaller congregations, that older demographic often to almost always predominates.  So ten years from now, what's going to give?  I think what's going to give is the existence of the smaller congregations.  Yes, some of them can be managed by the semi-retired part-time pastors.  Yes, some of them can be divvied up into two and three point parishes.  But for many the pathway is toward closure. 

When President Harrison indicates that the Missouri Synod number will drop by a half million as the Synod is currently constituted, I think there's demographic evidence to support that.  I don't think there's a lot of evidence to support a leveling off and eventual increase in numbers fifteen years down the line. 

Mark Brown's estimation is true, in my opinion.  The drop in the number of viable congregations and in congregational size overall is the indicator for less enrollment in the seminaries.  Putting it more crassly, there are less good jobs out there any more. 

This is to me a strong underlying reason for the push to eliminate or truncate the ability of large congregations to send men from inside to the SMP training.  And it's why there's such hostility (ie "they're not real pastors) from a group among the clergy.  It's less ideological, in my opinion, and more economical.  "They're taking our jobs!"   From the other side, those larger congregations training from within through the SMP program are simply not interested in the ideologically-driven crop that emanates from some quarters, either in the field or at the seminary.  So their response would be "these were not going to be your jobs anyway."   If push came to shove, the large-mega congregations could easily become NALC II.

Dave Benke

Keith Falk

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2017, 03:28:37 PM »
A question about Trinity/Capitol in Columbus: Didn't Cap assume responsibility for Trinity recently, like take over their decision making abilities and treat it as an "independent" school within the university? I'm trying to recall what I read here about these two schools. Cap is a fine school with a very good reputation in Columbus and throughout Ohio.

Jeremy

Trinity and Capital did "reunite" recently.  "Reunion" is a slightly inaccurate word because Trinity is the result of a merger between ELTS (ALC) and Hamma (LCA) in 1978.  ELTS had been related to Capital while Hamma had been related to Wittenberg University, in Springfield, OH.


So moving forward (at least according to the guy communicating in an official capacity on the TLS Alumni FB group), Trinity will function as a divinity school of Capital; at least, that's the way to think about it.
Rev. Keith Falk, STS

Mark Brown

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2017, 03:53:47 PM »
Many of the vacant Lutheran parishes are small ones with 75 people or less on an average Sunday morning.
Those are also the same parishes who do not have the financial resources to support a full-time pastor and
his family.  Seminary graduates  are no longer affordable for many small congregations.  In many instances
the Lutheran seminaries are producing a product that has priced itself out of the current market.

Bingo-ish.

The rate of decline in the great percentage of congregations is going to continue, because of the age of the congregants.  In the smaller congregations, that older demographic often to almost always predominates.  So ten years from now, what's going to give?  I think what's going to give is the existence of the smaller congregations.  Yes, some of them can be managed by the semi-retired part-time pastors.  Yes, some of them can be divvied up into two and three point parishes.  But for many the pathway is toward closure. 

When President Harrison indicates that the Missouri Synod number will drop by a half million as the Synod is currently constituted, I think there's demographic evidence to support that.  I don't think there's a lot of evidence to support a leveling off and eventual increase in numbers fifteen years down the line. 

Mark Brown's estimation is true, in my opinion.  The drop in the number of viable congregations and in congregational size overall is the indicator for less enrollment in the seminaries.  Putting it more crassly, there are less good jobs out there any more. 

This is to me a strong underlying reason for the push to eliminate or truncate the ability of large congregations to send men from inside to the SMP training.  And it's why there's such hostility (ie "they're not real pastors) from a group among the clergy.  It's less ideological, in my opinion, and more economical.  "They're taking our jobs!"   From the other side, those larger congregations training from within through the SMP program are simply not interested in the ideologically-driven crop that emanates from some quarters, either in the field or at the seminary.  So their response would be "these were not going to be your jobs anyway."   If push came to shove, the large-mega congregations could easily become NALC II.

Dave Benke

Yep, 99.999% with you.  I don't think the small congregation stuff is even questionable.  Even through the economics driven part, and the NALC II part.  But I'd put it slightly differently.  The LCMS already has an eclesiola, although the diminutive might be wrong, and it is the large-congregations.  It started with contemporary worship, it continued when they all changed their names and signs to remove traces of denominational identity (or started sites without any), and now it finishes with their own seminary and ministerial track.  Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.  They have stopped walking with the rest of the synod over 25 years without formally leaving the synod.  If you can't take any seminary trained and certified graduate, something we all agreed to as fundamental, how are you really a part of the synod?

Far from a lack of ministers, we have an over supply.  I'm more hopeful about the stabilization over 10 -15 years.  At this point the 70+ crowd still has a sizable contingent of "cultural Christians" who attend out of habit.  That number drops to 0 by 45 year olds.  Even in the small congregation the demographics mirror society in the 55 and under groups.  In fact they are typically younger as those 20-35 yo in them have about 3 kids, which is more than the 1.5 their non-religious contemporaries are having.  It is only that big older group that skews everything.  But that stabilization is going to be at a much smaller level of total size and economic wherewithal.

If we were being honest, I think we'd start working on three things. 1. Creating an easy out path for those large congregations that won't take a seminary trained minister.  2. Working on creating a real parish ministerial system, where four congregation of 70 people in worship any given Sunday within 10 miles of each other, would stop attempting to keep 4 FT Seminary trained ministers, but be a parish with maybe 2 ministers plus say a parish nurse and a deaconess. 3. Work on normalizing the rest of the institutional size (i.e. 1 sem, Bishops that are more like Dr. Benke was, etc.).  But such things would require leadership and followership, so instead what will happen is 3 out of 4 of those small places will close.  Just enough will migrate to the one that stays open to stay open.  The rest will become "nones" or join the Baptists closest to them.  And most of that will be paid for in pastoral low wages and ulcers. (I don't think the large places will necessarily have an easy time either as the traditional core that floats them dies and they all have to weather a ministerial change.  50% of that type of place never make it through such a generational change.)   




John_Hannah

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2017, 04:13:34 PM »
Many of the vacant Lutheran parishes are small ones with 75 people or less on an average Sunday morning.
Those are also the same parishes who do not have the financial resources to support a full-time pastor and
his family.  Seminary graduates  are no longer affordable for many small congregations.  In many instances
the Lutheran seminaries are producing a product that has priced itself out of the current market.

Bingo-ish.

The rate of decline in the great percentage of congregations is going to continue, because of the age of the congregants.  In the smaller congregations, that older demographic often to almost always predominates.  So ten years from now, what's going to give?  I think what's going to give is the existence of the smaller congregations.  Yes, some of them can be managed by the semi-retired part-time pastors.  Yes, some of them can be divvied up into two and three point parishes.  But for many the pathway is toward closure. 

When President Harrison indicates that the Missouri Synod number will drop by a half million as the Synod is currently constituted, I think there's demographic evidence to support that.  I don't think there's a lot of evidence to support a leveling off and eventual increase in numbers fifteen years down the line. 

Mark Brown's estimation is true, in my opinion.  The drop in the number of viable congregations and in congregational size overall is the indicator for less enrollment in the seminaries.  Putting it more crassly, there are less good jobs out there any more. 

This is to me a strong underlying reason for the push to eliminate or truncate the ability of large congregations to send men from inside to the SMP training.  And it's why there's such hostility (ie "they're not real pastors) from a group among the clergy.  It's less ideological, in my opinion, and more economical.  "They're taking our jobs!"   From the other side, those larger congregations training from within through the SMP program are simply not interested in the ideologically-driven crop that emanates from some quarters, either in the field or at the seminary.  So their response would be "these were not going to be your jobs anyway."   If push came to shove, the large-mega congregations could easily become NALC II.

Dave Benke

Yep, 99.999% with you.  I don't think the small congregation stuff is even questionable.  Even through the economics driven part, and the NALC II part.  But I'd put it slightly differently.  The LCMS already has an eclesiola, although the diminutive might be wrong, and it is the large-congregations.  It started with contemporary worship, it continued when they all changed their names and signs to remove traces of denominational identity (or started sites without any), and now it finishes with their own seminary and ministerial track.  Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.  They have stopped walking with the rest of the synod over 25 years without formally leaving the synod.  If you can't take any seminary trained and certified graduate, something we all agreed to as fundamental, how are you really a part of the synod?

Far from a lack of ministers, we have an over supply.  I'm more hopeful about the stabilization over 10 -15 years.  At this point the 70+ crowd still has a sizable contingent of "cultural Christians" who attend out of habit.  That number drops to 0 by 45 year olds.  Even in the small congregation the demographics mirror society in the 55 and under groups.  In fact they are typically younger as those 20-35 yo in them have about 3 kids, which is more than the 1.5 their non-religious contemporaries are having.  It is only that big older group that skews everything.  But that stabilization is going to be at a much smaller level of total size and economic wherewithal.

If we were being honest, I think we'd start working on three things. 1. Creating an easy out path for those large congregations that won't take a seminary trained minister.  2. Working on creating a real parish ministerial system, where four congregation of 70 people in worship any given Sunday within 10 miles of each other, would stop attempting to keep 4 FT Seminary trained ministers, but be a parish with maybe 2 ministers plus say a parish nurse and a deaconess. 3. Work on normalizing the rest of the institutional size (i.e. 1 sem, Bishops that are more like Dr. Benke was, etc.).  But such things would require leadership and followership, so instead what will happen is 3 out of 4 of those small places will close.  Just enough will migrate to the one that stays open to stay open.  The rest will become "nones" or join the Baptists closest to them.  And most of that will be paid for in pastoral low wages and ulcers. (I don't think the large places will necessarily have an easy time either as the traditional core that floats them dies and they all have to weather a ministerial change.  50% of that type of place never make it through such a generational change.)   

Wisdom here. Attend. It is in your interest.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

D. Engebretson

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2017, 04:15:47 PM »
I am part of the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation born post WWII in 1960.  We swelled the ranks of the public school system and eventually all educational systems after that.  With a drop off in birth rates in the years since the system has been adjusting year by year.  I see it especially in my local unified school district struggling to eventually close the regional county elementary schools that were so necessary in my time, and consolidate the rest in remaining larger, more centralized buildings.

Now my generation is on the cusp of a huge wave of retirement.  I am about 8 years out, and the very tail end a few years behind me.  The downside of this wave will be the shortages and voids we will create in the workplace and elsewhere.  Right now the trades are especially suffering, part of that due to a failure of my generation to stress them over an over-dependence on high tech.

But the upside is that we are working longer and remaining in the active workforce.  Even if we retire at the 65 year mark we typically move on to other work, partly for economic reasons to supplement less-than-adequate retirement benefits (or over-dependence on Social Security as the sole means of support), or simply because we are still in good enough health and need to remain active with a purpose.  I wonder if this influx of Baby Boomer clergy retirees might alleviate a bit of the clergy shortage for some of those smaller, less financially viable congregations.  With a lifetime of experience and skills minus the need for that onerous benefit package that capsizes the typical small church budget, might my generation serve as one solution for some of this?  Even in larger parishes retired pastors make great visitation pastors to take the load off of the administrative pastor and his associates. 

I know that I do not plan to leave the ministry after I retire from FT work.  After serving as a circuit visitor and vacancy pastor and seeing the huge need for pulpit supply I know that my skills and experience will be needed and used for many years to come. 
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

John_Hannah

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #27 on: December 16, 2017, 04:51:04 PM »
I am part of the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation born post WWII in 1960.  We swelled the ranks of the public school system and eventually all educational systems after that.  With a drop off in birth rates in the years since the system has been adjusting year by year.  I see it especially in my local unified school district struggling to eventually close the regional county elementary schools that were so necessary in my time, and consolidate the rest in remaining larger, more centralized buildings.

Now my generation is on the cusp of a huge wave of retirement.  I am about 8 years out, and the very tail end a few years behind me.  The downside of this wave will be the shortages and voids we will create in the workplace and elsewhere.  Right now the trades are especially suffering, part of that due to a failure of my generation to stress them over an over-dependence on high tech.

But the upside is that we are working longer and remaining in the active workforce.  Even if we retire at the 65 year mark we typically move on to other work, partly for economic reasons to supplement less-than-adequate retirement benefits (or over-dependence on Social Security as the sole means of support), or simply because we are still in good enough health and need to remain active with a purpose.  I wonder if this influx of Baby Boomer clergy retirees might alleviate a bit of the clergy shortage for some of those smaller, less financially viable congregations.  With a lifetime of experience and skills minus the need for that onerous benefit package that capsizes the typical small church budget, might my generation serve as one solution for some of this?  Even in larger parishes retired pastors make great visitation pastors to take the load off of the administrative pastor and his associates. 

I know that I do not plan to leave the ministry after I retire from FT work.  After serving as a circuit visitor and vacancy pastor and seeing the huge need for pulpit supply I know that my skills and experience will be needed and used for many years to come.

More wisdom!

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

DCharlton

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2017, 05:06:42 PM »
Mark Brown's estimation is true, in my opinion.  The drop in the number of viable congregations and in congregational size overall is the indicator for less enrollment in the seminaries.  Putting it more crassly, there are less good jobs out there any more. 

This may be so, but if so, why has seminary enrollment dropped more quickly than denominational membership and the number of congregations.  In the last 10 years, ELCA seminary enrollment has dropped over 50%.  Membership and number of congregations has dropped, but at a lesser rate.  At first glance, it seems that seminary enrollment is the indicator of decline. 
David Charlton  

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Dave Likeness

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Re: ELCA Seminaries Enrollment
« Reply #29 on: December 16, 2017, 06:10:02 PM »
The big variable among retired pastors is their personal physical health. Those in good health can continue
to provide pulpit supply as well as shut-in visitation in their area. However, there will always be those pastors
who have poor health in their retirement years and are unavailable for any pastoral assistance.  The bottom
line is that the church at large will need a focused plan in dealing with small parishes who are financially unable
to support full-time pastors.  Retired pastors will not be the key to that plan.