Author Topic: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)  (Read 6769 times)

Randy Bosch

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #60 on: May 04, 2021, 02:09:21 PM »
A few thoughts, some petty, maybe some profound:

1) As a graduate of some of the last bigger classes, where 20-30 graduates would go without a call on call day, when I look at where these grads are being assigned there is more than a hint of envy which is my sin such as it is.  Quite a few of us were assigned to places with little hope and the entire future course of ministry determined by that initial placement.  I am happy that it less so with many of these grads.  May they have fruitful ministries.

2) Even though the decline in the number of graduates has obviously allowed placement to be pickier, the rot and denial are deep enough that there are still several assigned between rocks and hard places.

3) Seeing as the system won't put any pressure itself on congregations to address reality, the only feedback mechanism is enrollment and what current pastors tell potential ones.  And what everyone in the hierarchy should understand fully is that the message is if you can do anything else, do it.  And until either enough pressure builds that the hierarchy is willing to lead in truth on these matters or the way of all flesh happens effecting the change by crisis and attrition from below, that will not change.

4) I was once hopeful that the pressure would build fast enough.  Today I am much less so.  The boomers as in all things are proving remarkably willing to hold onto positions and refuse necessary change (while often introducing spurious changes) long past the point of Joel's hope that something would be left after the locust swarm.

5) Thinking of Pr. Benke's statistics.  I have reported every year I have been here.  And I forced good numbers on myself.  Both things that are not widely shared.  Due to the demand to report on "in person" numbers, this is the first year I will not be reporting anything.  Since they dropped the 10 years of history on the locator, I have no intention of letting the one number anyone could see be COVID's number.  I have zero trust in the system to maintain any type of uniformity.  I specifically made choices that avoided the record and play anytime in favor of maintaining the church appointment.  Yes, they are not physically present which I agree doesn't fully count, but my numbers are not just "views".  They are attending in the way they think possible and I could speak to each one however briefly before and after much like meeting in the narthex.  I determined the best way not to lie about anything was simply not to report anything.  Let the numbers autopopulate from the prior year as they do with the appropriate year indicator.  Let the reader understand.

Hey Mark,

Just catching up here.

I always look forward to reading your posts as they always pique my interest.  To your 4th point I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, especially considering some of the comments here.   I wonder if the inability to let go has to do with all the hard work that during their tenure in ministry did tend to work.  I suppose that’s the curse of coming of age and serving during the greatest period of growth the church has ever seen.   I would imagine it must be hard watching the very thing that you dedicated your entire life to fall apart before your very eyes.  It begs all kind of questions, questions that may be a very threat to the identities and egos that were formed during this time and then cemented.   You add the “sacred canopy” and the denial can be even stronger and decision making even more baffling.  After all, God is on our side, at least that’s what we’ve always believed and it always appeared that way.  So now what?  Maybe this decline and collapse is revealing that we haven’t been as effective or in control as we thought we might be and that’s going to mess around with some egos.  It’s always funny for my wife and I to compare how we grew up, especially from a church life perspective.  We really were in two different worlds.  Already in the 90s my home congregation and school was well into decline, with its glory days further and further in the rear view mirror.  My wife’s congregation and school, headed by father-in-law, was growing by leaps and bounds, breaking ground and building.  He was at one time one of those guys who would go all over and speak at conferences and conventions.   Coming into a marriage with both experiences has made for interesting conversations and realizations on both sides.  The one thing it impressed upon me was that there are much more exterior and worldly factors that go into the success of a church which we don’t really give much attention to because of our God talk.  It reminds me of the conversation concerning movements and leaders.  Are movements spawned by good leadership or do movements spawn the leaders needed to lead them?  My sense is that we are still very much attached to the former because of how individualistic we are, which is why we keep doing the same things over and over again but getting the same results.  It’s like Synodical politics, I think we would more accurately read the present state of Synod if we understood President Harrison as being more the result of Synod’s move rightward rather than his leading the way from the start.   

Peace,
Scott+

Very helpful analysis, thank you.

Mark Brown

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #61 on: May 04, 2021, 02:14:03 PM »
A few thoughts, some petty, maybe some profound:

1) As a graduate of some of the last bigger classes, where 20-30 graduates would go without a call on call day, when I look at where these grads are being assigned there is more than a hint of envy which is my sin such as it is.  Quite a few of us were assigned to places with little hope and the entire future course of ministry determined by that initial placement.  I am happy that it less so with many of these grads.  May they have fruitful ministries.

2) Even though the decline in the number of graduates has obviously allowed placement to be pickier, the rot and denial are deep enough that there are still several assigned between rocks and hard places.

3) Seeing as the system won't put any pressure itself on congregations to address reality, the only feedback mechanism is enrollment and what current pastors tell potential ones.  And what everyone in the hierarchy should understand fully is that the message is if you can do anything else, do it.  And until either enough pressure builds that the hierarchy is willing to lead in truth on these matters or the way of all flesh happens effecting the change by crisis and attrition from below, that will not change.

4) I was once hopeful that the pressure would build fast enough.  Today I am much less so.  The boomers as in all things are proving remarkably willing to hold onto positions and refuse necessary change (while often introducing spurious changes) long past the point of Joel's hope that something would be left after the locust swarm.

5) Thinking of Pr. Benke's statistics.  I have reported every year I have been here.  And I forced good numbers on myself.  Both things that are not widely shared.  Due to the demand to report on "in person" numbers, this is the first year I will not be reporting anything.  Since they dropped the 10 years of history on the locator, I have no intention of letting the one number anyone could see be COVID's number.  I have zero trust in the system to maintain any type of uniformity.  I specifically made choices that avoided the record and play anytime in favor of maintaining the church appointment.  Yes, they are not physically present which I agree doesn't fully count, but my numbers are not just "views".  They are attending in the way they think possible and I could speak to each one however briefly before and after much like meeting in the narthex.  I determined the best way not to lie about anything was simply not to report anything.  Let the numbers autopopulate from the prior year as they do with the appropriate year indicator.  Let the reader understand.

Hey Mark,

Just catching up here.

I always look forward to reading your posts as they always pique my interest.  To your 4th point I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, especially considering some of the comments here.   I wonder if the inability to let go has to do with all the hard work that during their tenure in ministry did tend to work.  I suppose that’s the curse of coming of age and serving during the greatest period of growth the church has ever seen.   I would imagine it must be hard watching the very thing that you dedicated your entire life to fall apart before your very eyes.  It begs all kind of questions, questions that may be a very threat to the identities and egos that were formed during this time and then cemented.   You add the “sacred canopy” and the denial can be even stronger and decision making even more baffling.  After all, God is on our side, at least that’s what we’ve always believed and it always appeared that way.  So now what?  Maybe this decline and collapse is revealing that we haven’t been as effective or in control as we thought we might be and that’s going to mess around with some egos.  It’s always funny for my wife and I to compare how we grew up, especially from a church life perspective.  We really were in two different worlds.  Already in the 90s my home congregation and school was well into decline, with its glory days further and further in the rear view mirror.  My wife’s congregation and school, headed by father-in-law, was growing by leaps and bounds, breaking ground and building.  He was at one time one of those guys who would go all over and speak at conferences and conventions.   Coming into a marriage with both experiences has made for interesting conversations and realizations on both sides.  The one thing it impressed upon me was that there are much more exterior and worldly factors that go into the success of a church which we don’t really give much attention to because of our God talk.  It reminds me of the conversation concerning movements and leaders.  Are movements spawned by good leadership or do movements spawn the leaders needed to lead them?  My sense is that we are still very much attached to the former because of how individualistic we are, which is why we keep doing the same things over and over again but getting the same results.  It’s like Synodical politics, I think we would more accurately read the present state of Synod if we understood President Harrison as being more the result of Synod’s move rightward rather than his leading the way from the start.   

Peace,
Scott+

I was wondering if/hoping you would chime in again.  Yeah, you can count me on the side of thinking that most politicians (including church politicians) see which way the crowd is moving and jump in front of it.  So, yeah, I think I wrote prior to the elections that Harrison is the centrist candidate. Because he occupies where the LCMS is.  To me he is the perfect example of jumping in front at the right time.  And of course our politics have been locked into this narrow range, roughly between Pastor is Theologian-Leader and Pastor is Leader-Theologian.  Of course I'm way over here with Curtis Yarvin/Mencius Moldbug that what we need is regime change which would be someone on the order of a Walther who could just kinda make the changes necessary without much of a peep.  We don't have to live this way with a completely dysfunctional governing institution.

And yeah, I guess I'd chalk the hesitance to leave positions to even decaying senses able to pick up the need for regime change.  The mythmaking apparatus of the decaying regime built up as the ultimate pastors these guys who mostly happened to get assigned to an outer suburb in the '80s-'90s and allowed the remaining hippies to pay the guitar.  Most becoming 3rd string imitations of the true mega-church down the street. But that was enough for LCMS glory. (And yes, I'm being nihilistically cynical, but that is the meager rations of the dissident.) And all those myths are being revealed.  The myths of the heroic Capitalist-CEO-Pastor.  The myths of the steadfast Gnesio-Pastor. The myths of "I made and preserve this."  The myths that served our egos. If I was successful, I'd be white knuckling it too.  But I'm not, so I act this way.

Dave Likeness

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #62 on: May 04, 2021, 03:21:41 PM »
The LCMS Website has posted the latest membership totals for our Synod.


2020.........1,861,121 Baptized members

2010.........2,310,235 Baptized members

This is a net loss of 449,106 members which is about one half million members.
This  quick glance at the LCMS might help us understand the big picture that
faces our two seminaries.

Dave Benke

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #63 on: May 04, 2021, 07:04:38 PM »
The LCMS Website has posted the latest membership totals for our Synod.


2020.........1,861,121 Baptized members

2010.........2,310,235 Baptized members

This is a net loss of 449,106 members which is about one half million members.
This  quick glance at the LCMS might help us understand the big picture that
faces our two seminaries.

So 2030.........1,300,0000 Baptized at the current rate.  Except the rate is going to accelerate as the result of even less baptisms and schools and even more deaths, so maybe 1.1 million. My aim is to be there to witness it at age 84.  Some of the statistical folks try to plug in a way that this all levels out.  That seems more like wishful thinking. 

Of course, you can check out those numbers through other denominations, and get the same sinking feeling.  We are not alone.

Seminary-wise, let's say the new goal is 100 per year from both seminaries in all programs, so 1000 per decade, and let's say by 2030 there are 5000 congregations left in various states of repair or disrepair.  Is that enough fresh energy?   Maybe it is.

Dave Benke

Robert Johnson

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #64 on: May 04, 2021, 07:51:16 PM »
Yeah, the fly in the ointment is property tax. Under Proposition 13 in California, our property taxes were only $2,000 per year. In New York, I anticipate it will be at least four times that. But at least in Rochester, many other housing related expenses (insurance, utilities, etc.) will be less, so I'm hoping it will close to balance out.

I lived in Rochester for several years when I was getting my PhD at the U. of Rochester. Summers are quite nice, but ... say goodbye to the sun for nearly every day from November through most of April. If you have any elements of Seasonal Affective Disorder, they will be amplified in Rochester. I wore a set of the famous LL Bean boots with rubber bottoms every day for half of each year, because walking meant wading in salt-laden brine everywhere. Salt is cheap there, so they use that instead of plowing. Your car will eventually tell you why this is destructive.

I defended my PhD on May 1, 1989 in spring weather. A week later, there was a 1 foot snowfall in Rochester.

Utilities there are not outlandish but the amount of heating BTUs you will consume will be large.

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #65 on: May 04, 2021, 09:13:59 PM »
Yeah, the fly in the ointment is property tax. Under Proposition 13 in California, our property taxes were only $2,000 per year. In New York, I anticipate it will be at least four times that. But at least in Rochester, many other housing related expenses (insurance, utilities, etc.) will be less, so I'm hoping it will close to balance out.

I lived in Rochester for several years when I was getting my PhD at the U. of Rochester. Summers are quite nice, but ... say goodbye to the sun for nearly every day from November through most of April. If you have any elements of Seasonal Affective Disorder, they will be amplified in Rochester. I wore a set of the famous LL Bean boots with rubber bottoms every day for half of each year, because walking meant wading in salt-laden brine everywhere. Salt is cheap there, so they use that instead of plowing. Your car will eventually tell you why this is destructive.

I defended my PhD on May 1, 1989 in spring weather. A week later, there was a 1 foot snowfall in Rochester.

Utilities there are not outlandish but the amount of heating BTUs you will consume will be large.

Lake effect snow.  :)
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #66 on: May 04, 2021, 09:24:53 PM »
Yeah, the fly in the ointment is property tax. Under Proposition 13 in California, our property taxes were only $2,000 per year. In New York, I anticipate it will be at least four times that. But at least in Rochester, many other housing related expenses (insurance, utilities, etc.) will be less, so I'm hoping it will close to balance out.

I lived in Rochester for several years when I was getting my PhD at the U. of Rochester. Summers are quite nice, but ... say goodbye to the sun for nearly every day from November through most of April. If you have any elements of Seasonal Affective Disorder, they will be amplified in Rochester. I wore a set of the famous LL Bean boots with rubber bottoms every day for half of each year, because walking meant wading in salt-laden brine everywhere. Salt is cheap there, so they use that instead of plowing. Your car will eventually tell you why this is destructive.

I defended my PhD on May 1, 1989 in spring weather. A week later, there was a 1 foot snowfall in Rochester.

Utilities there are not outlandish but the amount of heating BTUs you will consume will be large.

Lake effect snow.  :)
On the way back from RJN’s funeral we cruised all the way on I-80 making great time, then spent over an hour going a few miles between LaPorte and Michigan City due to heavy lake effect squalls that ground everything to a halt even though there were no major weather systems in the Midwest that day. Good times. Long live the Great Lakes!

Fcdwyn

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #67 on: May 05, 2021, 02:38:31 PM »
Maybe I am missing something here but the lack of students at the seminaries doesn't concern me given our current decline.  To me it makes sense, a rapidly declining church body is inevitably going to have less seminarians.  It's all relative.  If my class (09) graduated in 2021 there would be a shortage of calls.  The amount of calling congregations seeking seminarians is still very low when compared to the numbers of previous decades. 

Peace,
Scott+

The final "trail indicator" is congregations closing.  From a corporate perspective, which we are not, more than a third of the franchises should be closed or merged because the market share has gone the way of all flesh. 

Of course, we don't think that way.  Instead, the small/tiny and getting smaller/tinier congregations sometimes band together, sometimes use a retired pastor or some form of other vocational servant, and offer less and less annually other than the 10 AM service. 

On our Call Day in the way back when, of the 350 candidates receiving calls (that's right, 350 from the two seminaries) at least half, maybe more, went to St. John Gaspump in Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana and other states, with 80 people in worship.  Today in those same precincts 80 is a MegaChurch, and 4 churches together calling one candidate would get to 80.  The other end is that there are less and less places needing an associate pastor, a #2, because the congregation has grown.  Some have instead shrunk from 3 to 2 or 2 to 1. 

Since our way of seeing the world is through the Axis Mundi and the inbreaking of the Kingdom through local altars, fonts and pulpits we are loath to give up on any of those locales. 

Ergo - the number of students graduating from seminaries is a far, far steeper declination table than the number of congregations - that's held almost steady all these decades even though the number of graduates is 25% the high point.

Blame it on the bossa nova.

Dave Benke


92 candidates from both seminaries is a troubling number.  When Bill graduated in 1963 there were 126 from St. Louis.  I do not know how many graduated from  Springfield in 1963. Bill's St. Louis class originally  numbered about 200.  Due to the opening of the Sr. College and the fact that another year was added to seminary program, members of Bill original class were asked to attend summer school for two years so that there would be a 1962 graduating class. Bill had to work summers, so he was among those who had the extra year added on to the process of becoming an LCMS pastor.

The decline in LCMS pastors entering the ministry is a matter of great concern.  It seems that the 2023 class of seminary gradates from both seminaries will number 70.  The number of vacant congregations contributes to men like Bill serving vacancies.  At 84 Bill has decided  he will no longer accept a vacancy.  We pray that the congregation he is serving will have a pastor by the end of June.  Between now and then he will confirm the youth class, baptize an infant, visit shut ins and conduct two funerals. I recently heard of an LCMS congregation that has been vacant for two years.

Marie Meyer

I am the vacancy pastor of a smaller congregation - have been for over two years. My experience goes along with the bold statement in Dave Benke's quote. There is little sign of hope for future growth-the facilities are very limiting. The congregation has $400K in reserve; average att. of 50+ (pre-covid); average age of worshipers is probably 60 y.o. Offerings ave. $2,500/wk. (dropping to about $2,000/wk during covid). There’s a sister congregation 3.5 miles away worshiping 85 (two services - Sat night and Sun. morning pre-covid) with a large nave and campus (a k-8 school facility that is reduced to a pre-school).

During my first year, the "Call committee" met regularly and did get a call list from the district; they narrowed it down from 12 to 3 guys, who all said they were not interested in receiving a call--their stated reasons had nothing to do with this congregation.  The call committee stopped meeting and I was asked if I would continue. I agreed. I am paid 1/2 of my salary at retirement (2008) for preaching; bible class; shut-in calls; hospital visits, and 10 office hrs. per week. There were 10 children in S.S. pre-covid. Only 2 of those attend our outdoor service now which averages 30 in attendance. About 6 youth (high school & college age); no confirmations anticipated for at least 5 years.

Fact is they cannot afford a full time pastor without subsidizing from the reserves. They could consolidate with the sister congregation but asking folks about that possibility in congregational interviews during my first year, they generally wanted to continue on their own. No one from the district has ever mentioned consolidation, but have mentioned something about a so-called “cathedral plan (??)” with other churches in the circuit (only one of which is doing well—2 pastors, 3 services, k-8 school with 250 kids) with very little description and no written plan or procedure that I have seen. No district official has discouraged me from serving them – just the opposite.

K. S. Hahn  CSL '72

BTW Dave, going through an old box of family photos recently my sister found my '72 class photo. It had 146 mug shots.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 02:43:27 PM by Fcdwyn »

Mark Brown

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #68 on: May 05, 2021, 03:10:19 PM »
Maybe I am missing something here but the lack of students at the seminaries doesn't concern me given our current decline.  To me it makes sense, a rapidly declining church body is inevitably going to have less seminarians.  It's all relative.  If my class (09) graduated in 2021 there would be a shortage of calls.  The amount of calling congregations seeking seminarians is still very low when compared to the numbers of previous decades. 

Peace,
Scott+

The final "trail indicator" is congregations closing.  From a corporate perspective, which we are not, more than a third of the franchises should be closed or merged because the market share has gone the way of all flesh. 

Of course, we don't think that way.  Instead, the small/tiny and getting smaller/tinier congregations sometimes band together, sometimes use a retired pastor or some form of other vocational servant, and offer less and less annually other than the 10 AM service. 

On our Call Day in the way back when, of the 350 candidates receiving calls (that's right, 350 from the two seminaries) at least half, maybe more, went to St. John Gaspump in Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana and other states, with 80 people in worship.  Today in those same precincts 80 is a MegaChurch, and 4 churches together calling one candidate would get to 80.  The other end is that there are less and less places needing an associate pastor, a #2, because the congregation has grown.  Some have instead shrunk from 3 to 2 or 2 to 1. 

Since our way of seeing the world is through the Axis Mundi and the inbreaking of the Kingdom through local altars, fonts and pulpits we are loath to give up on any of those locales. 

Ergo - the number of students graduating from seminaries is a far, far steeper declination table than the number of congregations - that's held almost steady all these decades even though the number of graduates is 25% the high point.

Blame it on the bossa nova.

Dave Benke


92 candidates from both seminaries is a troubling number.  When Bill graduated in 1963 there were 126 from St. Louis.  I do not know how many graduated from  Springfield in 1963. Bill's St. Louis class originally  numbered about 200.  Due to the opening of the Sr. College and the fact that another year was added to seminary program, members of Bill original class were asked to attend summer school for two years so that there would be a 1962 graduating class. Bill had to work summers, so he was among those who had the extra year added on to the process of becoming an LCMS pastor.

The decline in LCMS pastors entering the ministry is a matter of great concern.  It seems that the 2023 class of seminary gradates from both seminaries will number 70.  The number of vacant congregations contributes to men like Bill serving vacancies.  At 84 Bill has decided  he will no longer accept a vacancy.  We pray that the congregation he is serving will have a pastor by the end of June.  Between now and then he will confirm the youth class, baptize an infant, visit shut ins and conduct two funerals. I recently heard of an LCMS congregation that has been vacant for two years.

Marie Meyer

I am the vacancy pastor of a smaller congregation - have been for over two years. My experience goes along with the bold statement in Dave Benke's quote. There is little sign of hope for future growth-the facilities are very limiting. The congregation has $400K in reserve; average att. of 50+ (pre-covid); average age of worshipers is probably 60 y.o. Offerings ave. $2,500/wk. (dropping to about $2,000/wk during covid). There’s a sister congregation 3.5 miles away worshiping 85 (two services - Sat night and Sun. morning pre-covid) with a large nave and campus (a k-8 school facility that is reduced to a pre-school).

During my first year, the "Call committee" met regularly and did get a call list from the district; they narrowed it down from 12 to 3 guys, who all said they were not interested in receiving a call--their stated reasons had nothing to do with this congregation.  The call committee stopped meeting and I was asked if I would continue. I agreed. I am paid 1/2 of my salary at retirement (2008) for preaching; bible class; shut-in calls; hospital visits, and 10 office hrs. per week. There were 10 children in S.S. pre-covid. Only 2 of those attend our outdoor service now which averages 30 in attendance. About 6 youth (high school & college age); no confirmations anticipated for at least 5 years.

Fact is they cannot afford a full time pastor without subsidizing from the reserves. They could consolidate with the sister congregation but asking folks about that possibility in congregational interviews during my first year, they generally wanted to continue on their own. No one from the district has ever mentioned consolidation, but have mentioned something about a so-called “cathedral plan (??)” with other churches in the circuit (only one of which is doing well—2 pastors, 3 services, k-8 school with 250 kids) with very little description and no written plan or procedure that I have seen. No district official has discouraged me from serving them – just the opposite.

K. S. Hahn  CSL '72

BTW Dave, going through an old box of family photos recently my sister found my '72 class photo. It had 146 mug shots.

Add this story to my pile of stories just like it.  Flash forward  5 - 10 years.  This congregation is closed.  Pastor Hahn has reached the end of his chaplaincy time and they only bring in $1000/wk.  The congregation with 85 now has become a chaplaincy situation with say 45.  And then it too follows this one.  What was at the start two moribund congregations separated by a mere 3.5 miles has become zero.  That is the path of no resistance.  And nobody in the hierarchy is going to expend any effort to change it.

There are two other potential paths.  This congregation could merge with the 85 and become a solid 130.  That congregation could stop doing private masses (Saturday night) and tell everyone to show up on Sunday morning.  And they could focus themselves on a vibrant and robust time of worship and fellowship.  That renewed bond of fellowship and communion of the spirit could build into ways to use the facilities and serve the area.  And 10 years later they are the renewal story.  But that story would mean leaving Haran in an act of faith in the promise.

The second path would be that all the declining congregations enter into some type of regional agreement with the one thriving congregation.  Staffing is done at the circuit level.  The promise is that the altars and pulpits will not be abandoned. But the sovereignty would be at the parish/circuit level.  10 years later there is a diverse ministerial staff (pastors, deaconesses, parish nurses, teachers) serving a regional parish that has probably decided to close a couple of locations, but has grown together.  But that story would mean realizing what you think is freedom is really a pig feeding place and that getting up and going to Father is better.

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #69 on: May 05, 2021, 03:58:47 PM »
Maybe I am missing something here but the lack of students at the seminaries doesn't concern me given our current decline.  To me it makes sense, a rapidly declining church body is inevitably going to have less seminarians.  It's all relative.  If my class (09) graduated in 2021 there would be a shortage of calls.  The amount of calling congregations seeking seminarians is still very low when compared to the numbers of previous decades. 

Peace,
Scott+

The final "trail indicator" is congregations closing.  From a corporate perspective, which we are not, more than a third of the franchises should be closed or merged because the market share has gone the way of all flesh. 

Of course, we don't think that way.  Instead, the small/tiny and getting smaller/tinier congregations sometimes band together, sometimes use a retired pastor or some form of other vocational servant, and offer less and less annually other than the 10 AM service. 

On our Call Day in the way back when, of the 350 candidates receiving calls (that's right, 350 from the two seminaries) at least half, maybe more, went to St. John Gaspump in Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana and other states, with 80 people in worship.  Today in those same precincts 80 is a MegaChurch, and 4 churches together calling one candidate would get to 80.  The other end is that there are less and less places needing an associate pastor, a #2, because the congregation has grown.  Some have instead shrunk from 3 to 2 or 2 to 1. 

Since our way of seeing the world is through the Axis Mundi and the inbreaking of the Kingdom through local altars, fonts and pulpits we are loath to give up on any of those locales. 

Ergo - the number of students graduating from seminaries is a far, far steeper declination table than the number of congregations - that's held almost steady all these decades even though the number of graduates is 25% the high point.

Blame it on the bossa nova.

Dave Benke


92 candidates from both seminaries is a troubling number.  When Bill graduated in 1963 there were 126 from St. Louis.  I do not know how many graduated from  Springfield in 1963. Bill's St. Louis class originally  numbered about 200.  Due to the opening of the Sr. College and the fact that another year was added to seminary program, members of Bill original class were asked to attend summer school for two years so that there would be a 1962 graduating class. Bill had to work summers, so he was among those who had the extra year added on to the process of becoming an LCMS pastor.

The decline in LCMS pastors entering the ministry is a matter of great concern.  It seems that the 2023 class of seminary gradates from both seminaries will number 70.  The number of vacant congregations contributes to men like Bill serving vacancies.  At 84 Bill has decided  he will no longer accept a vacancy.  We pray that the congregation he is serving will have a pastor by the end of June.  Between now and then he will confirm the youth class, baptize an infant, visit shut ins and conduct two funerals. I recently heard of an LCMS congregation that has been vacant for two years.

Marie Meyer

I am the vacancy pastor of a smaller congregation - have been for over two years. My experience goes along with the bold statement in Dave Benke's quote. There is little sign of hope for future growth-the facilities are very limiting. The congregation has $400K in reserve; average att. of 50+ (pre-covid); average age of worshipers is probably 60 y.o. Offerings ave. $2,500/wk. (dropping to about $2,000/wk during covid). There’s a sister congregation 3.5 miles away worshiping 85 (two services - Sat night and Sun. morning pre-covid) with a large nave and campus (a k-8 school facility that is reduced to a pre-school).

During my first year, the "Call committee" met regularly and did get a call list from the district; they narrowed it down from 12 to 3 guys, who all said they were not interested in receiving a call--their stated reasons had nothing to do with this congregation.  The call committee stopped meeting and I was asked if I would continue. I agreed. I am paid 1/2 of my salary at retirement (2008) for preaching; bible class; shut-in calls; hospital visits, and 10 office hrs. per week. There were 10 children in S.S. pre-covid. Only 2 of those attend our outdoor service now which averages 30 in attendance. About 6 youth (high school & college age); no confirmations anticipated for at least 5 years.

Fact is they cannot afford a full time pastor without subsidizing from the reserves. They could consolidate with the sister congregation but asking folks about that possibility in congregational interviews during my first year, they generally wanted to continue on their own. No one from the district has ever mentioned consolidation, but have mentioned something about a so-called “cathedral plan (??)” with other churches in the circuit (only one of which is doing well—2 pastors, 3 services, k-8 school with 250 kids) with very little description and no written plan or procedure that I have seen. No district official has discouraged me from serving them – just the opposite.

K. S. Hahn  CSL '72

BTW Dave, going through an old box of family photos recently my sister found my '72 class photo. It had 146 mug shots.

Here in the capital of proof of certification, I am pretty much required to have all my degrees and the class photo on the wall at the church office.  Of course, the membership indicates in a strong way that the photo of the guy above my name is not me because I've always been old.

Today being my birthday, I agree with that sentiment - I do have an old soul.  But it's a merry old soul.

Dave Benke

John_Hannah

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #70 on: May 05, 2021, 04:09:55 PM »

Here in the capital of proof of certification, I am pretty much required to have all my degrees and the class photo on the wall at the church office.  Of course, the membership indicates in a strong way that the photo of the guy above my name is not me because I've always been old.

Today being my birthday, I agree with that sentiment - I do have an old soul.  But it's a merry old soul.

Dave Benke

Happy Birthday!!!
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #71 on: May 05, 2021, 04:17:04 PM »
Happy Birthday to Bishop Benke.   Tonight as you celebrate with 75 candles on your
birthday cake, the NY City fire department has been alerted and will be on stand by.

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #72 on: May 05, 2021, 06:07:02 PM »
Maybe I am missing something here but the lack of students at the seminaries doesn't concern me given our current decline.  To me it makes sense, a rapidly declining church body is inevitably going to have less seminarians.  It's all relative.  If my class (09) graduated in 2021 there would be a shortage of calls.  The amount of calling congregations seeking seminarians is still very low when compared to the numbers of previous decades. 

Peace,
Scott+

The final "trail indicator" is congregations closing.  From a corporate perspective, which we are not, more than a third of the franchises should be closed or merged because the market share has gone the way of all flesh. 

Of course, we don't think that way.  Instead, the small/tiny and getting smaller/tinier congregations sometimes band together, sometimes use a retired pastor or some form of other vocational servant, and offer less and less annually other than the 10 AM service. 

On our Call Day in the way back when, of the 350 candidates receiving calls (that's right, 350 from the two seminaries) at least half, maybe more, went to St. John Gaspump in Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana and other states, with 80 people in worship.  Today in those same precincts 80 is a MegaChurch, and 4 churches together calling one candidate would get to 80.  The other end is that there are less and less places needing an associate pastor, a #2, because the congregation has grown.  Some have instead shrunk from 3 to 2 or 2 to 1. 

Since our way of seeing the world is through the Axis Mundi and the inbreaking of the Kingdom through local altars, fonts and pulpits we are loath to give up on any of those locales. 

Ergo - the number of students graduating from seminaries is a far, far steeper declination table than the number of congregations - that's held almost steady all these decades even though the number of graduates is 25% the high point.

Blame it on the bossa nova.

Dave Benke


92 candidates from both seminaries is a troubling number.  When Bill graduated in 1963 there were 126 from St. Louis.  I do not know how many graduated from  Springfield in 1963. Bill's St. Louis class originally  numbered about 200.  Due to the opening of the Sr. College and the fact that another year was added to seminary program, members of Bill original class were asked to attend summer school for two years so that there would be a 1962 graduating class. Bill had to work summers, so he was among those who had the extra year added on to the process of becoming an LCMS pastor.

The decline in LCMS pastors entering the ministry is a matter of great concern.  It seems that the 2023 class of seminary gradates from both seminaries will number 70.  The number of vacant congregations contributes to men like Bill serving vacancies.  At 84 Bill has decided  he will no longer accept a vacancy.  We pray that the congregation he is serving will have a pastor by the end of June.  Between now and then he will confirm the youth class, baptize an infant, visit shut ins and conduct two funerals. I recently heard of an LCMS congregation that has been vacant for two years.

Marie Meyer

I am the vacancy pastor of a smaller congregation - have been for over two years. My experience goes along with the bold statement in Dave Benke's quote. There is little sign of hope for future growth-the facilities are very limiting. The congregation has $400K in reserve; average att. of 50+ (pre-covid); average age of worshipers is probably 60 y.o. Offerings ave. $2,500/wk. (dropping to about $2,000/wk during covid). There’s a sister congregation 3.5 miles away worshiping 85 (two services - Sat night and Sun. morning pre-covid) with a large nave and campus (a k-8 school facility that is reduced to a pre-school).

During my first year, the "Call committee" met regularly and did get a call list from the district; they narrowed it down from 12 to 3 guys, who all said they were not interested in receiving a call--their stated reasons had nothing to do with this congregation.  The call committee stopped meeting and I was asked if I would continue. I agreed. I am paid 1/2 of my salary at retirement (2008) for preaching; bible class; shut-in calls; hospital visits, and 10 office hrs. per week. There were 10 children in S.S. pre-covid. Only 2 of those attend our outdoor service now which averages 30 in attendance. About 6 youth (high school & college age); no confirmations anticipated for at least 5 years.

Fact is they cannot afford a full time pastor without subsidizing from the reserves. They could consolidate with the sister congregation but asking folks about that possibility in congregational interviews during my first year, they generally wanted to continue on their own. No one from the district has ever mentioned consolidation, but have mentioned something about a so-called “cathedral plan (??)” with other churches in the circuit (only one of which is doing well—2 pastors, 3 services, k-8 school with 250 kids) with very little description and no written plan or procedure that I have seen. No district official has discouraged me from serving them – just the opposite.

K. S. Hahn  CSL '72

BTW Dave, going through an old box of family photos recently my sister found my '72 class photo. It had 146 mug shots.

Here in the capital of proof of certification, I am pretty much required to have all my degrees and the class photo on the wall at the church office.  Of course, the membership indicates in a strong way that the photo of the guy above my name is not me because I've always been old.

Today being my birthday, I agree with that sentiment - I do have an old soul.  But it's a merry old soul.

Dave Benke

Happy Birthday, Dave! Blessings to you

K.S.

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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #73 on: May 06, 2021, 10:39:32 AM »
With a net loss of one half of a million members in the last 10 ten years, the LCMS is perhaps
on a trend that will not reverse itself.   Yet, the reality of the future will come from the local
parish.  Regardless of their size, pastoral leadership is still important.  He needs to instill in the
members a need to witness the Good News of Christ to their unchurched environment which
includes family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, who are not Christians.




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Re: Call Day For Pastoral Candidates at St. Louis/Ft Wayne (2021)
« Reply #74 on: May 09, 2021, 08:04:05 AM »
A few thoughts, some petty, maybe some profound:

1) As a graduate of some of the last bigger classes, where 20-30 graduates would go without a call on call day, when I look at where these grads are being assigned there is more than a hint of envy which is my sin such as it is.  Quite a few of us were assigned to places with little hope and the entire future course of ministry determined by that initial placement.  I am happy that it less so with many of these grads.  May they have fruitful ministries.

2) Even though the decline in the number of graduates has obviously allowed placement to be pickier, the rot and denial are deep enough that there are still several assigned between rocks and hard places.

3) Seeing as the system won't put any pressure itself on congregations to address reality, the only feedback mechanism is enrollment and what current pastors tell potential ones.  And what everyone in the hierarchy should understand fully is that the message is if you can do anything else, do it.  And until either enough pressure builds that the hierarchy is willing to lead in truth on these matters or the way of all flesh happens effecting the change by crisis and attrition from below, that will not change.

4) I was once hopeful that the pressure would build fast enough.  Today I am much less so.  The boomers as in all things are proving remarkably willing to hold onto positions and refuse necessary change (while often introducing spurious changes) long past the point of Joel's hope that something would be left after the locust swarm.

5) Thinking of Pr. Benke's statistics.  I have reported every year I have been here.  And I forced good numbers on myself.  Both things that are not widely shared.  Due to the demand to report on "in person" numbers, this is the first year I will not be reporting anything.  Since they dropped the 10 years of history on the locator, I have no intention of letting the one number anyone could see be COVID's number.  I have zero trust in the system to maintain any type of uniformity.  I specifically made choices that avoided the record and play anytime in favor of maintaining the church appointment.  Yes, they are not physically present which I agree doesn't fully count, but my numbers are not just "views".  They are attending in the way they think possible and I could speak to each one however briefly before and after much like meeting in the narthex.  I determined the best way not to lie about anything was simply not to report anything.  Let the numbers autopopulate from the prior year as they do with the appropriate year indicator.  Let the reader understand.

Hey Mark,

Just catching up here.

I always look forward to reading your posts as they always pique my interest.  To your 4th point I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, especially considering some of the comments here.   I wonder if the inability to let go has to do with all the hard work that during their tenure in ministry did tend to work.  I suppose that’s the curse of coming of age and serving during the greatest period of growth the church has ever seen.   I would imagine it must be hard watching the very thing that you dedicated your entire life to fall apart before your very eyes.  It begs all kind of questions, questions that may be a very threat to the identities and egos that were formed during this time and then cemented.   You add the “sacred canopy” and the denial can be even stronger and decision making even more baffling.  After all, God is on our side, at least that’s what we’ve always believed and it always appeared that way.  So now what?  Maybe this decline and collapse is revealing that we haven’t been as effective or in control as we thought we might be and that’s going to mess around with some egos.  It’s always funny for my wife and I to compare how we grew up, especially from a church life perspective.  We really were in two different worlds.  Already in the 90s my home congregation and school was well into decline, with its glory days further and further in the rear view mirror.  My wife’s congregation and school, headed by father-in-law, was growing by leaps and bounds, breaking ground and building.  He was at one time one of those guys who would go all over and speak at conferences and conventions.   Coming into a marriage with both experiences has made for interesting conversations and realizations on both sides.  The one thing it impressed upon me was that there are much more exterior and worldly factors that go into the success of a church which we don’t really give much attention to because of our God talk.  It reminds me of the conversation concerning movements and leaders.  Are movements spawned by good leadership or do movements spawn the leaders needed to lead them?  My sense is that we are still very much attached to the former because of how individualistic we are, which is why we keep doing the same things over and over again but getting the same results.  It’s like Synodical politics, I think we would more accurately read the present state of Synod if we understood President Harrison as being more the result of Synod’s move rightward rather than his leading the way from the start.   

Peace,
Scott+

I was wondering if/hoping you would chime in again.  Yeah, you can count me on the side of thinking that most politicians (including church politicians) see which way the crowd is moving and jump in front of it.  So, yeah, I think I wrote prior to the elections that Harrison is the centrist candidate. Because he occupies where the LCMS is.  To me he is the perfect example of jumping in front at the right time.  And of course our politics have been locked into this narrow range, roughly between Pastor is Theologian-Leader and Pastor is Leader-Theologian.  Of course I'm way over here with Curtis Yarvin/Mencius Moldbug that what we need is regime change which would be someone on the order of a Walther who could just kinda make the changes necessary without much of a peep.  We don't have to live this way with a completely dysfunctional governing institution.

And yeah, I guess I'd chalk the hesitance to leave positions to even decaying senses able to pick up the need for regime change.  The mythmaking apparatus of the decaying regime built up as the ultimate pastors these guys who mostly happened to get assigned to an outer suburb in the '80s-'90s and allowed the remaining hippies to pay the guitar.  Most becoming 3rd string imitations of the true mega-church down the street. But that was enough for LCMS glory. (And yes, I'm being nihilistically cynical, but that is the meager rations of the dissident.) And all those myths are being revealed.  The myths of the heroic Capitalist-CEO-Pastor.  The myths of the steadfast Gnesio-Pastor. The myths of "I made and preserve this."  The myths that served our egos. If I was successful, I'd be white knuckling it too.  But I'm not, so I act this way.

I guess there is something to the whole the first are last and the last are first.  Yeah, I’d be white knuckling it, too, and have certainly done so myself.  My thinking is that the incentive to truly change is still fairly low because those who benefit most from the system have the most to lose.  In the language of the times, they are very much the “privileged” and giving that up freely is hard.  We are very much a top-down system and like anything else when those in charge are good everything is good, but when those in charge are bad…watch out!  Nonetheless, we are probably somewhere in the middle most of the time.  And here’s the thing, outside of false doctrine or sexual sin, we really don’t care how our clergy behave or treat others.  At least, it’s not going to get one removed from the roster.  So the idea of changing things at this point is not really going to gain much traction, especially as we decline more.  Strangely, the decline takes care of some things on their own, however painful.  And there’s another dynamic that contributes to the entropy and that’s the “who’s on first” dynamic, which I have come to believe is much more of a factor than we realize.  If we can defer to someone else we will, and there are plenty of ways to do so.  Another part of it is that in our polity simply having an M.Div or being an active layperson qualifies one to serve on all kinds of boards and positions.  So we potentially elect people to positions who really don’t have the qualifications or even the skills to do the job, meanwhile the pool is shrinking rapidly and so has our ability to know one another intimately. 

Peace,
Scott+