Author Topic: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline  (Read 3659 times)

Dave Likeness

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LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« on: August 06, 2021, 02:55:09 PM »
In the past 14 years church worker recruitment has declined:

1. Our 2 seminaries have experienced a combined decrease of 55% of those
enrolled in the Master of Divinity degree.

2. There has been a 59% decrease in our pre-seminary Concordia University
System enrollment.

3. There has been a 61% decrease  in our Lutheran teaching program enrollment.

To counteract these trends the LCMS National Convention in 2019 embarked on an
aggressive , comprehensive Church Worker Recruitment Initiative. (CWRI)   It will
focus on A) children through 6th grade  B) 7th and 8th grade  C) High School students

Plans are being made to create resources and start the initiative throughout the LCMS
« Last Edit: August 06, 2021, 04:23:37 PM by Dave Likeness »

Dan Fienen

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2021, 03:11:54 PM »
I'm curious, how are recruitment levels for church workers in the ELCA? If they are not experiencing the decline that the LCMS is, what are they doing differently?
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Charles Austin

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2021, 03:30:25 PM »
In 2008, the ELCA seminaries graduated 271 with M.Div. Degrees.
In 2016, the ELCA seminaries graduated 173 with M.Div. Degrees.

https://www.livinglutheran.org/2017/02/seminary-status-check/



« Last Edit: August 06, 2021, 03:31:56 PM by Charles Austin »
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.

Matt Hummel

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2021, 04:07:55 PM »
In 2008, the ELCA seminaries graduated 271 with M.Div. Degrees.
In 2016, the ELCA seminaries graduated 173 with M.Div. Degrees.

https://www.livinglutheran.org/2017/02/seminary-status-check/

It would be a 35% decrease in 8 years.
Matt Hummel


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John_Hannah

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2021, 04:10:20 PM »
The decline of seminary candidates (and church workers in general) is commensurate with the decline of congregations. We Lutherans-all-are losing our appeal. Sad and unfortunate, but true.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Dan Fienen

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2021, 04:13:44 PM »
I am not especially good at statistical analysis but the figures that Charles gave represented a 36% percent decrease over 8 years for the ELCA in graduations with an M.Div. Dave put the LCMS decrease in enrollment in the M.Div. program at 55% over a 14 year period. The time periods are not the same, neither exactly is what was being measured, but by my memo pad calculations, those figures are likely comparable within an order of magnitude.


When we deal with the statistics of our church bodies, growth/decline, diversity, etc., the LCMS and ELCA are experiencing similar levels of success (well, decline actually) during the new millennium. Little basis for bragging rights. Drat, I was hoping that the ELCA has some silver bullet to counteract the decline in church worker enrollment that maybe we could learn from.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

D. Engebretson

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2021, 05:38:57 PM »
Regarding the decreases: Is there not some correspondence with a general decrease in births within either denomination? Perhaps. However, this cannot explain it all as the seminaries below demonstrate with respect to their own denominations.

According to the Association of Theological Schools, seven seminaries "have generated enrollment growth consecutively over at least the past five years," which "saw total student headcount increase by 43.5 percent over five years." Those would be:
Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky (independent evangelical seminary in the Wesleyan tradition)
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO (Southern Baptist)
Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois (American Baptist Churches, USA)
Shepherds Theological Seminary in Cary, North Carolina (nondenominational with independent Baptist roots)
Sioux Falls Seminary in South Dakota (North American Baptist Conference)
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (Southern Baptist)
Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa (ELCA)

According to an online article from In Trust Center for Theological Schools, "None of these seminaries attracted their students from a “growing” denomination. In fact, five are affiliated with denominations that saw membership declines over the past five years. One is affiliated with a denomination that reports stable membership, and one is independent."

"What did they do that enabled the growth? What common characteristics do they have? Interviews with presidents and chief admissions officers explored the reasons for growth.

What they have in common, seminary leaders stressed, is disciplined and focused development of strengths and a 'niche,' and not on copying other seminaries. All stressed the importance of serving the church by training pastors and leaders for the local congregations. Beyond that, seven other common characteristics emerged."

1. Strong, Engaged President
2. Active, Scholarly Faculty
3. Innovative Programs
4. Emphasis on Spiritual Grown and Discipleship
5. Professional Admissions Strategy
6. Doctrinal Foundations
7. Affordability

I'm not sure how our LCMS schools, seminaries in particular, fare compared to these seven schools. We certainly have doctrinal foundations. I would like to think Dr. Rast is a "strong, engaged president," and that the newest president at St. Louis will prove to be one as well.

The article concludes with these thoughts:
Everyone agreed that there is no one “silver bullet” to make a seminary grow. It has to result from a team effort involving the trustees, president, administrators, and support staff. Sioux Falls’ Henson sums it up this way: “If there’s anything we’ve done that has helped our growth, it is making theological education affordable, accessible and relevant while remaining faithful to Jesus Christ. You can apply those practices to any school.” 

https://intrust.org/Magazine/Issues/Summer-2021/What-makes-seminaries-grow

Affordable and accessible seems to be key.  I realize the first one is difficult for denomination-based schools if the donor base is not sufficient to infuse enough money to effectively reduce cost, although I know that our seminaries in the LCMS have come quite a ways toward reducing tuition. CTS-FW recently reorganized its D.Min degree to make is shorter and more affordable, and I hope that it attracts more pastors as a result.  If I was younger I would be tempted to enroll.  They also introduced a new Ph.D program in theological studies that bears watching to see if it, too, attracts more pastors.

Accessible is an area that I know our universities have worked on, and I know that Concordia - St. Paul, for which I taught one course in 2020, launched a number of online offerings around that time. It may be an area where our seminaries will also need to take some leadership as well.  The SMP program, for which I have taught the last five summers, is almost entirely online.  I have no idea if it means anything overall, but my class size has increased considerably the last two years compared to the first three.  With the pandemic pushing us to embrace more online options, this may be a large part of the future of our schools. 

In the LCMS I know we have some good, quality schools, both undergraduate and graduate.  I hope that they grow stronger in the coming years despite overall declines in the denomination's numbers.




Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Charles Austin

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2021, 06:18:34 PM »
On almost all statistical measurements, the ELCA and LC-MS have been in parallel, that is, almost equal decline in recent decades. My former synod has closed or put in hospice care almost 20 percent of its congregations in the last 20 years.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.

aletheist

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2021, 08:07:01 PM »
I am not especially good at statistical analysis but the figures that Charles gave represented a 36% percent decrease over 8 years for the ELCA in graduations with an M.Div. Dave put the LCMS decrease in enrollment in the M.Div. program at 55% over a 14 year period. The time periods are not the same, neither exactly is what was being measured, but by my memo pad calculations, those figures are likely comparable within an order of magnitude.
They actually correspond to the very same 5.5% average annual rate of decline.
Jon Alan Schmidt, LCMS Layman

"We believe, teach and confess that by conserving the distinction between Law and Gospel as an especially glorious light
with great diligence in the Church, the Word of God is rightly divided according to the admonition of St. Paul." (FC Ep V.2)

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2021, 10:07:22 PM »
I love the Lutheran Church. During my service as a pastor, I have experienced the very best and the very worst of my church. Given that, I'm not shocked by the decline nor am I ultimately distressed about the future.

I pray that you focus on Christ and outward to your local community. That is the future. God bless.
I serve as administrator for www.churchhistoryreview.org.

PrTim15

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2021, 12:34:55 AM »
If you always do what you always done, you always get what you always got.

Steven W Bohler

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2021, 07:24:53 AM »
If you always do what you always done, you always get what you always got.

Not true.  If a football team had the ball, first and goal from the 2-yard line, and ran it three downs in a row, there is no guarantee that they would fail on fourth-and-one. That's why they run the play.  If a fellow asked a girl out on a date and she rejected him, does that mean he will never ask her again?  If my wife corrects one of her students repeatedly for the same error, does that mean she should stop because she has not succeeded in correcting it?  Of course not.  Circumstances change.  People change.  So sometimes, if you do what you always have done, you will get a different result. 

Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2021, 08:45:56 AM »
I had a long conversation with a young pastor from the conservative Presbyterian denomination yesterday.  Several switches flipped on for me.  In their way of local church,
a) church planting is part of the training at the seminary, so pastors are always at the same time mission developers and are seen as such by the congregation
b) churches automatically include a portion of their budget for local church planting/mission development locally.  Of course there's world mission as well, but there is a local mission budget allotment
c) those positions and that desire are inclusive of community outreach as well, so the Call of a pastor is not only to those already assembled, but to empower and accompany the local congregation in its work
d) All of this is more than catechetics once people arrive.  It's in the fabric of the tasks of the congregation.

So this young pastor is in a bilingual Korean congregation - first language Korean, second language English.  Yet only 40% of the membership is Korean.  30% Chinese, 20% other Asian and 10% other.  I found all of that refreshing and evidence of how other cultures inside the same denominational framework bring renewed zeal for more globally diverse purpose in local mission.

If those attitudes were captured both in congregations and in training modes, I think recruitment for church vocation would be on the rise.  Denominational and institutional survival purposes are less substantial reasons for vocational renewal.

Dave Benke

Terry W Culler

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2021, 08:55:01 AM »
I spoke with a local PCA pastor recently.  He told me they actually have an excess of men on their clergy roster--I think the number was something like 2400 men on the roster and 1700 congregations.  He said if they announce a new church plant they'll get 40 or 50 people interested in serving there.
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peter_speckhard

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Re: LCMS Church Worker Recruitment Decline
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2021, 09:36:42 AM »
I spoke with a local PCA pastor recently.  He told me they actually have an excess of men on their clergy roster--I think the number was something like 2400 men on the roster and 1700 congregations.  He said if they announce a new church plant they'll get 40 or 50 people interested in serving there.
Does all this vibrant church planting mean the PCA is growing and leading the way with sustainable local missions. If so, the few Presbyterian churches I have any familiarity with hide it well.