The Ministry Recruitment Task Force (MRTF) was formed as a result of a resolution passed by the 2023 synod convention, due to the significant shortage of pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. Its assignment is to look at all factors that impact the recruitment of called workers and to bring recommendations to the 2025 convention for an ongoing synodwide effort to recruit and train more called workers. Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of Ministerial Education, chairs the group.
The MRTF began its work by building on the good work done by the Teacher Shortage Task Force in identifying the reasons for the current teacher shortage. The MRTF then identified the reasons for the current pastor shortage.
The MRTF worked on estimating the expected supply of pastors and teachers in the near future and more than a decade from now. It did that with the knowledge that the future of the church and her needs is in the hands of our living Lord and that our predictions have proven inaccurate in the past. Nevertheless, the MRTF believes that it is a matter of good stewardship to make plans based on our best predictions.
The task force received about 30 suggestions for addressing the shortage. The suggestions related to the high school supply of candidates were easy to consider, since the prep schools and area Lutheran high schools are constantly working on supplying candidates to Martin Luther College (MLC) and MLC has already begun to improve its recruitment of public high school students.
Alternative pathways for nontraditional seminary students were also easy to consider, since Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and its Pastoral Studies Institute have worked out courses and delivery models for nearly every life situation.
It is more complicated to consider all the suggestions for the college level. MLC has recently added a number of programs for early childhood workers at all stages of professional and ministerial certification, and those programs are just being promoted for the first time. MLC is also developing a Competency Based Education program, which provides an alternative pathway to the teaching ministry for WELS second-career adults who are unable to move to New Ulm for a traditional on-campus program.
In addition, U.S. colleges are changing rapidly because of changing demographics and funding sources. How will those changes affect the ability of MLC to meet the public ministry needs of WELS? The MRTF is discussing those issues.
The task force plans to issue the first draft of its report in April. It will include preliminary recommendations that can be discussed synodwide prior to the presentation of the final report at the 2025 synod convention.
Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder