Would an employee of the IRS make a good pastor? What about a tradesman or a business owner? Jesus thought it would work quite well. Matthew, Peter, and John were some of the first pastors that Jesus sent out to preach and teach in his name and to proclaim the saving message of the gospel. It wasn’t their first career. It was later in life when Jesus called them first to follow him and then to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). Jesus blessed those first disciples with a second career. He still does that today.
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) in Mequon, Wis., prepares pastors. Many of these seminary students follow a traditional path that begins at a young age and ends with an assignment to a place of service for a first official career as a pastor. The seminary also prepares older men who have had previous careers, perhaps as tax collectors and fishermen, or maybe lawyers and police officers. Both the traditional and non-traditional path and pastor are good, and congregations are blessed and thankful when a well-trained pastor serves them.
It’s no secret that many congregations in our synod lack a pastor. At the seminary’s assignment day this year, 90 churches requested a graduate pastor, and 63 of them didn’t get one. There were a total of 136 pastor vacancies synodwide. We keep praying to our risen and ascended Savior for more workers for the fields. We ask the Holy Spirit to move more boys and men to consider pastoral ministry as a career. We also strive to support those who desire to be pastors, whether they are young or old, whether they follow the traditional or the non-traditional path.
A recent task force of the Board for Ministerial Education evaluated the support offered for non-traditional pre-seminary students and how it might be enhanced. There are unique challenges for a man (and perhaps his family) when he is older in life and considering a career change. One of the recommendations of the task force is to have a dynamic online resource for sharing information, networking, and encouraging. Another way to support pre-seminary students, regardless of their path, is to help with the costs of education.
Rising educational costs are no secret either, and paying for an education is particularly challenging for a person who is considering leaving a career (and likely steady income) to go back to school. An academic schedule and classroom expectations make it difficult to work a full-time job. Moving an established household can be expensive.
To support pre-seminary students, Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., which trains men for seminary and men and women for teaching, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary have highly prioritized student financial assistance. They are making aggressive efforts to limit student debt so that pastors and teachers do not carry that burden with them into their first assignments. You can help in this effort. Consider a donation to the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Scholarship Fund, which directly supports traditional students, as well as those men like Peter, Matthew, and John who wish to serve as a pastor as a second career.
Thank you for your help!
Rev. Duane Rodewald
Chairman, WELS Board for Ministerial Education
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you called the Twelve from their various backgrounds to serve in ministry, and you continue to call men to be pastors today. With the demand for pastors exceeding the number available to serve, we ask for your help. Send your Spirit to guide men young and old to train for pastoral ministry and make us eager to help them through our prayers, encouragement, and offerings. Amen.