Vacancies remain after pastoral assignments

Students and their wives at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., learned where they will be serving as vicars, teachers, and pastors in two special services held May 22 and May 23 in the auditorium on campus. The Conference of Presidents announced a total of 79 assignments in all 12 districts of WELS.

On the evening of May 22, 40 second-year pastoral ministry students received vicarage assignments, and seven of their wives received teaching assignments in WELS schools either connected to the congregations where their husbands were assigned or in the area. While most of these assignments are to WELS congregations, one man will vicar in Medellin, Colombia, through the WELS World Mission office. Through careful planning with the WELS Home Mission office, 29 of the men were assigned to serve as Vicars in a Mission Setting.

Pastoral formation, including the year of vicarship, is the heart of what WLS does. This formation happens because of self-supporting congregations and missions around the country that partner with WLS in this work. We thank God for the supervising pastors in the field who are willing to give so much time to each vicar, for the supportive people of WELS, and for these men who have offered themselves for service in Christ’s church.

On the morning of May 23, 26 men received their first calls into pastoral ministry, one man returned to the Assignment Committee to receive his first parish call, and five recent WLS graduates were reassigned to their present fields of labor. Six of the graduates were assigned to serve Home Mission congregations. Four of the candidates were assigned to congregations that had been vacant for more than two years.

There had been 97 requests for candidates. With the 27 candidates available, 70 of those requests went unfilled. After the Assignment Committee did its work, there are still 146 vacancies for pastor-trained parish men synodwide, an 11 percent vacancy rate. Although 45 men graduated in the preseminary program at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., this year with plans to enroll at WLS next year, they will not be available to serve as pastors for four more years.

Because of the high vacancy rate, two floor committees at the 2023 synod convention asked Pres. Schroeder to appoint a Ministry Recruitment Task Force. This task force is presenting its first report to the districts in convention this summer. That report predicts that the pastoral vacancy rate will return to five percent in ten years as larger WLS classes matriculate, WELS congregations close and merge, and current pastors retire at age 70.

The task force is also suggesting 20 more immediate remedies for the synod’s current pastor and teacher shortages. We ask the Lord’s blessing on the district conventions discussing the remedies. We pray that the Lord of the harvest will send more workers into his harvest field.

Read the Ministry Recruitment Task Force’s report in the Report to the Twelve Districts.

Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of WELS Board for Ministerial Education


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