Monday, October 4, 2010
Not a Lot of Movement...
Update on Vacancies
COP Secretary Rev. William Klettke, president of the New Jersey District, reported that, as of September, 209 LCMS congregations were calling sole pastors; 33, senior pastors; and 33, associate or assistant pastors. He also reported 203 congregations with temporary non-calling vacancies and 395 with permanent non-calling vacancies.
As a frame of reference, Klettke also listed the numbers for September 2007: 349 congregations calling sole pastors; 58, senior pastors; and 83, associate or assistant pastors. That same month, there were also 418 congregations listing non-calling vacancies, compared to the total of 598 in September 2010.
In 2007, the report did not distinguish between temporary non-calling and permanent non-calling vacancies, Klettke said.
"There is not a lot of mobility these days," said LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., referring to the report and the state of the economy. He also added, "This is the lowest number of calling congregations that I remember and the highest number of non-calling congregations."
And we answer with the Lutheran question: What does this mean?
As one blogger put it, if you are planning to go to Seminary, better have a back up plan for employment. As another commentator put it, "I hope you like where you are" (if you are a Pastor currently serving a Parish). Or, as another Pastor ventured, "I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place..."
The circumstances are clear. Pastors are not moving around. That is both a good thing and a bag thing. It is good in the sense that we need to be encouraging longer pastorates and when Pastors are in short supply, the tendency is to shorter pastorates. It is bad in the sense that there are congregations and Pastors needing a change and that change is probably not forthcoming -- not even for the next 18-24 months. The bad news is that we have seminarians awaiting placement, expecting placement, and preparing for placement -- men and their families who will probably not find a place. The bad news is that we are blowing out all stops trying to recruit men for first and second career shots at becoming Pastors and this recruitment effort is counter to the actual need of the Church at this point in time. The bad news is that do not have a back up plan -- we do not know what to say to those who need to move, except you won't be moving, and to those seeking placement, except you might have to find another job at least short term. The bad news is that the biggest growing sector of our congregational demographics are those congregations permanently vacant or non-calling -- those without the resources to support a Pastor full-time. The bad news is that we have literally hundreds of CRM Pastors -- Pastors who resigned their calls and are eligible for a call but realistically will probably not get one.
We can talk economy or state of the Church issues but the most significant issue is that we need a jump start. While there are some rushing to try out new things, I would offer an old solution. How about guaranteeing a Pastor half salary, housing, and health insurance and bringing back worker priests so that these marginal congregations can get a called Pastor who works part-time in the secular world and part-time at the Church. Such an arrangement might mean that Districts will need to plug some bucks into the package with the congregation to come up with realistic amount for half-time pay, housing, and insurance but it would be money well spent in comparison to the options of embracing a non-Lutheran style transformational program designed to turn the church around by making it something other than Lutheran. So if the District put up $10-12,000 per parish, the parish came up with $20,000 plus housing, and the Pastor worked part-time, it would give both the Pastor and the parish an opportunity. The financial support need not be permanent -- we do not want to create congregations comfortable with being on the dole, so to speak. We could limit the District support to 3 years or at the outside 5 years. But, the congregation would have incentive to work toward this goal, they would have the benefit of a well-training Pastor to help them toward this goal, and the Pastor (candidate or seminarian awaiting placement) would have the opportunity to be ordained and to get to work. Since Pastors awaiting calls are often enthusiastic and energetic about getting to work in the vocation for which the Church has prepared them, I believe that we would see some of these congregations move from marginal to solid. And I believe that those who became secure and grew to support a Pastor would be grateful and generous in their mission support back to the District which gave them this chance...
What do you think?