LCANZ leaders have met to discuss and address the urgent church worker supply shortage confronting the church.
Over the next 10 years, half of our active pastors will retire from full-time ministry. Currently the LCANZ has 239 pastors in active ministry. Seventeen men are serving as Specific Ministry Pastors, and there are 15 Aboriginal pastors. Across the church, there are 65 Lutheran communities seeking a pastor to serve among them. However, over the next two years, only five students are expected to graduate from Australian Lutheran College (ALC) in the pastoral ministry stream.
‘Lutheran Education Australia is working hard to prepare principals and leaders for our Lutheran schools’, LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith said, ‘but our church needs more Lutheran women and men to be available for these roles. In addition, parishes and church agencies are facing a dire situation regarding trained church workers being available to serve for the ministries of the church.’
The full-day Ministry Futures workshop, held in Adelaide on 18 May, was called by the College of Bishops in order to consider the church worker supply challenges the LCANZ faces, including ways to provide word and sacrament ministry as the number of Lutheran communities without a pastor increases.
Joining the bishops in the workshop were Pastor James Winderlich (ALC principal), Dr Tania Nelson (Executive Officer for Local Mission) and the three District mission directors, pastors Brett Kennett (Victoria), David Schmidt (Queensland) and Stephen Schultz (SA-NT). The workshop was facilitated by Victorian District Bishop Emeritus Greg Pietsch.
According to Bishop Smith, a strong theme of the day was ‘urgency to work together passionately and purposefully’ on this matter. ‘Participants commented often: “We don’t have time to dither”’.
At the heart of the morning session, workshop participants gathered in small groups for a long session of prayer together, with lament, petition, and thanksgiving.
Three key priorities emerged from the workshop conversations:
- Pathways: develop pathways for specific ministries, such as pastor or chaplain, including specific pathways for ministries in schools and aged care, and church planting.
- Regionalising: develop regional collaboration to determine how local areas work together for the provision of word and sacrament ministry in the mission God gives us.
- Ordering Ministry: establish clear language for how we understand the ordering of ministry amongst us, including what we understand to be flexible. This includes engaging with CTICR’s 2022 project in the study of ordering ministry. (Currently the ordering is bishop, pastor, lay worker, and includes Lutheran principal, Lutheran teacher and chaplain.)
‘We are a small church denomination numerically’, said Bishop Smith, ‘but our Lutheran communities are a vital participant in the work of the gospel in Australia and New Zealand.
‘The group that met in May ask the people of the LCANZ to continue this work of prayer, asking the Lord to guide the outcomes of this preliminary work.
‘Lord, make us bold for the sake of mission. Amen.’
The College of Bishops is working with Bishop Emeritus Pietsch to progress the recommendations of the workshop participants, including consultation and engagement across the LCANZ.
At the end of the day, the participants decided to share with the wider church the notes from the first session. Each participant had been asked to bring at least three comments on what their workshop pre-reading was saying to them about the LCANZ. The image above is of the whiteboard notes. The transcript follows:
- We don’t have time to dither
- Pastors struggling with identity/role today
- Feeling helpless, frustration, overwhelmed
- Big change is here
- We (leaders and church) are ready for it
- Continuity – living out who we are
- We have the resources we need
- Is it a supply issue or a mission issue?
- Young adults want to impact their world – is this being enabled?
- Missional church
- Need mutuality of leadership
- Heard emphasis on mission – do we understand what this means?
- Limiting what is possible – current model unsustainable; can be more flexible
- Relationship to evangelism and discipleship
- Strategic use of GMPs (where can afford, or want to go)
- What is possible regarding ordering of ministry vis a vis eg licencing
- Humanly speaking we are in crisis
- Are we ready to do what it takes? as we once were 50 years ago (ref DSTOs)
- We have an opportunity to lead
- Supplying congregations with calls – frustration when calling – how do we serve declining congregations?
- How does the shape/ordering fit with our theology?
- What does ministry in post-Christian world look like?
- Facing huge discontinuous change
- Challenge of moving from organisation to prospector
- Challenge of purpose and interaction between confession and environment
- Distraction and attraction
- Challenge of identifying purpose – interaction of who (confession) and where (environment)
- The issues are felt and discussed across the church
- It is the nature of God to bring resurrection of life – our hope is this
- Challenge of preserving what is good and to be missional together
- Challenge of change in a changing cultural context
- Need conversation on ordering the ministry
- ‘Crisitunity’ – ie opportunity in the crisis (reference to the Simpsons TV Cartoon)
- What can we learn from others?
- How to support church workers in a changing culture?
- Strategic use of funding – what and how?
- 129 vacancies by 2029. Grief. Seeing aging, closing congregations
- Mismatch between trained pastor and current mission setting
- Buds and& blossoms including schools
- Releasing and ordering – tension
- What does this mean for us?
- Being invited to acknowledge reality
- Being invited to new mental models
- Being invited to manage ourselves as leaders
- Invited to exercise adaptive leadership
- Need to adapt to post-Christian landscape
- Relationship between office of ministry to priesthood of all believers
- Need for transparency and shared vision
- Those functioning on edges or beyond due to present situation
- What would Lutheran schooling be saying?
- Indigenous – core to DNA of who we are
- Other churches, Lutherans, schools, Aboriginal community
- Emphasising the hurt felt regarding woman’s dynamic
- Church worker (lay) supply is critical too
- Diversity of contexts
- Challenge of diverse church contexts (city, rural)
- How do we feel about the very real possibility of the LCA dying in our time?
- Are we considering change as big as the death and resurrection of the LCANZ?
Suggested summary categories of the notes (in red on the whiteboard; the bold identifies the words on the whiteboard)
- Workers for the harvest (who, how, why)
- Mission as core language
- Crisis – we must not dither
- We are ready for this urgent work – leaders to lead
- Pastoral care is needed to help people in community cope and engage with change
- Unfolding changing culture/church
- Role/function of office of ministry question – context in church and society.
- Strategies for ways forward
What is God doing?
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