Friday, September 30, 2011

About that clergy "shortage..."

Baptized and confirmed membership is down. The number of congregations is down. And the number of clergy is up. Draw your own conclusions about the reality of a "clergy shortage."

Baptized membership fell by 33,525 (to 2,278,586) and confirmed membership
decreased by 20,115 (to 1,764,024).

The number of member congregations in 2010 fell by 20 (to 6,158). The number of ordained clergy serving in parishes was up by 33, to 5,369. The number of
clergy serving in other capacities fell by 49 to 630, while the number of
retired clergy increased by 29, to 2,928.

Read the whole press release here.



  1. Year / Clergy / Congregations / Members
    2009 / 8,914 / 6,178 / 2,312,111
    2010 / 8,927 / 6,158 / 2,278,586

    The LCMS data for 2009 an 2010 can be compared to ARDA's LCMS Graphs and Data covering the years, 1925 - 2008.

    Basically the numbers of clergy and congregations have generally flattened, and the number of congregational members have continued their slow decline of 25,000 - 45,000 per year, over the past several years.

    The declining birth rate and the overall aging of the U.S. population are factors. The U.S. average annual death rate is 8 per 1,000, approximately half of the value of the LCMS membership rate of decline.

  2. Herr Vehse,

    As I have often said: the LCMS is in an demographic decline. At no time in the Church's history has a demographic decline been reversed through evangelism. What is required is a more careful hearkening to Gen 1:28.

    In the meantime, an ever increasing number of clergy simply can't be the answer to this problem.

    And the constant word of worldly wisdom to those desiring to study for the LCMS ministerium: have a back up plan, some way to feed your family in case there is no spot for you.


  3. Yep, and this particular clergy just started the worker-priest gig.

  4. I have just been hired for a part-time job myself. It's becoming more and more common.

  5. As someone who had to wait for the Lord's time in receiving an assignment, I agree with Fr. Curtis' advice. It's sound and sober-minded -- but how is the average young man who has his heart set on being a pastor able to do that? A lot of young men who go through the synod's school system (doesn't matter the synod)haven't had time to investigate other options for another career. They pour their time, energy, and theirs and their parents' money into their college & seminary educations, and then there's nowhere for them to go. I fear that more and more of our godly young men, after they graduate from a seminary, will find themselves with no call and a degree that's only good in working for that synod. All they can find is menial labor or part-time jobs nowhere near lucrative to support a family. Having a second option is nice, but how is it possible for the traditional student? Older men who want to enter the ministry at least have the cushion of having skills and a career they can go back to or use in the meantime. Just two cents from someone who had to wait....

  6. Fr. Hagen,

    This is why, at least at Seward, you can't major in "Pre-Sem." You have to have another major. The idea is that you should learn a trade just in case. Of course, a small liberal arts school is not necessarily the place to "learn a trade" - but one could get a degree in engineering, computer programming, business, accounting, etc., while being in the Pre-Sem program.

    Or go the route of taking a couple years off between college and seminary. I know a pastor who, after graduating from Seward, took two years to get a degree in airplane mechanics. Another fellow I know worked in radio before seminary. The options are only limited by the young man's imagination and work ethic. As the saying goes: it's a free country with a lot of opportunity.

    Compared to my undergrad choices - Pre-Sem with an unmarketable major in the humanities - this sort of thing would be effort well spent. So that's why I pass on the advice. Take your time. Have a back up plan. Explore another interest. It will make you a better person and a better pastor, too.


  7. I would add to this: don't go to a Concordia University. They are far too expensive and the degree is far too...well...worthless. Greek can easily be learned at any decent-sized state school and those degrees will typically have quite a bit more clout behind them. Local pastors are (supposed to be) also an excellent resource for learning Greek. That gives the ability to get a more marketable degree from a more respected institution of higher learning without loading up on unsustainable amounts of debt.

    And that's the two cents of a CURF grad (B.A., Theology) who had to wait a year to get a call and has a large amount of student loan debt.

  8. Any man with zeal for the ministry should be reminded that other vocations are no less important in enabling us to serve our neighbor. It is as noble to support, help and pray for the pastor as it is to occupy the office oneself. And financial support of the congregation is no small matter. A strong church consists of well-trained and mature laity alongside a well-trained and mature pastor, united in the Body of Christ.


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