In 2019, the LCMS convention adopted Resolution 6-01, “To Support and Participate in the Comprehensive Church Worker Recruitment Initiative.” That initiative now has a name — Set Apart to Serve — and a website, found at lcms.org/set-apart-to-serve.
According to the Rev. Dr. James A. Baneck, executive director of the LCMS Office of Pastoral Education, Set Apart to Serve was the “overwhelming” choice of the LCMS church workers and youth who took part in a recent survey designed to help with the name’s selection.
“Both audiences stated that this name identified church work as something special from God and as the place where He sets them aside for service to Him and others,” Baneck said. “Young people resonated with the idea that God has given them the gifts to serve in a role in the church. Adults resonated with the fact that they have a huge impact on moving youth in the direction of church work.”
Res. 6-01 notes that enrollment in church work programs at LCMS seminaries and universities, for the preparation of both ordained and commissioned ministers, has been declining significantly for almost two decades. If that trend doesn’t change, the Synod will likely face a significant worker shortage in coming years.
For example, 50% of the Synod’s current, active pastors are 55 years or older. If seminary enrollment and pastor retirements continue at their current rates, the Synod could go from 6,000 to 3,000 pastors in the next 15 years.
Yet, in an article about Set Apart to Serve in the August edition of The Lutheran Witness, Baneck writes that the initiative is not merely “about recruiting bodies to fill the various offices of the church, nor is it just an attempt to reverse a decline in church workers. Rather, [Set Apart to Serve] seeks to form pastors and church workers to hand over the saving faith to God’s people, passing on the Christian faith from one generation to the next until our Savior’s return.”
The Synod has been laying the groundwork for Set Apart to Serve since 2019, with LCMS Pastoral Education taking the lead by conducting initial research, consulting key influencers across the Synod and securing funding. An outside marketing and communications firm has been retained to assist with this initiative.
The Concordia University System and both seminaries have also been involved in its planning since the beginning, and subject-matter experts are now creating resources for the three age groups on which the initiative will focus: baptized infants through sixth grade, seventh and eighth grade, and high school.
The “whereas” section of Res. 6-01 quotes Luke 10:2 (“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”) and notes that the statement is “as true today as when it was spoken 2,000 years ago.”
Set Apart to Serve seeks to carry out the convention’s charge to encourage “all constituents of the LCMS … to commend, financially support, and directly participate in this comprehensive, multi-year church worker recruitment initiative … for the proclamation and witness of the Gospel” today and in the years to come.
“Christ provides workers for His church, and He does this through us, the people of the church,” Baneck said. Look for more information about Set Apart to Serve in the months ahead.
Posted Oct. 22, 2021/Updated Nov. 4, 2021/Updated Nov. 15, 2021