By Eleonore Wagner
“More youth consider church work when church workers talk about it,” said Glenn Rollins, Set Apart to Serve (SAS) manager, during the SAS virtual town hall held on Sept. 27. SAS is the ongoing Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) initiative to raise up future pastors and church workers.
Rollins’ observation was a recurring theme of the town hall, in which the SAS team shared SAS’ newest resources and reviewed data that reveals the importance of individual connections in encouraging people toward church work.
Live now on the SAS website is the new SAS resource hub: a collection of materials curated for parents, church workers and laity to use when speaking to youth about a vocation in the church. These include bulletin printouts, conversation guides and the newly designed SAS journey maps and essential experiences trackers. Journey maps provide a visual overview of potential touchpoints on the path to church work, with insights on how these pivotal moments can be used to influence youth to consider church work. At each moment, the map can be used to document interactions with youth and insights into their journey. Essential experiences trackers allow church workers and influential adults to list service experience opportunities unique to their congregation and identify gaps in service formation.
Used together, the journey maps and essential experiences handouts will equip parents and other influential adults with specific suggestions for raising men and women who want to serve in a full-time vocation in the church. The resources will also provide talking points influential adults can use to identify a young person’s talents and strengths and to encourage him or her at each stage of growth.
During the town hall, the Rev. Dr. James Baneck, executive director of the LCMS Office of Pastoral Education, shared the history of SAS and reviewed the initiative’s goal to increase engagement with youth in the home, in congregations and in schools.
Baneck said that when current LCMS church workers were asked what most influenced their decision to become church workers, they identified:
- Personal encouragement from their pastor, 34%;
- Personal encouragement from another (non-ordained) church worker, 27%; and
- Encouragement from their parents and family, 25%.
This feedback led to the creation of the journey maps as a guide for adults to encourage youth to become pastors, teachers or other commissioned workers. “All of these are sacred, joyful and honorable vocations in the life of the church,” said Baneck, adding that all SAS resources are created to encourage the pursuit of those vocations.
SAS has Synodwide participation. All 35 LCMS districts sent representatives to St. Louis earlier this year for training in a pilot program to field test SAS resources. During the training, the SAS team emphasized “an intentional culture shift of church work formation and recruitment” and the importance of building trust with youth, noting that both local and wider Synod involvement encourage youth to reach the essential experiences needed to nurture an interest in church work.
The SAS resource hub is organized by age: birth–12, 12–14 and 14–18+. The resources support a rich and active faith life and provide opportunities at each stage for youth to grow in their faith, serve in their congregation and receive encouragement from influential adults. Because the years from sixth to eighth grade have been identified as the most important stage leading to sustained interest in pursuing church work, the pilot program focused on equipping current church workers with the means to nurture this interest.
Next year the Set Apart to Serve team will publish an SAS curriculum for schools to use in normalizing church work discussions and instigating conversations with students. The curriculum is scheduled to be published through Concordia Publishing House in Spring 2024.
Learn more at lcms.org/sas.
Eleonore Wagner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer, wife and mom living in Minnesota.
Posted Dec. 11, 2023