What does this number mean?

Recently the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has embarked on an initiative to recruit
young people for professional church work (Pastors, Teachers, DCEs, etc.). You can find about it
at lcms.org/set-apart-to-serve . I know. Most of you might choose to stop reading about
now, but please give me a few more minutes…
148 is the “projected” number of Minister of Religion – Commissioned students from
the Concordia University System in the 2022-23 school year that indicated that they would be
going on to become Teachers, DCEs, etc. (basically any church worker that is not an ordained
pastor). The number of pastors that were sent out were even less. The question is – is this a
good number or not?
It is not. For instance, there are hundreds of Lutheran Schools that would like to call
over 1000 trained teachers with a Lutheran Teaching Diploma (LTD), but less than 100 were
available. There is a similar problem with congregations that want to call a pastor. There are
just not enough young people going into professional church work – anymore.
This was not always the case. Back in 1964 (I chose this year because it was before the
Vietnam War) there were over 6,000 students in our Synodical Secondary (High Schools) and
Post-Secondary (Colleges / Seminaries) institutions who were preparing for some sort of church
vocation. Over a thousand of these students were in one of our ten synodical High Schools that
were connected to these colleges.
Why were there so many students interested and attending these schools? Because
there were families and teachers and pastors who told them that this was important work.
Because many students who are encouraged in this direction begin to think about such things
at a young age (6 th through 10 th grade). And because in the old German “gymnasium” system,
the church knew this and therefore provided the process (or “system”) for this to happen.
Between 1965 and 1975 all of the High School departments in these synodical schools
closed – with the exception of St. Paul’s College High in Concordia, MO. In 1986 the Jr. College
dept. closed and we became simply, “Saint Paul Lutheran High School.” There are probably a
lot of reasons why things changed so drastically during those years (culture, competition with
secular universities, changing attitudes, etc.) but I believe God saw fit to continue SPLHS.
I have often thought that if our goals changed and we no longer were interested in
preparing young people to declare Christ to a dying world, then what reason would God have
for us to be here? It is by the grace of God that there is still a place for young people from
anywhere in the world can come to learn and to prepare for their life’s vocation. We are not
shy about suggesting that those vocations lean heavily into professional church work
148 is not enough, but I am thankful for every one of those 148. Perhaps next year we
can increase it – by the grace of God.

Rev. Paul M. Mehl

Executive Director