Some startling statistics were included in a newsletter article by the president of an ELCA seminary. According to the president, there are currently 2,776 vacancies in the nearly 10,000 congregations of the ELCA. That is over one out of every four. One thousand of those vacancies are for a full-time position. What makes these statistics even more startling is the fact that the majority of the baby boomer pastors have yet to retire. No wonder there is such an extreme urgency about what Lutheran CORE’s Congregations in Transition (CiT) ministry initiative is doing.
CiT is a new ministry, sponsored by Lutheran CORE, to assist churches facing the departure or retirement of their solo pastor. CiT can be especially helpful in two kinds of ministry scenarios: 1. When the pastor has recently announced — or is planning to announce — his or her upcoming retirement; and 2. When congregational leaders who are already dealing with a vacancy have found the search and call process to be longer (and perhaps more frustrating) than they had anticipated.
Each congregation that “signs on” is assigned their own trained coach/consultant to provide customized counsel to the church for up to six to eight months. These trained coaches are mostly recently retired Lutheran pastors, which means that they are volunteering their time. This is a pan-Lutheran effort. We have pastor/coaches who are rostered with ELCA, LCMC, NALC, and AALC. The only costs to the congregation are the reimbursement of actual travel expenses incurred by the coach, plus a nominal $150 administrative-cost fee paid to Lutheran CORE. This ministry is not designed to replace the ministry support and resources available to your congregation from your own church body. Instead it is designed to supplement those resources.
Chuck Amdahl, retired LCMC and NALC pastor and one of the trained coaches, describes CiT in this way:
“It is all about people whose hearts are great for the people of God, for the life of the congregation. . . . As coaches they come alongside of congregations in transition, encouraging and equipping – empowering leaders whose responsibilities include navigating the congregation through uncertain transitions. These coaches are building awareness, strength, and confidence among its members, renewing purpose (mission) and vitality all the while.
“I am privileged to work alongside of these coaches. They are brothers and sisters serving the Lord Jesus and His Church – your congregation, and the very Church which as Samuel Stone so rightly reminds us in that old and favorite hymn composed well over a century ago: ‘…with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.’”
For more information contact Don Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dennis Nelson at email@example.com. You can also read more about Congregations in Transition by visiting the Lutheran CORE website. A link to that portion of the website can be found here.