A New Ministry from Lutheran CORE: The Congregational Lay-leadership Initiative (CLI)
Are you a member of a smaller congregation that is frustrated and demoralized because you have been unable to find and call a new pastor?
Has your search for a pastor gone on for more than eighteen months without success?
And is your congregation’s current, post-Covid weekly attendance averaging fewer than 50 worshipers?
If the answer to these questions is “yes”, and your congregation is part of either the LCMC or NALC, I would like to hear from you, and soon!
Why the urgency? Because your church might have an urgent need to begin exploring the possibility of transitioning to a long-term, lay-led congregational ministry model; a ministry that will NOT depend on you finding and calling an ordained pastor.
Lutheran CORE is now offering a new, second ministry to assist congregations that are in transition; i.e., that are without a pastor. Our first coaching ministry—Congregations in Transition (CiT)—is still available. However, CiT involves working primarily with call committees that are still actively searching for a new pastor. Yet many smaller churches, due to a severe and worsening clergy shortage, are now facing the very real prospect of not being able to fill their pastoral vacancy. Not with a full-time pastor, or even a part-time pastor. For those congregations (like yours?) it’s time for “Plan B”.
Lutheran CORE’s Congregational Lay-leadership Initiative (CLI) might be just what your church needs. Because without a plan such as CLI provides, your congregation might be facing a crisis of existential proportions.
An overstatement? Consider the following:
1. The current clergy supply crisis is totally unprecedented in our lifetimes.
2. This shortage of pastors available for call—based on the anticipated number of retirements over the next decade, AND the limited number of students currently enrolled in seminary—will only become more severe.
So what exactly is the new Congregational Lay-leadership Initiative, and how can it be of benefit to your church?
CLI is designed to assist smaller congregations who might eventually consider “closing their doors” for no other reason than their inability to find an ordained pastor to lead them. “Assist” in what way? If your church has one, two or three members who are capable and willing—on a very part-time basis—to serve as lay ministers, we believe your congregation can not only survive, but thrive. Not surprisingly, your Church Council would need to take the lead in identifying and recruiting these lay ministers. We will advise you, but these lay ministers need to be people who your congregational leaders agree—by consensus—are the right people to serve in a pastoral role. Then we will provide ministry resources to help these lay ministers serve effectively.
One more very important form of assistance from CLI is helping you take advantage of a particular growing ministry resource: The increasing number of active, retired and experienced pastors willing to volunteer as mentors. We will help you find and connect with a retired pastor who will come alongside your lay ministers; meeting with them online each month to provide ongoing counsel and support.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)…
1. What if we have a call committee still actively engaged in a search for a new pastor?
Not a problem. We can still help you organize a lay-led INTERIM ministry. Then if your 18-month-or-longer vacancy continues long-term, your part-time lay ministers simply continue to serve the needs of your congregation. But NOTE: Smaller churches like yours will be dealing, over time, with a worsening shortage of potential ordained applicants.
2. Does utilizing CLI mean resigning ourselves to never having a pastor in the future? Not necessarily. For example, sometimes a small church’s geographical location will lead to an interested applicant. However, churches worshiping fewer than fifty people on a typical Sunday are at a definite disadvantage given the current shortage of available pastors. So one long-term strategy we recommend is to consider whether one of your members would be open to the possibility of pursuing a seminary education. As you probably know, most seminary students now study online. This means not having to relocate to attend seminary, and also means being able to study, over time, on a very part-time basis. Perhaps one of your part-time lay ministers would be open to this possibility.
3. What would CLI cost our congregation? Very little! Your one-time fee would be only $100, payable to Lutheran CORE. This contribution would be to help cover the ministry resources we provide for your lay ministers. And why no additional cost? Because I, and your mentoring pastor are volunteering our time. However, long before your church treasurer would be writing this check you will want to contact me directly. I want to learn a little about your church to be assured that CLI would be of benefit to your congregation’s ministry. Then, if you and I decide to move forward, we will schedule an online meeting—via Zoom—so I can meet your Church Council and answer any questions they might have.
So email or phone me anytime. (Keeping in mind I live in the Pacific Time Zone.) I hope to hear from you!
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Grace and peace,
Dr. Don Brandt