The Next Generation of Leaders
Who will form the next generation of leaders?
This is a pressing question, as a recent ELCA research study concluded that there are currently more than 600 congregations who want and can afford a pastor but cannot find one because of a growing clergy shortage. By 2020, the number of empty pulpits will grow to 1000.
So I will ask again: Who will form the next generation of leaders?
Seminaries have a significant role to play, of course, and we are eager to do so. But, quite truthfully, seminaries are only part of the answer because we can only train those candidates who come to us. We can’t increase the pool of candidates; at least not by ourselves.
For this reason, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has called on the whole church to nurture the emerging generation in their faith and encourage them to consider professional leadership as a real vocational possibility. This is a huge undertaking and it will require the intentional and creative cooperation of our national church, synods, camps, colleges, congregations, and seminaries.
This need to form the next generation of professional church leaders is a primary reason LTSP and our partners at LTSG have been working to form United Lutheran Seminary. By operating one seminary on two campuses, we will be able to reduce our operating expenses from a combined budget of more than $12.5 million to about $9.5 million. This $3 million savings does not only make our work more sustainable, it also allows us to put students first in terms of our budgeting.
This past year, we have made it possible for all students to go through seminary with full tuition scholarships in one of two ways. 1) Full time, ELCA students entranced by their synods and studying in residence are all eligible for full-tuition scholarships. 2) For all other students — part-time, distance, and ecumenical — we are matching all gifts from their congregations or church bodies up to 100 percent.
We can only make this dramatic move to make seminary education more affordable because of the commitment and generosity of so many individuals, congregations, synods, and the larger church.
One of those partners — the ELCA Fund for Leaders (FFL) — has recently been given a generous gift that will grant 20 more students a year full scholarships across their seminary careers. To recognize this gift and all the donations that make the Fund for Leaders an exciting reality, United Lutheran Seminary will be providing a housing-subsidy for on-campus housing to all FFL recipients, thereby decreasing their need for loans even more.
At this point I want to be very clear. We are going to tremendous lengths to re-organize ourselves in order to put students first, extend our academic offerings through online and distance learning, and construct a curriculum and faculty that will train leaders responsive to the needs of today changed and changing world. In all these ways, we are committed to identifying, training, and forming the next generation of leaders. But we cannot do it by ourselves. If you know someone who should consider seminary, please let our admissions staff know (admissions@Ltsp.edu | 215.248.7302). And if you are able to contribute to help us sustain our effort to educate the next generation of leaders tuition-free, please contact our advancement office (dtrotter@Ltsp.edu | 215.248.6324).
The call is clear and the time is urgent, and there is so much we can do together. Please know how grateful I am for your partnership.
Yours in Christ,