This week I am at the annual continuing education conference for senior pastors of large ELCA congregations. Yesterday at one of our sessions, there was a panel discussion of all of the presidents of the nine ELCA seminaries. They were discussing the changing needs of the seminaries and the ways that the seminaries and large congregations can partner to continue to encourage people to consider ministry as vocation.
About 3/4 of the way through the conversation, the president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Dr. David Lose (who is kind of a rock star in the world of Lutheran pastors) said ,”Lots of churches have a history of sending lots of people to seminary.” And he turned to the Dr. Robin Steinke, the president of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, and he continued, “Remember that one church we were talking about? Trinity, in Owatonna, that has sent so many people into ministry?”
After my initial surprise, I couldn’t help but smile (and feel just a bit of pride!)
Trinity does have a rich history of sending many into ministry. Since I’ve come to Trinity, I’ve heard the phrase “Trinity? That’s the church I grew up in!” from a number of pastors around the country. And it’s not just pastors: We have sent many people into ministry to serve with children and youth, or in global missions, and many other areas.
I’m glad for this history. This is a sign of a healthy congregation…Trinity is a congregation that sends.
In addition to being a history, it is a hope. We want to continue to grow this legacy of lifting up and sending leaders to serve within the church. We want to encourage people of all ages to continue to consider serving in ministry, certainly as volunteers, but also vocationally, as professionals in ministry. As pastors, children and youth ministers, administrators, musicians, counselors, missionaries and in other roles as well.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Being called into ministry is a joy, an honor and a privilege. To be a part of God’s mission, to serve the community and to be a part of the forming of faith in others is an amazing experience (and it’s a whole lot of fun!)
So who do you know that you might encourage? Who has the gifts to do ministry? Who might you “nudge” and say, “hey, have you thought about serving in the church?” We all need to be looking and noticing gifts in others, that we can continue to form leaders for the present and the future of Christ’s church!
Watching with you!