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LEADnet: What Are We Doing About Our Worker Shortage?



What Are We Doing About Our Worker Shortage?

The current dearth of workers will only lessen when we in the church work together to increase the number of potential church workers enrolled in our Concordias. It started with a simple question posed by a pastor teaching confirmation: ”Have you thought about working in the church”? Another pastor echoed those words some five years later after the family moved to a new city. And that time, the result was a visit from an admissions counselor from a nearby Concordia. In 1975, through the simple questions of two pastors a future LCMS high school teacher was drawn into the teaching ministry.

width=273The original working title for this commentary was to be “What is the LCMS Doing About Our Teacher [Worker] Shortage?” but the current dearth of workers will only lessen when we in the church work together to increase the number of potential church workers enrolled in our Concordias. That basic concept is at the heart of Set Apart to Serve (SAS), the Synod initiative to recruit church workers (

The delegates at the 2019 Synod convention adopted Resolution 6-01: “To Support and Participate in the Comprehensive Church Worker Recruitment Initiative.” The LCMS Office of Pastoral Education has since been working on SAS by conducting initial research, consulting key influencers across the Synod, and securing funding to launch a multi-year comprehensive endeavor.

Recently, SAS launched a months-long pilot program with church, school, and outdoor education representatives from each of the Synod’s 35 districts meeting in St. Louis to talk about church worker recruitment. The conversations included how congregations, schools, and camps can increase worker recruitment through the implementation of and improvement of best practices at their individual locations. The pilot program sites will also evaluate the SAS material already available to provide feedback for the benefit of the Synod. Already the ideas are percolating, and they will be shared Synod-wide at the completion of the pilot program during late 2023.

How else is the Synod growing this individual and corporate responsibility for recruitment of future workers beyond the ongoing pilot program? Numerous components of SAS will help recruitment:

  • In collaboration with Concordia Publishing House and the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, SAS is producing curriculum for teachers from early childhood through grade 12 to teach several important matters concerning how church work is an honorable and challenging service. But most importantly, church work vocations are full of joy because God blesses church workers to teach and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
  • /Soon, in partnership with our seven Concordias, we will launch webpages that share important information about the eight church work vocations through which God blesses His church for the sake of the Gospel. These webpages will allow influencers (adults in congregations who talk to youth) and students to learn about the various vocations as well as the basic costs (tuition, room/board, fees) at each of the Concordias. The webpages will help individuals compare church work vocations, the costs of education, and contact information for potential church workers at each Concordia.
  • SAS is collaborating with LCMS School Ministry to establish criteria concerning church worker recruitment within the NLSA accreditation tool. Recruiting teachers and church workers is so important that when a school is accredited, indicators of that mind-set should be in evidence.
  • SAS continues to increase its cooperation with other groups within the Synod. For example, a discussion with the NADCE relating to future partnership with Directors of Christian Education has begun.
  • SAS looks forward to sharing the latest updates on church work recruitment at Lutheran schools conferences such as the LEA convocation or the Lutheran Schools Administrators Conference. Contact us to be a part of your district education conferences in the coming months.


  • Who do you know right now that might become a fruitful church worker?
  • What can you do to encourage such a person?
  • What would be your “strategy” in conversing with that person?

We all play an important role in shaping and encouraging future church workers. SAS seeks to encourage and remind all pastors, deaconesses, teachers, DCEs, and other church workers that we all play an important role in shaping and encouraging future church workers. We all can encourage and help equip today’s young person to become tomorrow’s ordained or commissioned worker. As we proclaim what God has done for them, we can also point them to church work vocations as ways to serve in His church.

Our Lord said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37–38). We take His Word seriously, and pray for more workers. At the same time, we know that He forms church workers through encouragement and instruction of the church.

And sometimes, it comes in the simple questions encouraging young people to consider church work. As two pastors did for me back in the 1970s. Thank the Lord for His faithfulness then and now!

After more than 41 years of experience in Lutheran education, Glenn Rollins accepted a call to manage the Set Apart to Serve effort of church worker recruitment efforts for the LCMS. Glenn grew up in Colorado and after graduating from Concordia-Nebraska in 1979,  he was blessed to work at educational ministries in California, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois in roles from teacher to principal to head of school. During the past 20 years in administration, the challenges of finding the right teachers for open positions in schools that he served stoked his passion to advocate for recruiting of the next generation of church workers for schools and churches.

Photos © Concordia University Nebraska.