LCANZ leaders have met to discuss and address the urgent church worker supply shortage confronting the church.

Over the next 10 years, half of our active pastors will retire from full-time ministry. Currently the LCANZ has 239 pastors in active ministry. Seventeen men are serving as Specific Ministry Pastors, and there are 15 Aboriginal pastors.

Across the church, 65 Lutheran communities are seeking a pastor to serve among them. However, over the next two years, only five students are expected to graduate from Australian Lutheran College (ALC) in the pastoral ministry stream.

‘Lutheran Education Australia is working hard to prepare principals and leaders for our Lutheran schools’, LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith said, ‘but our church needs more Lutheran women and men to be available for these roles.

‘In addition, parishes and church agencies are facing a dire situation regarding trained church workers being available to serve for the ministries of the church.’

The full-day Ministry Futures workshop, held in Adelaide on 18 May, was called by the College of Bishops to consider the church worker supply challenges the LCANZ faces, including ways to provide word and sacrament ministry as the number of Lutheran communities without a pastor increases.

Joining the bishops in the workshop were Pastor James Winderlich (ALC principal), Dr Tania Nelson (Executive Officer for Local Mission) and the three District mission directors, pastors Brett Kennett (Victoria), David Schmidt (Queensland) and Stephen Schultz (SA-NT). The workshop was facilitated by Victorian District Bishop Emeritus Greg Pietsch.

According to Bishop Smith, a strong theme of the day was ‘urgency to work together passionately and purposefully’ on this matter. ‘Participants commented often: “We don’t have time to dither”’.

At the heart of the morning session, workshop participants gathered in small groups for a long session of prayer together, with lament, petition, and thanksgiving.

Three key priorities emerged from the workshop conversations:

  • Pathways: develop pathways for specific ministries, such as pastor or chaplain, including specific pathways for ministries in schools and aged care, and church planting.
  • Regionalising: develop regional collaboration to determine how local areas work together for the provision of word and sacrament ministry in the mission God gives us.
  • Ordering Ministry: establish clear language for how we understand the ordering of ministry amongst us, including what we understand to be flexible. This includes engaging with CTICR’s 2022 project in the study of ordering ministry. (Currently the ordering is bishop, pastor, lay worker, and includes Lutheran principal, Lutheran teacher and chaplain.)

‘We are a small church denomination numerically’, said Bishop Smith, ‘but our Lutheran communities are a vital participant in the work of the gospel in Australia and New Zealand.

‘The group that met in May asks the people of the LCANZ to continue this work of prayer, asking the Lord to guide the outcomes of this preliminary work. Lord, make us bold for the sake of mission. Amen.’

The College of Bishops is working with Bishop Emeritus Pietsch to progress the recommendations of the workshop participants, including consultation and engagement across the LCANZ.

Participants at the LCANZ’s Ministry Futures workshop decided to share the whiteboard notes from their first session’s work. See the LCA website’s news section if you’d like to read the transcript.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full