Friday, July 6, 2007

HR perspective on pastor occupation

Missing from our discussion is a good HR review of Ministerial Education and pastors. It may be that BME has produced such a study and I haven't seen it. A good HR analysis would provide a framework for aligning Ministerial Education with the job that pastors actually perform on a day-to-day basis in a parish setting. A good HR analysis would prioritize skills (e.g., must have vs. nice to have) and would tell us where in the Ministerial Education pipeline a man would learn certain skills. A good HR analysis might also identify twists and turns in Ministerial Education that could be considered for straightening. Certainly Scripture lays out some requirements for pastors and other church leaders; however, church tradition has added more job requirements for pastors.

Skill example #1: By tradition we expect pastors to be capable of chairing or participating in meetings using Robert's Rules of Order. Do we teach Robert's Rules of Order? Should Rules of Order be taught in elementary school, high school, college, or seminary?

Skill example #2: By tradition we expect pastors to be capable counselors. How many courses and how much field experience do pastors have in counseling? Are WELS pastors (both young and old) good at counseling families? Do pastors routinely detect and refer to treatment fellow pastors, teachers, and called-worker spouses exhibiting symptoms of depression or other mental illness?

Skill example #3: By tradition pastors are intimately involved with parish treasuries. How much training do pastors receive in preparing or interpreting financial reports? Does Seminary use parish financial case studies? Although the word "embezzlement" does not appear in Scripture, do we train pastors how to identify and maintain ethical financial practices? If your pastor signs your photocopier service contract, has he been trained in contract law? Does he know which terms are enforceable by statute in your state?

Skill example #4: By tradition pastors supervise paid employees and volunteers in the church office. When do we train pastors how to manage people and supervise subordinates? Do we teach pastors about legal employment (hiring & firing) practices? Is there opportunity for every pastor candidate to lead a student-run organization in high school, college, and seminary?

Skill example #5: When churches build or remodel it's the pastor who is on site every day so it's common for the pastor to be the lead contact with the contractor. When do we train pastors how to select and manage architects and general contractors?

Skill example #6: Pastors may not be racists, but are they comfortable in multi-ethnic settings or do they tense up? MLC being 97% white, do all pastor candidates experience years where they live and work surrounded by non-whites?

Once we have a framework for discussion, it's easy to stand back to see what fits in Ministerial Education and what does not. It's OK to retain traditions for the sake of traditions, as long as all realize certain traditions might help esprit de corps at a school but have little relevance to pastoral ministry. For example, how does evening chapel for high school students help them become better pastors? Last I heard, MLC chapel was still optional. I'm not aware of any WELS congregation holding evening chapel services every day, so is the benefit that high school and college students lead the chapel service and practice public speaking?

The framework might help in other ways by identifying skills that need refreshing over time. For example, do pastors need a German refresher after a few decades in the pulpit? Should pastors take a Hebrew requalification exam every 10 years?

An HR framework might also identify situations where we need to unload monkeys from the pastor's back. For example, maybe every Circuit needs a Staff Minister who has a background as a General Contractor.

Are we, as a Synod, capable of agreeing on a job description for a pastor?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

MLS down years

According to PSSC-2 data, MLS produced only 2 pastors in WLS Class of 2002 and only 2 pastors in WLS Class of 2003.

What went wrong? Could this happen again?

MLS as self-funded school?

WELS Synodical Council has offered to sell MLS to any group for $1 to operate MLS as a self-funded school. Is any group forming to do so?

What would it cost to operate MLS?

There are 34,000 communicant members in Michigan District. Let's say that translates to 10,000 Michigan families who are potential donors.

If we assume that cost of operating MLS is same as Synod subsidy ($2,000,000), then cost would be $200 per Michigan family to keep MLS doors open as self-funded school. Since most MLS graduates never serve in public ministry, most probably remain in Michigan, benefit local congregations as lay members, and would be prone to support their alma mater financially.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

ACT test scores for MLC

Our LES system is proud of test scores and publishes summaries of nation-wide Achievement Tests (Terra Nova Fall Testing). However, to my knowledge, our high school system (LPS, MLS, ALHS) is silent on test results (ACT, SAT). Why?

Likewise, PSSC-2 did not compare test scores (ACT or SAT) of MLC accession programs (LPS, MLS, ALHS, public). Why not? Don't test scores assess caliber of incoming students?

Minimum ACT for admission to MLC is 20, and minimum for WLC is 21. National average ACT score for 2006 was 21. Why does our ministerial training school have lower standard?

According to MLC had 214 applicants, accepted 207 (97%), and enrolled 149. (Year not stated.)
According to MLC had 235 applicants, accepted 230 (98%), and enrolled 166. (Year not stated.)
Why does MLC have a high acceptance rate (97%, 98%)?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Language, culture, and identity

Pastoral ministry is about relationships, and that includes relationships with fellow pastors. At Martin Luther College, a person has the opportunity to build relationships that last a lifetime. Besides this, students at MLC have the opportunity not simply to learn subject matter, but to study with professors who are modelers and confessors of the faith they are teaching. Studying at a confessional residential college provides an opportunity to be imprinted by the character of godly men.


If you play a note on a trumpet pointing the trumpet at the strings of a piano with the piano's damper pedal pressed, the piano's strings will resonate sympathetically with the same note as the trumpet. The only strings that resonate in the piano are the strings that match the note played on the trumpet. The other strings remain silent. After the trumpet stops, the piano continues to emanate softly the note of the trumpet.

Likewise, a pastor's ability to communicate the Gospel message to a congregation is better when he is tuned to his congregation. There are three factors affecting how well a pastor is tuned to his congregation: language, culture, and identity. We can assess the tuning of each factor using an Apgar-like score ranging from 0 to 5 (5 is the best).

Language: We would not send a missionary to a foreign country unless he spoke the language. If he speaks the language fluently, he scores 4. If he has the same accent as the people he serves and understands their jokes then he scores 5. An upper Midwest accent spoken to a congregation in a district that borders an ocean scores only 4.

Culture: Does the pastor impose cultural celebrations (such as Oktoberfest) on a congregation in an outlying district? Score 0. Does he tell farm stories in every sermon to a city congregation? Score 0. In the Midwest, if he can list cultural events (such as hunting & fishing season dates) he scores 3. If he hunts and fishes he scores 4. If he cleans his own fish he scores 5. If he performs a Lutheran Quinceanera when requested he scores 5. If he wears a necktie in Hawaii he scores 0.

Identity: Does the pastor identify with the congregation, or is he just passing through? Does he care about his flock in a practical way or in a lofty theological way? Quick measures are if he owns the parsonage, if he is a fan of the local sports teams, and if he bought a burial plot in the community. Laypeople are intuitive and can sense when a pastor is not sincere. If he is not sincere in all matters, how do we know he's sincere with the Gospel?

Should a pastor care more about relationships with parishioners or with fellow pastors? Is it the purpose of ministerial education to build lasting bonds between pastors because pastors are set apart from laypeople and pastors should not get too close to laypeople? Can pastors really trust only other pastors? Is this why WELS needs prep schools?

Digital native or digital immigrant?

Digital native or digital immigrant? Same terminology applies to teachers.

"At meeting of college librarians, experts tell them they need to start thinking the way video game producers think and provide library services that will make sense to those who play computer games. 'In an era when most students would have to go to a museum to see an old-fashioned card catalog, there's no doubt that libraries have embraced technology. But speakers said that there was a larger split between students -- who are "digital natives," in one popular way of classifying people based on their experience with technology -- and librarians, who are more likely to be "digital immigrants." They may have learned the language, but it's a second language.'"


Satan active

Despite outwardly unremarkable appearance and seemingly good behavior, members of God's church may in fact work for Satan.
Satan can enter men.

Luke 22:3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.

The line between God and Satan can be crossed in a heartbeat, evidenced by two spectacular contrasting Scriptural phrases separated by only 5 verses.

18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
23Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan!

I watched in horror as Satan drummed a church worker out of a congregation. The worker had nearly perfect Religion grades from MLC, but the worker had not graduated from MLC, so Satan entered and used "WELS Purists" to castigate the worker as an outsider and to create a hostile and abusive work environment. After years and many attempts to correct the situation, the "A" student resigned leaving "B" and "C" students to run the asylum. Satan does not want "A" students working in the church.

Intern program for LESs

To encourage young people to consider teaching or pastoral ministry, LES principals could send motivated boys & girls (Grade 3-8) to lower grades as classroom assistants and send mature boys (Grade 5-8) on ride-alongs with pastor to hospitals (as allowed), nursing homes, and private homes. LES principals should attempt to include public school students as well as LES students in this intern program. Involving young people at an early age may identify those with aptitude, spark passion for teaching and preaching, and cultivate abilities.

In 2005 our Commission on Youth Discipleship chartered a study of WELS pastors and youth to determine why our youth were leaving the church. What struck me as most important in the study was the observation that pastors and youth reported different reasons for youth leaving the church. They did not agree. There was a disconnect.

In our 2007 review of ministerial training, we should learn from the 2005 study and not assume that we know why young people do/do not enroll at MLC. I'm reluctant to push all young people to MLC because (as Adam and Troy mentioned) we've all seen examples of people who dropped out of MLC or public ministry after giving it a try. As a Synod all of our youth are a precious gift -- not just those in ministerial training -- and we should be mindful of the effect of our actions on all youth. If we push them to attend MLC, and they don't, or if they drop out, have they disappointed us? Are they failures? I think consensus in this thread is that all vocations can be God-pleasing.

If we make opportunities for youth to experience teaching and preaching ministries at a young age, and as a result they are self-motivated to pursue those professions, our Synod will have a healthy, confident team of workers to help with the harvest.

Bruce Eberle's blog

Divisions in WELS

Honest WELSians admit that there are divisions, rivalries, and class hierarchies in the Synod. Depending on where you sit in the pecking order, your attitude might be to accept these differences as the natural order of WELS society and sanctification, or your attitude might be bitter as if you were the victim of subtle racism. Neither side sees the point of view of the other.

Examples of division, rivalries, and class hierarchies in WELS (in no particular order):

#1. Prep schools vs. ALHSs
#2. MLC vs. WLC
#3. Lutheran schools (LES to college) vs. public schools
#4. Board at school vs. commuters
#5. PK vs. not PK

#6. Pastors vs. teachers
#7. First-career called workers vs. second-career called workers
#8. Heartland districts vs. outlying districts
#9. German surnames vs. not
#10. Jocks vs. book worms

#11. Organists vs. other instruments
#12. Musicians vs. not
#13. Born WELS vs. not
#14. Passionate pastors & teachers vs. exhausted, "retired on active list" pastors & teachers
#15. Lord's prayer on left vs. Lord's prayer on right

#16. Ladder-climbing clergy vs. pastoral ministers
#17. External funding advocates vs. not
#18. COP vs. SC
#19. CW hymns only vs. other hymns allowed
#20. Packers vs. Vikings

#21. World missionaries vs. happy in heartland clergy
#22. NPH only vs. CPH tolerated
#23. Christ-Light wonderful vs. try something else
#24. Born AAL vs. born LB
#25. Thrivent vs. secular insurance

#26. Evangelism is someone's job vs. evangelism is my job
#27. Staff ministers vs. 'real' called workers
#28. Large congregations vs. small congregations
#29. City churches vs. country churches
#30. PowerPoint churches vs. not