Note to the synod: A call to prayer AND Call to prayer follow up
Dear Partners in the Gospel,
Christ is risen, indeed!
Stronger and better together…Joining Jesus in the restoration of the world.
In Luke 10:2, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
At its March 2017 meeting, the ELCA Conference of Bishops claimed identifying, inviting, equipping, and supporting leaders and cultivating vital faith communities as two of the highest priorities for our work together. Active attention to these two priorities is essential to the church’s faithful participation in God’s mission of hope, healing and reconciliation in changing, challenging times. (Please read Why An Emphasis On Congregations And Leadership report from Kenneth Inskeep for more details regarding why this focus is important.)
“As the Conference of Bishops, we call our worshiping communities to pray for raising up leaders for this church. We ask that the petitions of every worship service include a plea that new lay leaders, deacons and pastors be identified, invited, encouraged and supported in responding to God’s call to ministry.” [Adopted March 4, 2017]
This call to prayer also aligns with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s leadership initiative, announced in November 2016, which intends to inspire ELCA leaders to seek out and encourage gifted people in their congregations, communities and networks to consider a call to the ministry of the gospel, supported by growing levels of scholarships for seminary tuition.
The harvest is, indeed, plentiful. We need more laborers, lay and rostered, to provide the ministry and leadership that will, by grace and the power of the Spirit, assist the church in moving forward faithfully and energetically into God’s preferred future.
I ask you to join me, other bishops, synods and congregations throughout the ELCA, to pray. Please join us in prayer every time your worshiping community gets together, and in your own personal and family prayers, asking the Lord of the harvest to raise up and send out laborers into the harvest. And will you consider becoming an answer to that prayer by inviting someone who seems to have the appropriate gifts to consider becoming a pastor or deacon, or by prayerfully considering that call yourself? I am also asking that you pray for faithful committed lay leaders to be lifted up.
Here are a few prayers to consider using, provided by members of the Conference of Bishops:
Christ Jesus, head of the church, raise up from among the baptized, pastors to preach your word and administer your sacraments; deacons to serve all people and bear your gospel to the world; and congregational leaders to bring vision and vitality to your people. Grant us the grace to identify those in our midst you are calling, courage to name their gifts, and opportunities to gently nurture and support their discernment. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.
O God, you make your love known in Jesus Christ. We thank you for loving your church so much that you send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of children, women, and men so that they know themselves called to be pastors and deacons and leaders for congregations and the church. Bless your church with an abundance of leaders. And as we are bold to believe that you will raise up pastors, deacons, and leaders from this congregation, ready our hearts to nurture their faith, celebrate their call, and support their preparation for ministry. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.
O God, you so love the world that you sent Jesus, and our world so needs your love. With the whole Church we implore you to call forth pastors, deacons, and congregational leaders to lead us in bearing Christ to all the world so that the world may know your love. We pray especially for those in this faith community the Holy Spirit may be nudging to public ministry in the church and Christ-like service in the world. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.
Lord Jesus, we pray for congregations in the call process and for the pastor you will send them. We pray for those outside the church who will come to know Jesus through ministry in his name and for the deacon you will send to serve them. We pray for our congregation’s future and for the leaders you will call forward to guide us. Embolden us to invite those in whom we experience gifts for these ministries to prayerfully consider your calling, and give us generous spirits to support them. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.
We give thanks, O God, for the children in our midst—especially those in elementary and middle school. We pray that as they grow, they will hear your voice calling them into your service—in the church, in the world, for the sake of their neighbors. Help them to imagine being pastors and deacons, church council leaders, Sunday school teachers, mentors and community leaders. Give them courage to say yes to your call, O God. We pray in gratitude and boldness in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We trust that God will, in these challenging times for the Church, raise up leaders to lead into the future.
Thanks for joining congregations around the ELCA in prayer.
Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt
Bishop Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt
Wondering how the synod is supporting this call to prayer? Click HERE to read more.
Call to prayer follow up message
This note to the synod is a follow up to the May 4, 2017 note from Bishop Dillahunt.
Dear Fellow Workers for Jesus,
Jesus said, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.’ Luke 10:2
In the ELCA, the number of rostered ministers retiring is far outpacing the number of ordinations. The estimates for 2017: 436 retirements and 212 ordinations. The numbers for 2018 and 2019 are about the same. The Southern Ohio Synod Mission Territory has already seen the impact of this almost 2 to 1 retirement vs. ordination trend. In the spring of 2017, we only received one graduate as part of the Spring Assignment process. That’s only one pastor to fill our eight or more first call needs. The SOS staff has begun to identify and implement plans to meet the continuing needs of our congregations through collaborative ministries, lay leader education and Synodically Authorized Minister teams, BUT…
We need your help to identify, encourage and uplift lay and rostered workers for the Lord’s harvest. My office can’t do this alone.
The Conference of Bishops of the ELCA has made raising up leaders for this church a priority. This is called for in Called Forward Together in Christ, the ELCA Strategic Initiative. I shared this priority with you in May, asking that all congregations in the Southern Ohio Synod Mission Territory pray that new lay leaders, deacons and pastors be identified, invited, encouraged and supported in response to God’s call to ministry. The harvest is plentiful. We need more laborers to provide the ministry and leadership that will, by the grace and power of the Spirit, assist the church in moving forward, faithfully and energetically. For this purpose, five prayer petitions were written and made available to you and your congregation on our synod’s website.
We all have a calling, because of our baptism, to identify and lift up qualified people to help in leading the Church, but how can we carry this out in our own context to fulfill this calling?
a. Listen to faith journey stories and help young people connect their faith and life. What’s God calling them to do in their life?
b. Listen to elementary children if they express a curiosity about being a pastor or deacon or what these leader's role is in their congregation.
a. Encourage young adults to talk about their faith. Create an environment where faith talks are normal and acceptable.
b. Encourage elementary and middle school students to consider being the next pastor or deacon in the church.
a. Invite young and old alike to shadow pastors and deacons, not just on Sunday, but on an average day to see what they do and the gifts they use to carry out these tasks.
b. Invite those who show an interest in ministry to be an active part of several different ministries in the congregation. What do they lean toward? What gifts come out as they serve?
c. Invite those who seem to have a calling to rostered ministry to attend a Discernment Retreat offered by our ELCA region (Region 6). These are offered 1-2 times a year. Contact Pr. Jeff Wick (email@example.com) if you’re interested or see our website calendar for scheduled dates.
Other ways you can encourage and invite young people to be leaders is through the following:
1. Baptism: Use baptism as a teaching time to talk about how the Holy Spirit begins work in you and how that might lead to ministry of word and sacrament or ministry of word and service.
2. ELCA and Synod Youth faith skills development:
a. SOS Bishop’s Youth Ambassador Program (YAP) provides an opportunity for young people to learn about the many ministry opportunities offered by both the ELCA and SOS.
b. SOS ‘Something More’ program, designed to equip high school students with the necessary faith skills to live out their personal calling in life.
c. SOS Jacob’s Porch Retreat and Middle School Mix are retreat setting opportunities for youth to investigate and increase their faith and connect with other Lutherans in our synod.
d. Nexus Institute, held each June, provides deeper-thinking high school students the opportunity for a week long theological experience.
e. ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) invites young adults to spend a year in ministry throughout the world.
I hope these suggestions and resources can help you, your leadership and others identify and even consider being a leader in the Church!
We are Stronger and Better Together: Joining Jesus in the Restoration of the World. Will you join us in identifying, encouraging and even being a leader in our synod and ELCA? I pray the answer is yes.
Your fellow worker for the harvest,
Bishop Suzanne D. Dillahunt