As I reflect on ministry at the District level, these ministry challenges stand out from my perspective.
Ministry Challenge #1
The diminished number of Seminary candidates available for a first assignment to requesting congregations by the Council of Presidents at its annual April meeting. When I graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1982 there were 128 candidates placed into their first assignment; and our sister Seminary in Fort Wayne placed another 100 candidates. In the spring of 2021, there were a total of 88 candidates available for their first assignment, with approximately 120-140 congregations making application for these candidates.
Ministry Challenge #2
The shortage of ordained pastors who are available, and willing, to serve a New Jersey District congregation when it experiences a pastoral vacancy -- so how do we provide the needed ministry leadership and pastoral care within our NJD congregations until the next pastor is installed.
Ministry Challenge #3
Approximately one-third of New Jersey District congregations are “stand alone” congregations; that is, they are able to fully compensate a pastor and to sufficiently fund their congregational ministry without receiving additional income from “non-member sources.”
Ministry Challenge #4
How do we witness to, and evangelize, people who have built their lives upon non-Christian narratives, especially the growing segment of the population who have “no religious or spiritual preference (over one-third of NJ residents)?
Ministry Challenge #5
And how do we overcome, and speak into, a culture that perceives and judges the Christian faith to be irrelevant in answering the big questions, and dealing with the day-to-day problems, that people have in, and with, life?
Ministry Challenge #6
We have many ex-neighborhood congregations that were established by Northern European ethnic peoples who were raised within, or were very familiar with, the Lutheran faith; however, most of these ethnic groups no longer reside in the neighborhood in which our congregations are located and we have not been able to minister to, and connect with, our new neighbors in meaningful and impactful ways.
Ministry Challenge #7
How to communicate the Biblical message in oral, print, broadcast and digital culture; and how to use social media effectively for ministry engagement in the “public square”?