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Raising up leaders follow up note from the Bishop

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?

1.   Listen

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.

2.   Encourage

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.

3.   Invite

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 ( 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.

f. Campus ministry and Summer Seminary Sampler’s offered through college’s and ELCA seminaries


Mr. Gary Pecuch ( can provide you with more information about any of the SOS opportunities. The YAGM program can be researched on the ELCA website.

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

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