The following was included in the report on the National LCMS Church Worker Family Needs Assessment Pilot Report.
New Boomers filling the roles of yesterday’s baby boomers requiring some updates to their “Unwritten Pastor’s Manual”
The Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther (October 25, 1811-May 7, 1887) served as the first president of what has since become the LCMS. Not only did he play a key role in the founding of the LCMS in 1847—he also served as the church body’s president twice: from 1847-1850, and again from 1864-1878. This second term bridged the beginning of The New Worlders” Generation (born 1871-1889) here in the U.S. One in five children born into this generation died in childhood. One in four immigrated to the United States and lived on farms during the height of the agrarian era.
Since this time, the waves of pastor-training have peaked every other generation creating statistical bulges in ebb and flow of ordained church workers—including the LCMS. Of the 205 self-identified ordained workers, twenty-five percent are age 50-59 with thirty-six percent age 60-69; or sixty-one percent weighing their later years’ options.
When viewed by generation, sixty-three percent of ordained workers are 1st Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), twelve percent are Generation-X, and seven percent are the 2nd or New Boomers (born 1983-2001). [Fifty percent for Commissioned –both Roster and non-Roster]. While no one can predict the future, the historical record strongly suggests that these 2nd “New Boomer” group of pastors will fill the Parishes currently filled by 1st “Baby Boomers” over the next decade.
Every generations of pastor’s since the days of Dr. Walther has been issued some form of hard-cover Pastor’s Manual on leading a Parish and an “unwritten Pastors’ Manual” that is only figured our once installed in that first call. Imagine what happens when the pastor and parish hold different definitions of what it means to “be the pastor” only to discover that the taught explicit expectations are accompanied by an equally (and sometimes greater) group of unspoken or implicit expectations (which are only discovered once they’ve been violated). The same holds true for the Pastor’s wife and children.
It should be said that the “Baby Boomer” pastors redefined their roles when they entered the scene—and probably intend to do the same when it comes to when they retire. Back then, the retiring pastor moved out of the parsonage to another town (often with family) so that the “new guy” could find his way and not have those in the parish pressing him into conflict-resolution mode as the land mines went off. It was what their “unwritten pastor’s manual” required and their spouse and children knew this was a package deal.
Gone are the days of the parsonage and here are the days of a mortgage, deeper roots into the community in which they’d served—and deeper roots for the pastor’s wife who likely worked a day job to make it all work. Now add to this the “New Boomer” who is probably that earlier version on steroids ready to take on the new call with all of his seminary wisdom. While divided by a generation themselves—the parish is multi-generational and will struggle through some growing pains without regard to the former pastor’s leaving the town or just that parish for another in a neighboring city. In the end, it is a loss.
For the District President through all of this come the calls for help from the parish, the outgoing pastor and the incoming pastor. Maybe a new “unwritten President Manual” is needed, too.
That’s the macro view of what is coming—but the micro view must include care for the weathered shepherd, the energy-charged new shepherd, and their unique spouses and families. For this study, we have been so blessed to have emeritus pastors (17% of pastors) responding to the CW-FNS. The transition from pastor to former-pastor is interesting—and having a mentor to come alongside with a listening ear and personal insight could play a key role in navigating the potential volume for this new aspect of care. The same could hold true for coming alongside pastor’s wives.
And is there some emeritus role to help provide purpose and constancy during the transition? What might that look like—and when will the initial wave begin to make such requests?