Dear Partners in Mission,
I write you knowing you are engaged in many tasks this Holy Week. New disciples will receive their first Eucharist, baptisms will be performed, we will experience the passion narrative again for the first time, and the joy of Easter will be proclaimed. Preparations for this week also bring increased stress and anxiety in the work of leaders. Be encouraged in your work and know that I am praying for each of you and your communities as you enter this most holy time.
Holy Week reminds us again of the essential need for leadership in our communities. The Conference of Bishops recently adopted the following resolution that I was honored to help craft:
“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]
It is no secret we have a shortage of leaders. Seminary enrollments are the lowest they have been in a generation. The call to prayer is asking God to call and for us to encourage individuals to consider Word and Sacrament ministry. But that is only one symptom of our leadership challenges. This is also a call to prayer for all the baptized to consider how God is calling them.
We need lay leaders in our congregations to be encouraged to serve in many ways. To consider how they can utilize resources like our Parish Lay Ministry Academy to deepen their knowledge and ability. Also, living into the new unified Word and Service roster, this is a good time to encourage future deacons as they discern their call to service.
As we enter Holy Week and head towards the joy of Easter, I can think of no better time to engage in this fervent prayer for the raising up of new leaders for our church. I encourage every congregation and worshipping community in NT-NL to include prayer petitions for leaders in worship throughout the festival season of Easter. Sample petitions are attached, but I encourage you and your community to create petitions specifically for your context.
In this busy season, know that you are in my prayers daily. This Easter, my task will be organizing the breakfast and egg hunt at my family’s parish. This is a small contribution to the festival day but another example of the varied tasks to which God calls us. For the many ways you as leaders serve, I give thanks. God bless you this Holy Week and bring you to a joyful Eastertide.
In Mission Together,
Bishop Erik K.J. Gronberg, PhD.
A Call to Prayer
from the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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.”
Sample Petition Composed by Bishop Gronberg
We give you thanks, O God, for the opportunity to proclaim the wonder of your love poured out in Christ’s cross and resurrection. Send now your Holy Spirit upon the leaders, congregations, worshipping communities, and ministries of NT-NL. Inspire your church to encourage and equip individuals with gifts for leadership to respond to your call. Challenge your church to be generous stewards of your abundance and provide resources to develop these leaders. Finally, through your ever present grace sustain your church and keep us in the peace that comes knowing our future is ever secure in you. God of mercy, Receive our prayer.
Sample Prayer Petitions Composed by ELCA Bishops
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.
Christ 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 you 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.
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.
This is part of the wider Church strategy:
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds us, “It’s not only the job of our seminaries and universities to identify and raise up leaders in the church. This is something that belongs to all of us.” The Leadership Initiative encourages all of us to seek out and inspire gifted people in our congregations and communities to consider a call to the ministry of the gospel. If you know someone who shows a gift for ministry, help mentor and foster them. Together – pastors, deacons, lay people – we can bring the word of God to the world.
Find resources to guide discussions and offer inspiration for becoming a leader within the ELCA.