Turning Back the Clock

It’s the season for high school graduations. Where has the time gone? What will our young people do with the time in front of them, the rest of their lives? For many, the immediate answer is more education. They have probably already decided which school to attend, undoubtedly influenced by their career path. What else influenced our young people in their choice? Some were lured to a particular school or career by an attractive recruitment brochure or an impressive campus visit. For others, it was the gentle pressure of peers, the pleasant prospect of attending school with friends. Or it may have been following the example or advice of parents.

Parents have much to do with a career or college choice. And, once it is made, they may be responsible for keeping a young person in school or on course to a career. Recently, I heard a story about the role my grandmother played in my father’s education and career choice. As a young teenager, he had gone away from home to the synod’s preparatory school at New Ulm, MN. He was very homesick. At the end of Christmas vacation his first year, on the evening before he had to catch a train to New Ulm, he set all the clocks in the house back one hour, hoping to miss the train. Somehow, Grandma awakened early, sensed the problem, scrambled to get everyone up, and got him to the train on time. If she hadn’t, today there might be fewer called workers in WELS.

You can’t force someone into a mold for which he or she is not fitted or inclined. Being a called worker, like almost any other profession, requires a personal, inner commitment. As parents we don’t take our students to Watertown, Saginaw, or New Ulm; lock them up; and throw away the key, forcing them to become called workers. There needs to be a measure of self-determination, increasingly so as they grow older. And yet there is a proper place for parental urging, guidance, and support.

The opportunity to influence our children to become called workers starts early. Family devotions and active participation in congregational life frame the whole picture. The spoken and unspoken support of our church’s called workers helps our children see the public ministry in an attractive light. Directly expressing our desire to have our children become called workers is also important. We could point out the glorious opportunities to serve their Savior as fulltime public ministers of the gospel. It won’t hurt, either, to emphasize the critical need for more public ministers right now.

This is being written before Assignment Day when the graduates of our ministerial education college and seminary are assigned to their first calls. I can safely predict, however, even after Assignment Day, in almost every category of called workers–pastors, teachers, staff ministers–there will still be vacancies.

Permit me to turn back the clock to an earlier time when full-time church work was one of the first occupations urged on able young people. Let’s do that again. Christian men and women can serve their Savior in many other ways. However, until it becomes obvious that the Lord has given them an interest and aptitude for something else, let’s actively encourage them to consider the public ministry.

We thank God for every one of you who serve the Lord in so many ways. You are all a blessing to the church. May we together thank him as much for every person, young or old, whom God moves to serve the Lord fulltime.

Karl R. Gurgel is the former president of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Reprinted with permission by Northwestern Lutheran.

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