More than one hundred of the best and brightest prospective future leaders, educators and clergy of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) traveled from the United States and Canada to participate in the Exploring Church Careers Event (ECCE), held August 5-8 on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
During the retreat, ebullient high school students prayed and worshiped together, engaged in lively Bible study discussions and attended career workshops presented by talented church professionals such as Emily Dittmer, Mark Sengele, Mark Bender, Rev. David Smith, Rev. Jeremy Schultz, Dcs. Theresa List, Bernie Tonjes, David Steinbacher and Dr. A.L. Barry, President of the LCMS. Career topics ranged from the traditional to the technological, including pastoral ministry, Christian education, counseling, music, missions, and television/radio.
“This event is extremely significant because it helps identify future church workers,” explained Rev. Glen Thomas, Vice President for Seminary Relations at Concordia Seminary. “Sometimes our most gifted youth are never approached with the idea of serving in a church vocation. This event, however, allows young people to see the many ways God can use the gifts He has given them to serve Him in this unique way.”
Admission representatives from eight Concordia University System schools and Valparaiso University distributed information and answered questions about academic programs that lead to church careers. The reps also served as small group leaders and sponsored an information fair on the last evening of the event.
Evaluation forms completed by the 117 students voiced heartfelt enthusiasm for the event and indicated that the ECCE achieved its stated purpose of encouraging and informing youth regarding church careers. A number of students acknowledged that the event had become a major influence on their decision-making process and described it as a life-changing experience.
“I cannot say enough on how great this weekend was,” one student wrote. “I know now that I will definitely be working in the church.” Another student wrote, “This experience was extremely positive. I now am pretty sure that God is leading me in the way to become a pastor.”
Congregations throughout the United States and Canada offered a strong show of support for the ECCE, which will be offered again in 2001. “Approximately 450 nominations and more than 140 registrations were received, including four from Alaska,” Thomas said. “I want to thank the pastors, parents and others in the church who nominated youth to attend this event. We were overwhelmed with the response.”
Concordia Seminary worked with Rev. Terry Dittmer, associate director of the LCMS Department of Youth Ministry, to orchestrate the event. Rev. Darrell Zimmerman, pastor of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Brentwood, Missouri were also instrumental in the development of the program.
The ECCE was made possible by a $150,000 grant Concordia Seminary received to assist in the process of identifying, informing and encouraging high school youth toward service in church work careers. The grant is from Lilly Endowment, Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“This grant allows us to address the declining number of students who are preparing to serve as pastors, teachers, directors of Christian education and other church career positions,” Thomas said. “Everyone who has watched the shortages in these vocations increase over recent years is alarmed. We plan to hold an ECCE again next year to assist our church in addressing this trend.”
For more information, contact the Admissions Office at Concordia Seminary by e-mail at ECCEvent@aol.com; by phone at 314-505-7722; or by regular mail at Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105. Pictures and additional information concerning the ECCE are also available on the Concordia Seminary Web page https://www.csl.edu/csnews.htm.