Some of you will remember that ten years ago or so we heard the warning that Synod was going to be short of pastors. Officials urged men to enroll in our seminaries to meet the anticipated need. They did. But then came something no one foresaw: an economic downturn that convinced many pastors that retirement at age 62 might not be in their best interest. And so they continued to serve their congregations, causing the shortage to vanish. For several years our seminaries' heads of placement had to ask District Presidents to please find more congregations for the sudden surplus of graduates.

Apparently, word of the surplus got out just as quickly, for now both the numbers of men to be assigned vicarages and congregational placement have shrunk. Total placements from both seminaries will be under 100 this year, and the numbers of incoming students are not any greater. But here's what else has changed: those pastors who had put off retirement are now of the age where they do wish to retire. And 2014's market gains have made it financially possible again. We are looking at about eighteen vacancies in the Ohio District now, and I foresee more on the way. With a number of smaller congregations throughout Synod no longer able to afford a pastor for various reasons, we probably won't feel the shortage for a year or so yet. But nearer now than it was before. And if the shortage continues, congregations will receive a second wake-up call as economics begins to exert itself whenever shortages of any type appear: more dollars will chase fewer goods (pastors). That is good news for debt-encumbered pastors and new graduates, but that may, in turn, reduce the number of congregations able to afford a pastor.