At the dawn of a new decade (yes, I know there is an argument for the decade starting in 2021—so we may be a year early for some!), I’ve been reflecting on all that’s changed for Luther Seminary over the past ten years.
When the decade began, we were reaching near-record highs in our enrollment and budget—and then we had several years of sudden, and painful, decline.
I was appointed president of Luther Seminary in the midst of this transition, and those first few years were characterized by the complex and ongoing work of rebuilding. This community endured significant heartache with departures of dear colleagues, less real estate, and fewer students. Together, many of us prayed for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
It’s likely you’ve seen seismic shifts in your church experience as well. Younger generations—perhaps your children, grandchildren, or close friends—don’t seem to be interested in congregational life anymore. The world is changing at a rapid pace, and the entire church is seeing the impact.
But this wasn’t just a decade of disruptive transition. It was also a decade of hope and faithfulness—specifically, God’s faithfulness to God’s promises.
As the dust settles on the 2010’s, we see that through it all, God continues to open a way forward, despite our own failings and frailties:
- Out of declining participation in traditional church models, we see God raising up new expressions of Christian community from which we are learning, and for which we are educating faithful leaders.
- Out of financial difficulty, we now find ourselves with a balanced budget and financial stability that will allow us to serve our mission for generations to come.
- Out of plummeting student applications, we now find ourselves with the first-ever waiting list in Luther Seminary history.
Even in the midst of change, the mission to which God has called us—to educate leaders for Christian communities—remains the same. And as a new decade dawns, we look with confidence to God’s promises to be with us and to guide us.
May the new decade be full of hope for you as well—whatever shape your ministry and service takes!
Robin J. Steinke, President