Education and Religious Beliefs


Witness, Mercy, Life TogetherThe Aug. 4 USA Today contains the results of an interesting survey of 1,800 American adults conducted by sociology professor Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The survey studied the impact of the amount of education people receive upon religious views they hold. The old adage was “the more educated a person is, the less religious they are likely to be.”

This survey discredits the old adage. In fact, the survey concluded that “For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are:

•15% more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.

•14% more likely to say they believe in a “higher power” than in a personal God. “More than 90% believe in some sort of divinity,” Schwadel says.

•13% more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is ‘less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life’ than their childhood religion.

•13% less likely to say the Bible is the ‘actual word of God.’ The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the ‘inspired word’ of God, Schwadel says.”

So, we might conclude that education does not tend to drive Americans away from religious convictions and practice, just toward more liberal religious convictions and practice.

What does this mean for a conservative, confessional church body such as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod? Several thoughts come to mind:

1.       The importance and necessity of substantive catechesis at all levels within our congregations. Many teens and adults have a hunger for a more in-depth study of God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions. In addition to equipping them for discussions with peers, substantive study such as this also demonstrates the intellectual integrity of biblically conservative, confessional theology.

2.       The blessing of our ten Concordia University System schools that demonstrate on a daily basis that higher education and the Christian faith are wonderfully compatible.

3.       The need for added emphasis upon “living the Christian life in relation to the Word of God.”

4.       The need to reiterate the “ministerial” use of reason as opposed to the “magisterial” use of reason in the Christian faith.

What are your thoughts? Do your observations of educated Americans confirm the survey’s results? What would you suggest for a biblically conservative, confessional church such as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as it seeks to do the work of the Kingdom in the United States?

Setting Priorities

Two of my recent posts titled “The 80 Percent Rule” and “How Many Hats?” caused some respondents to bring up the subject of setting priorities in ministry. I’d like to share a tool that proved useful to me during my years in full-time parish ministry.


It’s called the Nominal Group Technique (NGT). If you Google “Nominal Group Technique” you will find a wealth of information about this approach to group decision-making. I first heard about it from Chuck Dull when he helped the Southeastern District plan its 40th anniversary convocation in 1979. I was asked to lead the task force that implemented NGT at the convocation with about 600 participants (about 60 groups of ten people in each group, as I recall, with a trained leader for each group). We used the questionnaire-by-mail companion to NGT known as the Delphi Process to reach another group of people whose input we desired but who were unable to attend the convocation. The convocation produced several priorities for ministry and mission that helped to set a course for the District (led by its president, Richard Hinz) for the next five to ten years.


Since then I have used NGT in various other settings, including the Board of Elders at Holy Cross in Fort Wayne when I came there in 1993. The use of NGT gave the Board an opportunity to clarify its expectations of me in my service as senior pastor. We started out with 30 items (all valid and good aspects of pastoral work) and ended up with nine top-priority items. The Board said, in effect, “We expect you to focus your energy, attention, and influence primarily on these nine items. We pledge ourselves to work with you.” That action proved to be a watershed moment influencing and shaping our work together for years to come.


NGT and Delphi are well and clearly explained in the 1975 book by A. L. Delbecq and A. H. VandeVen titled Group Techniques for Program Planning. When you do the Google search you will find a number of helpful and useful summaries of NGT.  I do suggest the book for the most comprehensive description of NGT and Delphi. (Most likely you will not have a need for Delphi, but it might come in handy in some situations.)


God bless you in your faithful service in His name, by His power, to His glory!


Greetings in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ!

You’ve come to the site where we cherish church workers. We’re people who care.

You are important to the church.

You can actually notice those who have the gifts to serve Christ and His church in the world in some full-time vocation of ministry.

You can name them in prayer to God, name them to the pastor so that he might encourage them, name them to leaders in the church that they might pray for them, and get their name to a preparatory school where they can grow into a life of service in their vocation.

You can step forward to nurture them toward lives of Christian ministry to God’s people, nurture them with conversation about their gifts and places of service, and nurture them with support as they come to want to serve in some form of ministry in the church.

What will you find here to help you notice and name and nurture church workers?

Go to ENCOURAGE and you’ll find ways to support a church worker and to identify a future worker who wants to serve in the church.

Go to EXPLORE and you’ll see ways to serve as a church worker.  We’d love to have you think about ways to teach and preach the Word of God and serve the Lord Jesus.

Go to EMBRACE and you’ll see how to serve well and be happy as a current church worker.

While there is no question that the church needs workers, the more important aspect is that workers find joy in serving their Lord. They have gifts and abilities to work with people and exhibit their love for their Lord in the things they do.

Encourage these interests, help young people (and those adults who might consider a “second career”) discover their potential joy in the Lord’s service.

Home, family, friends, congregations, schools and church groups all help to build the loving supportive relationships that strengthen the desire to serve. Moreover, all work together in building this desire to serve. God is calling persons to service, and our joy is in encouraging and supporting them in the consideration of church careers.

Prayer is always the place to begin. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and the prospective worker. Ask the Spirit to help you be a willing encourager. Ask Him to open hearts and minds to see opportunities (and joy) in service in the Lord’s harvest and that He strengthen them with the knowledge that “God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the called.”

What you can do as a:

What you can do as a parent

Does you son or daughter exhibit a love for the Lord … an interest in helping people … an ability to make people feel important or loved … a consciousness of God’s working in their lives and the lives of others? You can help guide your child in Christian vocation and toward a career in full-time service.

  • Pray for your child, asking the Holy Spirit to guide your child to see how he or she may find joy in the Lord’s service.
  • Above all, be intentional in your encouragement. Without “pushing,” give your child opportunities to explore service for their Lord.
  • Provide an example with personal devotions and Bible-reading, family devotions, willing and regular church attendance, Sunday school and participation in church groups and activities.
  • Speak well of your congregation’s workers and support them in their ministries.
  • Enroll your children in Lutheran schools – both elementary and high schools, if they are available in your community. Let them be surrounded with the care and love of Christian teachers.
  • From an early age, help your child look at potential careers, including careers in full-time church work.
  • Encourage your children to participate in youth groups, district and national youth gatherings, servant events, Lutheran College Nights and career days at Concordia colleges and seminaries.
  • Support your congregation in its efforts to expose children and youth to church work.
  • Check out the military survival section of this website and encourage your son or daughter to do the same.

What you can do as a professional worker

Surveys show that a pastor, family member, teacher or other mentor are the most influential voices in the decision of young people (and adults) to enter church work careers. Make it part of your personal ministry to be a “recruiter” for the Lord’s service and reflect the joy you find in your ministry.

Recall how other professional workers may have influenced you and model that positive influence to the members of the congregation you serve, especially children and youth.

As a professional worker:

  • Look for qualities in young people who are well-suited for full-time church work.
  • Affirm these qualities and encourage them to consider church work careers.
  • Provide information that will guide them in considering careers in the church.
  • Involve them in church activities, such as calling on shut-ins, teaching in vacation Bible school, leading devotions or assisting with worship.
  • Encourage participation in youth groups, district and national youth gatherings and other activities that bring youth into contact with others who find joy in serving their Lord.
  • Remember and encourage adults who might be candidates for full-time service in “second career” ministries.

What you can do as a congregation

As members of a congregation, you understand the importance of pastors, teachers and other full-time workers to the growth of your ministry. Be deliberate in your efforts to assure there will be future workers for your congregation and others. As a congregation, you are part of the team of family, pastor and people in encouraging and supporting full-time service.

The best encouragement is taking part in a caring supportive congregation that helps youth say “Hey, this is a great place to work!”

  • Pray regularly for the Lord to send workers into His harvest, as well as for those who serve in congregations, schools, missions and other ministries.
  • Keep professional church-work professions, synodical schools, and the need for more workers constantly before the eyes of the congregation.
  • Offer opportunities for both youth and potential second-career church work students to participate actively in the life of the church.
  • Energizing your youth group. Work to assure there is funding and leadership for your youth group; encourage their participation in the life of the congregation. Contact the LCMS Youth Ministry department for help.
  • Help students attending non-Lutheran colleges make contact with campus pastors and nearby Lutheran churches. Provide an intentional effort to stay in touch with them.
  • Encourage a church organization (Ladies’ Aid, Youth Group, etc.) to send care packages to college and seminary students and to hold occasional fund raisers for their benefit.
  • Include reports in newsletters and bulletins of church-work students and former members who have gone into church work.
  • Establish a career center in your narthex or fellowship hall that includes books, pamphlets and videos that promote Christian vocations and service.
  • Encourage your youth to attend Lutheran College Nights