President's Message

rick barger front of buildingThe overwhelming consensus is clear. We have a crisis of leadership in the church. This is bad news for our broken and strife-torn world to which the global church is called to heal and bless. The crisis is evident in all expressions of the church, but particularly felt in congregations who serve as Christ’s primary witness to the world.

Seminary graduates approved for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America currently fill about half of the settings in need of full-time pastoral leadership. The same absence of available leaders applies to youth ministers, diaconal ministers, and music ministers. Other church bodies served by Trinity tell of a similar crisis. This is simply unacceptable.  

I grieve for our children and grandchildren, who have too few authentic servant-leaders or vibrant congregations to engage them, infuse them with the good news of Jesus, and shape them for lives of faith, hope, and the joy of service above self. I am weary of hearing about congregations and church camps closing. I hurt for pastors and other leaders who are burned out and limp toward the day when they can retire because they claim to be trained for a church and world that no longer exists.
The crisis then is not just about numbers. It is also – and more importantly – about character and quality.  In response to this, we invite you to imagine and join us in an alternative future.

At Trinity Lutheran Seminary, we are audacious enough to believe that we are a premier seminary in the formation of authentic servant-leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world.  We have the history, legacy, and will to be such a seminary, including a national study that recognized Trinity as one of 10 exemplary seminaries. Today, we have a vision that mandates us to excel in the formation of leaders who are vibrant, healthy, transformative, maturing, resilient, and evangelical – marks manifested through love for Jesus and for the sake of the world to which Jesus gives everything.  And we have a compelling strategic plan to get us there.

Trinity stands with the conviction that it has a unique, divine calling that steers us in a direction of hope and possibilities, and we will not be blown off course because the mission to which we are called and the vision before us matter too much. In a time when the ELCA is calling for greater collaboration and reach from our collection of seminaries, we believe that Trinity can be a pacesetter in forging innovative approaches and creating a new day for theological formation.  

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) tells us that a typical mainline congregational pastor who serves for 30 years will influence more than 100,000 lives. It is easy to do the math. It is easy to see the impact of a rising enrollment and people flocking to Trinity because they are on fire with the possibilities; people who want to live lives that matter, who truly want to change the world, and who have the gifts – if formed, equipped, and inspired – to do that!   

This appeal will expand our reach and set Trinity on an unprecedented and unparalleled path of excellence in five crucial areas: formation, enrollment, ecumenism, impact, and viability.  Our Lord, our world, our loved ones, our church, and this unique seminary need your investment.

In the abiding hope of the empty tomb,

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Rick Barger