Lake Union Pledges One Million Dollars to Attract New Teachers and Pastors

With retirements, many regions of the church expect a shortage in the coming years.

Debbie Michel, Lake Union Conference
Lake Union Pledges One Million Dollars to Attract New Teachers and Pastors
Lake Union Conference headquarters in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States. [Photo: Katie Fellows, Lake Union Herald]

In a bold move to attract qualified new teachers and pastors, the Lake Union Conference in the United States is pledging US$1 million for incoming Andrews University students to pursue careers in teaching and pastoral ministry.

Beginning in the fall 2024 semester, scholarships will cover four years of study in either of these two fields.

Driving this initiative is the decreasing number of students pursuing careers of critical importance to the church. “We are seeing a real need to recruit more teachers and pastors,” Ken Denslow, president of the Lake Union Conference, said. “As educators move or retire, we notice it is increasingly difficult to fill these roles. There are young people who would be open to the call of being educators and pastors, but cost gets in the way.”

Ruth Horton, education director for the Lake Union, has witnessed the declining number of available educators. “Next school year, we are projecting dozens of openings for teachers in our Early Childhood through Grade 12 schools,” she said. “At this time, there simply aren’t enough students graduating from Andrews University to fill current openings and what we anticipate in the immediate future.”

While the number of pastoral openings in the Lake Union is not very large currently, as pastors retire, the North American Division is projecting up to 2,000 openings across the division in the next five years. The division leadership is engaged in tackling the looming crisis. 

In addition to retirements, the explosive growth in immigrant and refugee populations throughout the Lake Union and beyond creates an opportunity to train those who are called to minister to these groups, said Carmelo Mercado, Lake Union vice president for multicultural ministries. “Many of our youth are interested in serving the church, but as first-generation students they don’t have the resources to attend our universities,” Mercado said. “This will be a blessing to them.”

A steering committee comprising union, conference, and university leaders is establishing parameters for awarding the scholarship. More details are expected in the coming weeks. The Lake Union joins several other unions in providing scholarships to emerging pastors and teachers.

Lake Union administrators said they hope this initiative spurs church members to further invest in future leaders. “This is a faith initiative,” Lake Union treasurer Glynn Scott said. “Other territories were able to use special trust fund gifts, but we’re spending down our reserves. Nevertheless, we believe God will bless as we seek to invest in the mission and future of His church.”

The original version of this story was posted by the Lake Union Herald.

Debbie Michel, Lake Union Conference