The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Second time around

Second-career pastors bring wisdom of past vocations

The ELCA’s larger population of second-career pastors has an impact on the spiritual and financial health of ELCA congregations.

Consider Mark E. Narum. He didn’t take a traditional path to ministry. Instead of entering seminary in his 20s, Narum spent 15 years climbing the ranks in the TV news industry. He’d considered ministry after high school. But he didn’t hear a strong call until he was already married, had three kids and had made a comfortable income as a news director.

<BR><BR>Videographer Brad Dixon (left)
Videographer Brad Dixon (left) films Mark Narum, pastor of Prairie Lutheran Parish in North Dakota, for a regular TV news segment. As a second-career pastor, Narum uses his lay ministry experience to lead the congregations he serves.
Narum is one of a large number of ELCA pastors who’ve heard or acted on a call to ministry after undertaking a secular career. Chances are you know one of these pastors.

“Through the 1980s and until the late 1990s, the percentage of older seminarians grew steadily,” said Jonathan Strandjord, director for theological education with ELCA Vocation and Education. That trend does seem to be reversing slightly, he added, pointing to a 13 percent jump in seminarians under age 30 in the past three years.

Yet for now, one in four of current ELCA pastors were ordained at age 35 or older. And from 1980 to 2006, the average age at ordination jumped 12 years, from 29 to 41.

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February issue


Embracing diversity