What does a pastor look like? For most kids, thoughts of a man in a robe, standing in a pulpit and talking about God usually come to mind. He wears a suit! He’s tall! He’s nice! He teaches God’s Word! These are the answers I receive when I ask grade school students this question. But of the numerous answers to that question, there’s one answer I’ve never heard from a young man, “A pastor could look like me!” Of course, I am not expecting this kind of response from grade school students. Most kids can’t picture themselves in the public ministry as a pastor or teacher. Why is that? Well, frankly, most kids have never even thought in these terms before. They’ve never thought what it would be like to serve God as a pastor or teacher. This is one of the main reasons why WLS created the position of the recruiter.
The WLS student recruiter position was created in 2015. Each year a senior is chosen and offered the part-time job. The general purpose of this position is to talk about the joys of ministry and encourage young people to use their gifts to share the gospel in public ministry. For years, recruitment for the ministry on the grade school and high school level was covered primarily by WELS prep schools and Martin Luther College. The seminary level is so far removed from the age of grade school and high school students that it seemed impractical for there to be a recruiter at the seminary. However, it’s proven to be worthwhile, as kids can now attach a face to the seminary and, in doing so, attach a face to the joys of the ministry. Thus, the seminary recruiter is not only a recruiter for WLS, but also a recruiter for our prep schools, area Lutheran high schools, and Martin Luther College. He’s a recruiter for the ministry.
During the week, the recruiter spends his afternoons presenting at WELS grade schools and high schools in the area, scheduling and giving tours of WLS, and organizing on-campus recruitment events, such as the grade school chapel in the fall and the Seminary Scurry fun run in the spring. All these things are done with the hope that young men and women might picture themselves, with the unique gifts God has given them, as full-time public servants of the gospel.
Are these efforts working? That’s a hard question to answer. Like much ministry recruitment work, it’s often unquantifiable. But, as in all aspects of the ministry, we know the results are not in our hands. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” Yes, Paul is talking about converting hearts, but his words are no less true when talking about growing the desire in someone for public ministry. This too is the work of God.
A former WLS recruiter told me that if God stirs the heart of only one young boy to join pastoral ministry or one child to pursue teaching ministry as a result of this position, it is well worth it because of the thousands of lives he or she might touch through their ministry. I pray God uses this position to achieve his purposes.
Paul Koester is a 2018 seminary graduate.