Dear Friends in Christ,
A blessed Advent and Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. I pray your entire Christmas season is blessed with God’s peace, joy, love, and laughter as you prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As you know, Christmas is a time for giving. We all enjoy receiving too, of course, but it seems the greatest of joys comes from giving. When we see the smiles on the faces of our family members (especially children) and friends as they open a gift received from us, we often have a wonderful feeling inside, knowing that we have done something to warm the heart of another. Truly, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Have you ever wondered what happens to that gift you’ve given? I imagine some of the gifts simply wear out over time, some are outgrown, certainly some eventually break and must be thrown away, perhaps others get lost. Very little of what we give as gifts will last forever.
I would like to share with you about giving a gift this Christmas that will last, maybe not forever, but for a very long time. I am speaking about a gift to the mission and ministry of the church.
This past October we commemorated and celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. The Michigan District, as one of several ways of being active and involved in this celebration, designed the Here We Stand campaign to raise much-needed funding for four specific areas of ministry. These four initiatives are:
I would like to focus on Professional Church Worker Scholarships. I am writing and appealing to you about this because of its vital importance for the future of our church.
If you have been keeping up on the enrollment patterns in our Concordia University System colleges and universities and in our two seminaries, you have undoubtedly noticed that the number of students enrolling to pursue careers in church work is steadily decreasing. It has decreased to the point where it now has become a major concern for our congregations and schools as they plan ahead and hope to receive a new pastor, teacher, DCE, Director of Music, Worship Arts leader, or a Youth or Family Life staff member.
There are certainly many reasons why people do not enter into church work as their career choice. One, that we know of for certain, is the cost associated with attending a Concordia University System school or seminary. This is why the Michigan District is asking you to prayerfully consider a gift this Christmas, or at year’s end, to assist in our Professional Church Worker Scholarship Program.
We believe the more we can help remove the burden of cost, the more likely it will be for a student to choose church work as their career. Over the past ten years, we at the Michigan District have been able to increase our scholarship levels from just a few hundred dollars a year to where they are today. Currently, a seminary student from a Michigan District congregation receives a scholarship of $3,000. A Concordia Ann Arbor or Wisconsin student entering a church worker degree program receives $2,400. Students attending other Concordia University System schools receive $1,800 for the school year. In total, the Michigan District Professional Church Worker Scholarship Program gave $233,100 in scholarships for the 2017-18 school year. We feel blessed and overjoyed that we were able to do this for the students of our District’s congregations.
But our goal is to do even more! With your help, we will be able to give more and larger scholarships in the future. Your gift to our scholarship program truly is that gift that keeps on giving.
Listen to what some of our recent scholarship recipients said upon receiving their award this year. Faith K. said, “I so appreciate it, as it really helps me pay for college. Your financial help is truly making a difference.” Sarah H. writes, “Since I was 3, I knew I wanted to be a church worker and, through your support and scholarship, this dream is coming true.”
Finally, a future pastor, Andrew B., shared, “It is indeed a great burden that you have graciously lifted from our shoulders. This time of year can always be nerve wracking as we calculate funds and the cost of Seminary, so my wife, twin boys, and I find great comfort in this prayer being answered by the Michigan District’s generosity and support for high quality Pastoral formation and education.”
Please join the Michigan District in our support of future church workers. You’ve just read from three of the 96 who received scholarships for the current school year. On behalf of all future recipients, please accept my sincerest appreciation for helping to shape the life of a future church worker. With your generous financial support, you can make a difference in the life of a church worker who, in turn, will make a difference—even an eternal difference—in the lives of many. Thank you for joining us in this effort.
Rejoicing with you this Christmas season,
Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier, President
Michigan District, LCMS
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