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Synod Celebrates 25 new Candidates for Ministry Amid ‘Pastoral Leadership Shortage’

Six of the new candidates for ministry congratulated by Synod 2024.
Steven Herppich

Before introducing 25 new candidates for ministry of the Word, director of candidacy Susan LaClear spoke frankly to the body about realities in leadership preparation as well as what she would like to see from the denomination.

LaClear told synod that the Christian Reformed Church in North America, like many other denominations, is facing a “pastoral leadership shortage.” Among the causes for the decline, according to LaClear, are fears about financial burdens and the burden of relocating for ministry as well as perceived lack of support for theological education and negativity within the denomination.

There are already solutions to many of the practical concerns preventing people from pursuing theological education, LaClear said. She encouraged individuals looking into seminary to be aware of “the amazing financial support from our classes and our church,” said LaClear.

People have the opportunity to study remotely or complete competency-based training, and some classes “have gotten creative and strategic in their training efforts” for new pastors. LaClear mentioned the specific example of Classis Red Mesa’s leadership training and mentorship program. Navajo and Zuni church leaders did not want to move to Grand Rapids, Mich., for seminary, since many had previously had negative experiences among the majority culture. This led to a shortage of ordained pastors. Following the classis’s creation of a contextualized training program, however, “Classis Red Mesa now has most of their pulpits filled,” said LaClear. (Two commissioned pastors trained through this network attended Synod 2022.)


LaClear also spoke of how people within churches play “an important role in raising up candidates for ministry.” She mentioned that women candidates often don’t receive “the same level of affirmation” as male candidates, and that there is a lack of African American candidates. “In my conversations with leaders in this demographic, I have heard of challenging and triggering experiences they've faced in the last few years,” LaClear said.

According to LaClear, some who might be interested in ministry might be discouraged from pursuing theological education from messages they have received comparing the requirements of Candidacy as ‘hoops to jump through,’ implying that theological education is an “unreasonable expectation.” Others are put off from pursuing a career in ministry by “broken trust” within the denomination. “Emerging leaders are watching our attitudes and behaviors,” said LaClear. “It’s confusing and discouraging to them.”

After LaClear’s address, 14 candidates entered to a standing applause; other candidates participated virtually. LaClear requested a thank-you for those “who have played a role in encouraging and confirming their call.” Several delegates stood during the applause that followed.

One candidate, Patrick Y. Lin, is attending synod as an ethnic adviser.

The body sang, “There is One Gospel.” Members of the Candidacy Committee—Lora Copley, Classis Northcentral Iowa; Andy Sytsma, Classis Yellowstone; Henry Kranenburg, Classis Alberta North; and Zachary King, general secretary of the CRCNA—led the body in a litany based on passages from 2 Timothy and Ephesians.

Seminary president Jul Medenblik addressed the candidates: “Even though there are times of anxiety and uncertainty, you are invited to participate in the joy of ministry that is not dependent on circumstances.”

The presentation of candidates concluded with a prayer from Derek Buikema, synod president, the singing of “The Cause of Christ,” and a blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.

Synod 2024 is meeting June 14-20 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at Visit for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.

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