As Lutherans, we believe God has called and gifted all Christians to live lives of love and service in the Church and in the world. We use the word vocation to describe the many specific ways and roles in which the Holy Spirit calls each of us to use our various gifts throughout our lives – as family members, neighbors and citizens, workers and volunteers, and in our Christian discipleship.
Within the Church, some Christians have the gifts and call to be leaders, and some of these are gifted and called to become rostered ministers. “Rostered” means that these leaders have been carefully prepared, approved and called in and by the ELCA and are listed (that is, rostered) as either Ministers of Word and Sacrament or Ministers of Word and Service.
How do you know if you are gifted and called to be a rostered minister in the Church? The process of listening for God’s call is discernment. Read more about discernment here: https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Leadership/Vocation-Become-a-Leader/Discerning-Your-Vocation.
Preparation for rostered ministry in the ELCA involves a formation process that includes both theological education and the separate but related process of accompaniment, discernment and approval that we call Candidacy. Because rostered ministry is leadership both of and within a community of faith, the candidacy process is very different than an application process for either graduate study or employment. Candidacy is a Spirit-led, highly collaborative process of discernment and formation, undertaken in the community of the Church. The Church, through the synod’s Candidacy Committee, expects to be actively involved in the decision-making that shapes a candidate’s formation process.
In addition to the ability to engage in theological education, the Candidacy Committee also looks for many other attributes including active involvement in the life of a congregation and in the wider Church; a sense of call to public ministry and affirmation of this call by others in the Church; an understanding of and commitment to the mission of the Church in the world; genuine love for God’s people; leadership gifts, experience and potential; psychosocial and emotional health and maturity; and sound judgment and healthy personal self-care in all areas of life. We trust that those who are applying for candidacy have a deep, personal faith in Jesus Christ. Learn more about Candidacy here: https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Leadership/Vocation-Become-a-Leader/Candidacy.
If you believe you may be gifted for and called to rostered ministry, the first step is to engage in conversation with your pastor. If you have spent time in discernment, and you and your pastor believe you are ready to enter the candidacy process, you should apply for Entrance to Candidacy before beginning seminary studies. The application process can take up to six months before the Candidacy Committee may be able to meet with you, so we encourage you to plan ahead. Consultation with and approval by the Candidacy Committee can prevent significant problems and delays in your formation process.
To begin the application process, contact Pr. Mary Johnson, Assistant to the Bishop for Candidacy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315.299.4955.
You can read more about the expectations of candidates and rostered ministers in Summary of Candidacy; Wholeness Wheel Competencies, and Vision and Expectations here: https://www.elca.org/Resources/Candidacy.
You can view a sample Candidacy Application and a sample application process checklist, here: https://www.elca.org/Resources/Candidacy.
To learn more about the seminaries of the ELCA, click here: https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Leadership/Seminaries.