Calling a Pastor or Deaconess

Step One:  Interviews of Students and Wives.

From September through December the candidates and their spouses (if married) are interviewed to receive information about their interests in distinctive characteristics of a potential ministry setting.  Two interviews are conducted, one by the seminary’s Placement Director and one by the Placement Counselor (who serves to assist the Placement Director).  The initial interview focuses on the preferences of the candidate and his wife regarding the type of ministry (for example, assistant pastor, sole pastor, institutional chaplain, missionary), congregation (established, mission, associated with a day school), areas of specialization (such as youth, evangelism, visitation), community (size, demographics), and geographical location.  The second interview focuses on the candidate’s personal strengths and weaknesses, leadership style, and worship style preference, among other items.  This information is then recorded in a database and written profiles of the candidate are developed, all of which later aids in the effort to make a good fit between the candidate’s abilities and interests and the needs of a calling congregation.  During this period district presidents alert potential calling congregations and encourage them to consider the possibility of calling a pastor from the seminary.

Step Two:  Interviews by Congregations for Team Ministry.

During the months of January and February congregations may interview seminary candidates for the position of assistant or associate pastor.  Interviews of candidates are not ordinarily permitted for the position of sole pastor.  (Congregations are to first contact their District President, who will provide a letter outlining the call process, which will include a request for a thumb-nail sketch of the congregation’s ministry, and a job description.  He will also send a “Congregational Profile Form.”  Upon completion, these documents are to be returned to the District President for his approval. He will then forward them to the Placement Directors at both seminaries.  The seminary placement directors will then be in contact with the pastor or contact person.)  The congregation sends representatives (usually the senior pastor, staff member, and one or two lay leaders) to the St. Louis campus to conduct face-to-face interviews with three or four seminary candidates that have been approved by the Director of Placement.  Candidates are not allowed to travel off campus (for example, to the site of the congregation) for interviews.  The purpose of the interview is for the calling congregation to ascertain whether or not the candidate is compatible with the senior pastor and other staff members with whom he will be serving in team ministry.  Following the interview, the Director of Placement receives input from the congregation as to its intention to call and from the student as to his perceived compatibility with the congregation.

Step Three:  Council of Presidents Review of Available Candidates

At the February meeting of the Council of Presidents the Seminary Placement Officers will provide a general overview of their respective candidate classes. This overview will include information regarding candidates desiring to receive calls to serve as an Assistant Pastor, Associate Pastor, worker-priest, or church planter; candidates with special gifts in music, language, worship, youth and other ministries; and candidates with special family, location, medical, physical and other needs.

During the same February COP meeting, both Placement Officers make themselves available over a 2 day period, to meet with individual District Presidents and explore potential candidates for placement in their District. All appointments include the Placement Officers of both Seminaries. Upon request of a District President each officer may provide up to 3 candidate profiles for each potential call.

The District President is permitted and encouraged to interview these candidates to determine suitability for the specific Call and to share information with calling congregations.

Step Four:  Preliminary Slotting of Candidates

Congregations submit call documents for seminary candidates by April 1 to their district office.  These are sent to the Board for Pastoral Education at the LCMS International Center, which forwards copies of them to the seminaries.  During the month of April the Placement Director and Placement Counselor examine the call documents, receive input from district presidents, and preliminarily slot candidates with calling congregations.  In later April the Placement Director of Concordia Seminary meets with his counterpart from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, as well as with members of the Synod’s Ministerial Placement Committee (composed of five district presidents).  At this meeting an agreement is reached regarding which candidates will be preliminarily assigned to which calling congregations.  These proposed slottings are then presented to the district presidents of the calling congregations for their consideration and response.

Step Five:  Final Approval of Assignments

Since it is the Council of (District) Presidents which acts as the Board of Assignments for the Synod, final approval of the assignments of calls to candidates is given by the district presidents.  This occurs on the weekend before Call Day when all the district presidents and the placement officials of the seminaries gather together.  During one full day the seminary’s Placement Director and Placement Counselor meet with each district president to confirm the assignment of calls to candidates and to arrange for any necessary changes.  On the next day the Council of Presidents in a plenary vote ratifies those assignments. The original Call documents are then given to each seminary.   The announcement of those assignments, of course, is made on Call Day.