Specific Ministry Pastor to General Pastor Certification (SMP-GPC)

*Note: If you have any questions about the admissions process, please contact Ministerial Recruitment and Admissions at admissions@csl.edu or 800-822-9545.

Theological Education after SMP

After completion of the SMP program, there are several options for continued theological education. This document explains the options available to SMP pastors.

SMP to General Pastor Certification Track

The SMP to General Pastor Certification track is designed specifically for pastors who have completed the SMP program and desire to continue study in order to be eligible for roster as a General Pastor (GP) in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The track is designed to build upon the academic foundation established through the 16 courses of the SMP program by augmenting them with additional course work, resulting in a program of studies that is equivalent to the Residential Alternate Route Certificate. Included in this augmentation is the acquisition of Greek for use in New Testament studies.


The SMP to General Pastor Certification track proves a comprehensive theological education with extensive grounding both theology and practice, exegetical skills based on the Greek language and ministerial formation leading to certification in the LCMS as a “Minister of Religion—Ordained.” The SMP to General Pastor Certification track itself does not lead to a degree, though students may apply for the M.A. degree and, upon meeting the requirements for that degree, receive an academic degree in addition to certification.



Admission to the SMP to General Pastor Certification track is contingent upon the applicant’s current status on the roster of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as a Specific Ministry Pastor. Each applicant must have completed the SMP program and be actively serving in a ministry capacity as a Specific Ministry Pastor / in good standing on the LCMS roster.

College Preparation

Applicants to the SMP to General Pastor Certification track at Concordia Seminary ordinarily must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a cumulative grade-point average (GPA) of 2.5 or higher (on a 4.0 scale). The degree should represent a broad liberal arts background and must include courses in English composition and writing, and speech. It also should include courses in the humanities, psychology, social sciences, natural sciences, foreign languages (preferably German and/or Latin) and religion. Applicants also must possess a Specific Ministry Pastor Certificate of Completion from a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod seminary with a 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher.

Entry-Level Competencies

Students admitted to the SMP to General Pastor Certification track must demonstrate entry-level competence in the following areas: Old Testament content, New Testament content, Christian doctrine and biblical Greek. Competence in the areas of Old Testament content, New Testament content and Christian doctrine will be considered to have been completed by the successful completion of the SMP program if the applicant completed the SMP program within two years prior to admission. Competence in Biblical Greek must be demonstrated by the student prior to enrollment in the courses for which demonstrated Greek competency is a requirement. Competence may be demonstrated in all areas by passing either the applicable Entry-Level Competence Examinations (ELCEs) in each area or the corresponding course conducted by Concordia Seminary.

Nondegree Applicants

In a limited number of other cases, applicants without a bachelor’s degree may be admitted as nondegree students. The total number of nondegree students is restricted to a maximum of 15 percent of the total certificate student body; therefore, nondegree admissions are highly competitive. Admission decisions regarding nondegree applicants for each academic year are made the preceding April. In addition to meeting all other admission requirements, nondegree students:

  1. Must have reached age 35 by Sept. 1, prior to their enrollment;
  2. Must cite circumstances (age, family, finances, etc.) that indicate it is unrealistic to expect them to obtain a bachelor’s degree prior to their enrollment;
  3. Must have received graces of “C” or better in courses that earned at least 60 semester hours of credit (90 quarter hours) and at accredited college or university, with the following minimum numbers of credits in specific areas:
    1. 12 in English and humanities (composition, communication, journalism, literature, art, drama, music, philosophy, foreign languages — also Greek);
    2. Two in public speaking;
    3. 15 in social sciences (anthropology, economics, education, history, political science, psychology, sociology);
    4. Six in science/mathematics (biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physical science); and
    5. 25 in electives.
    6. Courses taken as part of the SMP program will be applied to the alternate route certificate, and thus, may not be counted toward the hours required for meeting the nondegree admission requirement.
  4. Must have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher (on a 4.0 scale) for all courses taken, including any for which a grade lower than “C” was received.


Application forms are available from Ministerial Recruitment and Admissions or click here to download the application. An application is not complete until it includes all of the following:

  • Completed application form
  • Application fee of $50
  • Official transcripts from each college/university and seminary previously attended (these may be on file form the SMP admission process)
  • Letter of recommendation and endorsement from current district president
  • Updated Protect My Ministry background check
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores (may be on file from SMP admission process)
  • If actively serving a congregation or district, Recognized Service Organization (RSO), etc., then applicants must submit a letter of recommendation and endorsement from congregational or organizational leaders indicating support for continued study.

All admissions to the SMP to General Pastor Certification track are offered subject to completion of pre-seminary competencies and to the completion of application requirements, e.g., official final transcripts from all post-secondary institutions previously attended. A student who continues to have missing items may be prevented from registering for courses until all requirements are complete.

Admissions Standards and Admissions Decision

Admissions decisions are based on multiple criteria; each applicant’s overall record is examined in detail.

Academic criteria include an ordinary minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale), an ordinary minimum SMP GPA of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale) and an ordinary minimum GRE Verbal raw score of 147. An applicant will not be declined solely on the basis of a nonqualifying GPA or GRE score. In the case of international applicants, an ordinary minimum Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) raw score of 200 (computer-based test) is required, with an ordinary minimum raw score of 23 on the structure/writing portion of the test. Again, however, an applicant will not be declined solely on the basis of one non-qualifying score or measure.

Entry-level competencies are admissions standards. If the applicant is required to take Old Testament, New Testament, and Christian doctrine (required of those who completed the SMP program Two years or more in the past), they are required to complete as many as they are able before their application goes to the Admissions Committee. Demonstration of competence in one or more of the areas of entry-level competence enhances the application not only by the demonstration of competence as such, but also by emphasizing the applicant’s interest in and commitment to ministerial formation at Concordia Seminary.

Additional criteria included the results of the applicant’s background check, the letter of recommendation from the president of the LCMS district in which the applicant serves and the letter of endorsement from the congregational leadership. The care and completeness with which an applicant prepares the application and responds to its questions also are factors.

The districts of the Synod have begun to apply increasing scrutiny to the education and other debt balances of pastor and deaconess candidates from the Synod’s seminaries; consequently, it has become necessary for Concordia Seminary to consider more closely the debt load of its applicants, in order to protect its students from the predicament of serving in ministry with unmanageable debt.

Most favorable admissions decisions are offered “subject to” the presentation of any missing items from the application file, including final transcripts for students who are completing their undergraduate degrees while they apply to Concordia Seminary. Any such items must be completed in accordance with announced deadlines or the offer of admission may be withdrawn.

Intention to Enroll

Once accepted, an applicant expresses his intention to enroll by submitting a $100 tuition deposit to be received by the Ministerial Recruitment and Admissions no later than 30 days after the date of the applicant’s acceptance letter. Failure to submit the tuition deposit within 30 days of the date of the applicant’s acceptance letter will void the Seminary’s offer of admission, necessitating readmission prior to enrollment. This deposit is refundable if the students submits written notice on or before July 15 indicating that he desires the Seminary to withdraw his admission.

Academic Standards, Dismissal, Withdrawal

A minimum cumulative curriculum GPA of 2.5 is required for the SMP to General Pastor Certification track since a minimum of 2.5 is required for certification and placement, and the students in this program have already been certified.

Acknowledgement of Successful Completion

Students in the SMP to General Pastor Certification track are already certified for placement and are serving as ordained pastors in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Upon successful completion, the Seminary will certify to the student’s ecclesiastical supervisor the student’s qualification for General Pastor status.

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