Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP)

Concordia Seminary’s Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program is a four-year distance education program supplemented by periodic short-term residential courses. It prepares men for pastoral ministry in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The program was established by the LCMS in 2007.

The SMP program is contextual in that students receive their academic training in the setting where they will continue to serve following ordination. They work with local pastor-mentors who support and guide them in the program and provide day-to-day guidance, encouragement and prayer.

SMP courses are supported by state-of-the art technology that engages the students with instructors and fellow students while building an interactive learning community. Each online 10-week course includes a blend of internet-based instruction, mentor interaction, practical ministry application and two hours each week of live instruction by the professor and interaction with fellow students. Each residential “intensive” course utilizes a hybrid of pre/post-residency assignments along with weeklong residential instruction on-site at Concordia Seminary.

The SMP program is designed to meet the needs of the church for pastors in mission and ministry opportunities where a pastor with a Master of Divinity degree might not be available and where a pastor trained for a specific ministry and location is needed.

In order to be eligible for the SMP program, men must be serving in a ministry of a Lutheran (LCMS) congregation that desires their service as a pastor. They must be nominated and endorsed for the program by their district president. Based upon this nomination and their previous ministry experiences, the men begin their academic work as concurrent vicars.

After two years of vicarage, nine courses and certification by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, students become eligible for ordination in the specific ministry where they are serving. They are then required to take two more years of classes in order to complete the basic SMP program and maintain LCMS roster status as a Specific Ministry Pastor.

PLEASE NOTE: As of fall 2017, Concordia Seminary will transition to a semester schedule for the academic year. With this change, SMP courses previously taken in the winter term will be required to be taken as one-week intensives in January of each year on campus. This change begins in January 2018. Residential intensive courses require the student to travel to St. Louis, with travel and accommodation costs at their expense.

Information and Timeline for 2017-18 Academic Years

A. Admissions

Application forms and information are provided via the links below.

NOTE: Deadline dates are firm and are for the receipt of complete applications, submitted through the offices of LCMS district presidents to the Seminary. Complete applications (with all approvals and attachments) should be mailed from the district office AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, but no later than one week prior to the deadline date.

Applications are sent from the LCMS district office to the Department of Ministerial Recruitment and Admissions of Concordia Seminary (not the SMP office).

Applications for the fall cohort which are received by the deadline will be presented at the July meeting of the Admissions Committee (ordinarily the second Monday of the month).

Applications for the spring cohort which are received by the deadline will be presented at the December meeting of the Admissions Committee (also the second Monday of the month).

The application deadline is a month before the deadline for completing the three Entrance Level Competency Exams (ELCE). Any acceptance will be contingent on a passing score on all three exams by this second deadline (dates are given below).

Completed applications submitted in advance of the application deadline will be eligible for an earlier decision. All applications will be considered and cohorts will be filled by priority of the date received, subject to the passing of all competency exams (ELCE in Old Testament, New Testament and Christian Doctrine). Incomplete applications and those received after the deadline will be given priority for the next cohort date (fall for spring cohort, spring for fall cohort).

District offices should also inform Concordia Seminary of potential and forthcoming applications to assist in planning and timely processing of applications.

1. Fall 2017 Cohort:

Application deadline: May 31, 2017
ELCE deadline: June 30, 2017
Vicarage application deadline: June 30, 2017

NOTE: Completed applications for fall 2017 enrollment will be due from the district offices to the Seminary’s Ministerial Recruitment and Admissions by May 31, 2017. Please do not send applications to the SMP office. They should be addressed to Admissions.

The complete application must be received by the Seminary no later than the due date. All ELCEs (Entry Level Competency Exams) must be passed by 11:59 p.m. June 30, 2017.

Students who are accepted and will begin in fall 2017, along with their pastor/mentors, will be required to attend the SMP and all-campus Orientation seminar on the Concordia Seminary’s campus Aug. 22-25, 2017.

AS NOTED ABOVE: With the change to semesters in the fall of 2017, all courses previously taken in the winter term will be taken as on-campus, one-week intensives in January of each year.

2. Spring 2018 Cohort:

Application deadline: Oct. 31, 2017
ELCE deadline: Nov. 30, 2017
Vicarage application deadline: Nov. 30, 2017

NOTE: Completed applications for spring 2018 enrollment will be due from the district offices to the Seminary’s Department of Admissions and Ministerial Recruitment by Oct. 30, 2017. Please do not send applications to the SMP office. They should be addressed to Admissions.

The complete application must be received by the Seminary no later than the due date. All ELCEs (Entry Level Competency Exams) must be passed by 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30, 2017.

Students who are accepted and will begin in spring 2018, along with their pastor/mentors, will be required to attend the SMP Orientation seminar on Concordia Seminary’s campus in February. These dates are tentatively set for Feb. 5-7 (noon to noon), 2018. Spring cohorts also return to campus for the all-campus Orientation at the end of August 2018 (dates TBD).

AS NOTED ABOVE: With the change to semesters in the fall of 2017, courses previously taken in the winter term will be taken as on-campus, one-week intensives in January of each year.

B. Term Dates: Online and Intensive Courses

Note that online class times will always be as follows:
Mondays 6-8 p.m. (Central Time) for cohorts that begin with fall orientation.
Tuesdays 6-8 p.m. (Central Time) for cohorts that begin with spring orientation.

Term Dates:

Spring 2017: 

  • Online sessions:  March 6 and 7 – May 22 and 23. Easter Break: April 17 and 18

Summer 2017:

  • Online sessions: June 5 and 6 – Aug. 21 and 22 (no class July 3 and4), OR
  • Intensive week:  June 26-30, 2017 (July 10-14 for one section of SMP116)

Fall 2017:

  • Online sessions: Sept. 11 and 12 – Nov. 27 and 28 (No classes for “Reading Week”: Oct. 16 and 17)

January Term (J-Term) 2018:

  • Intensive week: Jan. 8-12, 2018. (All courses now meet as intensives in the J-Term.)

Spring 2018: 

  • Online sessions:  Feb. 19 and 20 – May 14 and 15 (No classes for “Reading Week”): March 19 and 20). Easter Break: April 2-3

Summer 2018:

  • Online sessions: June 4 and 5 – Aug. 20 and 21 (No classes week of July 2 and3), OR
  • Intensive week: June 25-29, 2018

C. FINAL* RESIDENTIAL SEMINAR

Spring 2017 (SMP 105, 109):  April 3-7, 2017

SMP Call Service during chapel: 9:35 a.m. April 7, 2017

Note: The residential seminars meet Monday noon through Friday noon.

*Residential seminars will be discontinued after spring 2017 due to changes in curricular structure in the SMP program.

D. SMP Program Costs

Concordia Seminary’s SMP program consists of 16 courses, which are taught sequentially, one per academic term. These courses are counted as two-semester credit-hour courses and are billed as such. During the first two years of the program the student is also a vicar serving in the congregation that has asked him to prepare for the pastoral ministry. The standard vicarage administrative fee is a one-time charge for the entire vicarage, but it is billed over two years.

The SMP fee structure for the 2016-17 academic year is as follows:

  • Tuition: $2,055 per course
  • Noncredit reintegration: $205
  • Vicarage-congregational fee: $605 (billed in two installments)
  • Application fee: $100
  • Student technology fee: $75 per course (paid only in fall, winter and spring quarters)
  • Intensive courses: Travel, lodging and meal expenses
  • Residential seminars: registration fee: $100 (Plus travel, housing and meals at individual expense)

The SMP fee structure for the 2017-18 academic year is as follows:

  • Tuition: $2,160 per course (plus travel and lodging for intensive courses)
  • Noncredit reintegration: $205
  • Vicarage congregational fee: $605 (billed in two installments)
  • Application fee: $100
  • Student technology fee: $115 per course (paid only in fall and spring semesters)
  • Portfolio fee: $100 (one-time fee covers the entire program)
  • Intensive courses: Travel, lodging and meal expenses

Students will need to purchase some books; an estimate is $100-200 per course.

It is recommended that you budget approximately $10,000-$11,000* per year for the SMP program. These costs may be shared by the calling (sending) congregation, district and student.

*The range in estimated costs is due to variation in travel distance and choice of lodging for orientation and intensive courses.

Additional information

SMP Admissions Criteria
SMP Admissions Sequence
SMP Application Form
District Interview Report Form
SMP Pastor Supervisor’s Position Description
SMP Partnership Covenant
SMP Curriculum (cohorts beginning 2017 and later)
SMP Curriculum (cohorts beginning prior to 2017)
Recommended Field Seminars: Recommended and Suggested Opportunities
SMP Policy Manual
SMP Policy Manual Update

Instructions to Congregations Applying for an SMP Concurrent Vicarage (the “Vicarage Application” is available through your district office. Please contact that office for this form).

Read the Synod resolution that established the SMP program (pdf).

For further information, call 314-505-7764 or write to smp@csl.edu.