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New Deaconess Studies Program (Online) launches spring 2021

Distance program offers route to deaconess certification

A new distance Deaconess Studies Program (Online-ODS) will launch in the spring 2021 semester at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. This program will allow students to become certified to serve as commissioned deaconesses in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The four-year program will prepare women to share the Gospel through works of mercy, spiritual care and teaching the Christian faith. Students who complete the program will be eligible for placement as commissioned deaconesses in the LCMS. The Seminary is currently accepting applications for enrollment in the spring 2021 semester; the application deadline is Aug. 31, 2020.

The integrated curriculum of the ODS Program includes 16 master’s-level courses offered one at a time in a live online format. Students are required to participate in three activities on campus: orientation at the beginning of the program, and formation seminars midway and near the end of the program. Concurrently with the diaconal formation courses, students serve as interns in their locations of service. Students have qualified LCMS rostered church workers as internship supervisors and as mentors for their academic studies.

“Deaconesses can greatly extend the ministry of congregations, Registered Service Organizations and similar institutions in bringing the Word of God and embodying the love of Christ to a hurting world. The ODS Program is tailored to meet the needs of women whom God is leading toward diaconal service but who are not able to relocate for residential studies or make frequent visits to campus,” said Dr. Gillian Bond, director of the Deaconess Program. “By allowing these students to remain within their local contexts, the program also better meets the needs of their congregations or organizations. Academic studies and concurrent internships are carefully interwoven in a way that benefits both students and the internship settings.”

To be eligible for the program, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be an active member of an LCMS congregation, and have been an active member of an LCMS congregation or church body in fellowship with the LCMS for at least two years before enrolling in the ODS Program
  • Have a high school diploma or an equivalent, such as the GED
  • Be committed to the Lutheran confession of faith and willing to uphold the doctrinal position of the LCMS
  • Provide personal references attesting to the student’s devotion to ministry and service, and be recognized as a person of exemplary Christian character
  • Pass the Old Testament, New Testament and Christian Doctrine Entry Level Competency Exams with a score of 70% or higher on each exam

The ODS Program leads to a theological certificate, and if students choose, they can apply for a Master of Arts (M.A.) with a Spiritual Care Major in addition to the ODS certificate. Students wishing to apply for the M.A. must have an earned bachelor’s degree, have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the deaconess studies courses, complete four additional courses and pass the Spiritual Care M.A. Comprehensive Examination.

“I am confident the ODS Program will serve the mission and ministry of our church by making the possibility of deaconess service accessible to more of our dedicated and talented women,” said Provost Dr. Douglas L. Rutt. “The ministry of deaconesses has been a great blessing to the LCMS and will continue to be.”

In addition to the ODS Program, the Seminary offers two residential deaconess routes to master’s degrees: the M.A. with Deaconess Certification Program, and the dual-degree M.A. with Deaconess Certification + Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) Program. The Seminary also offers two other distance routes to certificates: the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology (EIIT), which prepares women to serve in immigrant, ethnic minority and deaf communities in North America, and the Center for Hispanic Studies (CHS), which is taught in Spanish and considers the rich diversity of Hispanic cultural contexts.

For more information about the ODS Program, visit Women interested in enrolling in the program can start the application process at Those wishing to refer a prospective student can visit

About Concordia Seminary

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis provides Gospel-centered graduate-level theological education for pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and other leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, visit