Prepare for pastoral ministry in The Lutheran Church at Concordia Seminary

Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP)

Concordia Seminary’s Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program is a four-year state of the art distance education program that prepares men for specific pastoral ministries in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Students receive academic training in the setting where they will continue to serve following ordination. While taking classes through Concordia Seminary, they work with local pastor-mentors who support them in the program with day-to-day guidance, encouragement and prayer.

The SMP curriculum incorporates the concurrent practice of ministry and pastoral formation, leading to certification as a specific ministry pastor. The SMP Program consists of 16 courses taught in an online learning community, including a one week required on-campus intensive course per year.

SMP cohorts begin in both the spring and fall terms. Application deadlines, term dates, online sessions and intensive weeks for spring and fall SMP cohorts are outlined in the Academic Catalog (which includes the academic calendar) and in the online SMP academic calendar.

For detailed information about the SMP Program, review the SMP Manual below.

SMP Program Videos

Learn about the SMP Program through six videos.

1. Introduction: Program Director Dr. Mart Thompson

Learn firsthand about Concordia Seminary, St. Louis’ Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program, a four-year distance education program that prepares men for specific pastoral ministries in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Hear from SMP Program Director Dr. W. Mart Thompson as he explains how the program helps meet the unique pastoral needs of some congregations.

2. FAQs: Dr. Mart Thompson and former Program Director Dr. David Wollenburg

Discover the fundamentals and benefits of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis’ Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program. Learn the most frequently asked questions — and answers — about the four-year distance education program that prepares men for specific pastoral ministries in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

3. Profile: SMP Sole Pastor and Congregation

Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Rock Hill, S.C., turned to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis’ Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program to prepare one of their members, Jeffrey Coble, to become a part-time pastor. The SMP Program is a four-year distance education program that prepares men for specific pastoral ministries in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

4. Profile: SMP Staff Pastor and Congregation

St. John Lutheran Church in Ellinwood, Kan., turned to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis’ Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program to prepare one of its members, Kenton Abbott, to become an assistant pastor. The SMP Program is a four-year distance education program that prepares men for specific pastoral ministries in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

5. Profile: SMP Mission Planter and Congregation

Cornerstone Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Ind., turned to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis’ Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program when beginning a new mission. Learn more about Victor Minetola and his preparation to become a pastor at Cornerstone’s mission plant in downtown Indianapolis through the SMP Program.

6. SMP Program: Detailed Overview

Dr. W. Mart Thompson, director of Concordia Seminary’s Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program, sits down with President Emeritus Dr. Dale A. Meyer in an episode of “Word and Work: An Intersection.” Thompson offers an overview of the SMP Program, which is four-year state of the art distance education program that prepares men for specific pastoral ministries in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).
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Navigate to additional videos about the SMP Program

  1. Introduction: Program Director Dr. Mart Thompson
  2. FAQs: Dr. Mart Thompson and former Program Director Dr. David Wollenburg
  3. Profile: SMP Sole Pastor and Congregation
  4. Profile: SMP Staff Pastor and Congregation
  5. Profile: SMP Mission Planter and Congregation
  6. SMP Program: Detailed Overview

SMP Applicant Information

Before applying to the SMP Program:

  1. There must be an identified specific ministry need identified before the application is submitted.
  2. A mentor and a vicarage supervisor must be identified and agree to fill these roles for the application to be processed. The two roles are often served by the same individual but can be two separate people. The SMP mentor is required to attend the on-campus orientation with the student as he begins the program.
  3. The applying congregation that intends to call the SMP applicant once he is certified should formally indicate its desire to do so. A congregation vote is recommended.
  4. The district president in whose district the applicant will serve must endorse the applicant for the specific ministry where he will serve. (The LCMS district is to collect the SMP application documents and send the completed application to Concordia Seminary by the deadline. The congregation also should send the completed vicarage document to the LCMS International Center by the deadline).

Annual application deadlines:

  • Fall cohort: Feb. 28
  • Spring cohort: Aug. 31

Additionally, SMP students are required to take the Entry Level Competency Exams (ELCEs) for the Old Testament, New Testament and Christian Doctrine. For more information on ELCE requirements click here. The annual deadlines are:

  • Fall cohort: April 30
  • Spring cohort: Oct. 31

Ready to apply or have questions about the SMP Program?

Contact the admissions team for more information.

The SMP Program is designed for mission and ministry opportunities where a pastor with a Master of Divinity degree might not be available and a pastor trained for a specific ministry and location is needed.

To be eligible for the SMP Program, a man must be serving in a ministry of an LCMS congregation that has identified the need for a pastor, desires his service as a pastor and may be:

  • A congregation with a pastoral vacancy that can be effectively served by an SMP pastor;
  • A congregation that requires an additional staff pastor;
  • A church plant
  • A specialized ministry position, such as an institutional chaplaincy, campus pastor or a specific cultural and/or linguistic setting.

*Resolution 5-01b of the 63rd Regular Convention of the LCMS

An applicant must be under the supervision of an ordained pastor of the LCMS who will serve as his pastor-mentor throughout the course of study.

Following completion of the program, supervision of the SMP pastor will continue through a pastoral supervisor appointed by the appropriate LCMS district president.

Concordia Seminary’s SMP program's 16 courses are taught sequentially, one per academic term. Each course is counted as two-semester credit-hour courses and are billed as such. During the first two years of the program, the student also serves as a vicar 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.

Tuition and Fees

SMP Cohorts

Course 1 PRA411 Introduction to Pastoral Ministry
Course 2 PRA412 Introduction to Worship
Course 3 SYS411 The Master Narrative
Course 4 SYS412 Creedal Themes
Course 5 SYS413 Lutheran Distinctions
Course 6 PRA413 Preaching I
Course 7 PRA414 Teaching the Faith
Course 8 SYS414 Means of Grace
Course 9 SYS415 Lutheran Confession of Faith
Course 10 EXE411 Scripture and Faith
Course 11 EXE412 Old Testament Theology
Course 12 EXE413 New Testament Theology
Course 13 HIS411 The Lutheran Reformation
Course 14 PRA415 Preaching II
Course 15 EXE414 The Church and Its Life
Course 16 PRA416 Pastor as Leader and Theologian

Online classes are held:

Mondays 6-8 p.m. (CDT) for cohorts beginning in the fall term.

  • Upon admission to the SMP Program the student is assigned as a vicar in his location of service.
  • Certification, call and ordination follow completion of SMP Courses 1-9.
  • Students must also participate in two external workshops or conferences during the course of the SMP curriculum.

The SMP Program curriculum builds on basic competencies in biblical and doctrinal knowledge, demonstrated skills in leading worship, preaching prepared sermons under supervision, and witnessing and teaching the faith, leading to fundamental competency for pastoral ministry under ongoing supervision.

The SMP curriculum follows a narrative structure that begins and ends with a focus on pastoral ministry. In between, the courses are organized in two cycles that follow an intentional progression, with certification, call and ordination after successful completion of the first cycle.

SMP courses are taught online and as on-campus intensives:

  • Online courses prescribe weekly reading, reflection, discussion with one’s mentor, and the submission of a journal for critical review in advance of a weekly live online classroom for two hours with the course instructor.) Each online course is structured as an 11-week class.
  • Intensive courses utilize a hybrid of pre- and post-residency assignments along with a required week-long residential instruction on campus. All Winterim (January) courses and some summer term courses are offered in this format.

The curriculum also includes a requirement that students participate in two field seminars or conferences during the course of the program. Students are responsible for selecting and participating in these workshops or conferences with the approval of the program director. The topics should enhance the student’s ministry. These are in addition to attendance at district and circuit conferences which are expected of pastors and vicars.

All courses are designated as two semester credits, but note that no academic degree is granted at the conclusion of the program. Students who wish to earn a master’s degree after graduation from the SMP Program should contact Ministerial Recruitment and Admissions for information on the procedures and expectations for continuing their education.

The SMP vicarage is conducted concurrently while taking courses and preparing for ministry in a supervised ministry setting. A concurrent SMP vicarage is usually 24 months.

Congregations with an SMP student applying for a concurrent vicarage will complete two vicarage agreement forms. The congregation will submit the completed vicarage application and agreement forms to its LCMS district office.

Please contact your LCMS district office for the SMP Vicarage Application form.

After successfully completing the SMP vicarage, nine courses and being certified, students become eligible for ordination in the specific ministry where they are serving. They are then required to complete the balance of the 16 courses of the SMP Program in order to maintain LCMS roster status as a Specific Ministry Pastor.

New students and mentors are required to attend a week-long, on-campus orientation; fall cohorts in late August and spring cohorts, early February.

All students are required to attend a one week on-campus course each year in early January. There also is a summer on-campus course taught for one week at the end of June that students may attend in lieu of a summer term online course.

SMP Congregation Information

The SMP Program is designed for mission and ministry opportunities where a pastor with a Master of Divinity degree might not be available and a pastor trained for a specific ministry and location is needed.

To be eligible for the SMP Program, a man must be serving in a ministry of an LCMS congregation that has identified the need for a pastor, desires his service as a pastor and may be:

  • A congregation with a pastoral vacancy that can be effectively served by an SMP pastor;
  • A congregation that requires an additional staff pastor;
  • A church plant; or
  • A specialized ministry position, such as an institutional chaplaincy, campus pastor or a specific cultural and/or linguistic setting.

*Resolution 5-01b of the 63rd Regular Convention of the LCMS

The applicant’s congregation plays a significant role through the SMP admissions process. The following application requirements are the responsibility of the applicant’s congregation to complete as part of the SMP application:

  • Letter of recommendation from the president or other elected representative of the congregation or ministry that will be served by the applicant.
  • Signing of the SMP Partnership Covenant, which pledges support for the applicant throughout the program.
  • Completion of the Vicarage Application and Agreement, which is to be submitted to the district office for processing and assignment of vicarage through Concordia Seminary, the Board of Pastoral Education (BPE) and the LCMS Council of Presidents.

The SMP vicarage is conducted concurrently while taking courses and preparing for ministry in a supervised ministry setting. A concurrent SMP vicarage is usually 24 months.

Congregations with an SMP student applying for a concurrent vicarage will complete two vicarage agreement forms. The congregation will submit the completed vicarage application and agreement forms to its LCMS district office.

Please contact your LCMS district office for the SMP Vicarage Application form.

After successfully completing the SMP vicarage, nine courses and being certified, students become eligible for ordination in the specific ministry where they are serving. They are then required to complete the balance of the 16 courses of the SMP Program in order to maintain LCMS roster status as a Specific Ministry Pastor.

LCMS District Offices


Specific Ministry Pastor to General Pastor Certification (GPC)

The SMP to General Pastor Certification (GPC) Program 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 in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Specific Ministry Pastor to General Pastor Certification (GPC)

Specific Ministry Pastor to Master of Arts (SMP-M.A.)

By completing courses in the SMP to General Pastor Certification (GPC) Program, students may qualify to earn an M.A. with a Practical Theology Major in addition to theological certification and a Systematic Theology Minor.

Specific Ministry Pastor to Master of Arts (SMP-M.A.)

Questions?