Perhaps you have heard someone who is preparing for ministry talk about being a candidate for ministry or perhaps you yourself have been encouraged by a pastor to consider entering the candidacy process. Maybe your congregation just called a first call pastor who has recently been ordained and you have heard them talking about the candidacy process. Perhaps you know someone who has served on our synod’s candidacy committee and you have wondered, what exactly is this process called candidacy all about?
The ELCA candidacy manual describes candidacy in this way: “The ELCA candidacy process is meant to be a welcoming and joyful time for people discerning how to serve through the church. It is a formalized – yet personally and relationally focused – journey that assists people in discernment for church leadership, whether they ultimately become rostered or serve in other lay roles within the church. Discernment is a life-long process, which continually assesses how God may be calling a person into a unique ministry. It is a means to determine who might serve as a rostered minister in a Word and Sacrament or Word and Service ministry, as well as who might serve in a variety of lay leadership roles in the church or in the world. The candidacy process will succeed when people graciously discover, through the nurturance of mentors, congregations, and others, how and where to serve according to the Spirit’s leading.”
The formal candidacy process has 3 steps as candidates discern and prepare for rostered leadership in the church:
- Entrance: This step is the initial step of the candidacy process. During this step a person shows interest in ordained ministry and begins the process to enter seminary and the candidacy process. This step includes an initial 1 on 1 interview, as well as a committee interview. For the committee interview, all sorts of information is part of the discernment, including educational transcripts, a health assessment, a psychological evaluation, background checks, and an essay. When a candidate is granted entrance, then they typically begin seminary classes. Our ELCA seminaries have developed a wide range of programs that allow for different needs and learning styles of students.
- Endorsement: This step of the candidacy process is in the middle of the preparation for ministry. At endorsement, a candidate has taken approximately 2 years of classes and completed Clinical Pastoral Education. Again, there is a committee interview that also includes the candidate’s seminary advisor. Materials like the candidate’s CPE evaluations and another essay are considered.
- Approval: This step is the final step of the candidacy process that gives approval for a candidate to pursue ordination in the ELCA. Another essay is written, evaluations from internship are considered, and a person’s readiness for ministry is discerned. After this step, if a candidate is approved, they can be assigned to a synod to interview for First Call possibilities.
Throughout this process, our candidates journey together with representatives of the candidacy committee to work on spiritual formation, seminary education, professional skills, and many other ways to prepare for a call into ordained ministry as a pastor or deacon. Our synod’s candidacy committee consists of approximately 12 people and meets several times a year for candidacy discernment and other events. We hope the time of candidacy can be a fruitful and supportive time as candidates grow in faith and skills, while they discern how they are being called to serve the church.
If you are hearing God’s call to ordained ministry as a pastor or deacon, please reach out to Pastor Heather at the synod office. She would love to hear how God is calling you and help you along on your vocation journey!
Pastor Heather Culuris
SW MN Synod Minister for Engaging Leaders
Email: [email protected]