Lutheran Studies Program
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA has four rostered ministries:
- associates in ministry
- diaconal ministers
If you are planning to prepare for any of the above church careers, you are encouraged to begin the candidacy process with your synod one year prior to the time you plan to enter seminary. Your membership in a congregation determines which synod candidacy committee you should contact.
The ELCA offers the TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries) process as an alternative program of preparation for ordination. It is for exceptional persons who are identified for ministry in a specific context and complete theological education (non-MDiv degree) and candidacy requirements. Learn more about TEEM below.
Steps in the ELCA Candidacy Process
- Entrance: upon request, the appropriate synod office will provide a candidate packet that includes an application for candidacy. Your home congregation will register your application with the synod. Upon the return of the completed application, the candidacy committee will arrange a series of discernment opportunities. This step is normally completed by June 1, but no later than December 1, of the year you plan to enter seminary.
- Endorsement: This step normally takes place during the second year of theological education.
- Approval: This step normally occurs during your final year of theological study. Once you are approved, you are eligible to enter the call process for service within the church.
For more information on ELCA Candidacy, visit the ELCA site.
For more information on affiliated students, please visit our Affiliated Students page.
Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) is a process by which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America approves for the roster of ordained ministers those persons “who by reason of age and prior experience” (Constitution 7.31.14) are qualified to participate in an alternative program of preparation for ordination. It is for exceptional persons who are identified for ministry in a specific context and complete theological education (non-MDiv degree) and candidacy requirements.
TEEM is a program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that “responds to the missional needs of the church” by establishing requirements for ordination that take into consideration “the leadership gifts, ministry skills, cultural learning styles/experiences and/or age” of a candidate. TEEM candidates will serve in “emerging ministries” or “ministry settings that are without ordained pastoral leadership.”
The TEEM Competencies Assessment and Theological Review Panel will explore with the candidate her or his understanding of Lutheran theology and commitment to the teachings of this church. The Panel will explore with the candidate their personal aspirations for academic study [a degree] or their desire to demonstrate competencies in formation for ministry and ordination [a certificate]. Based on this assessment, a plan of study will be developed that strengthens the basic competencies needed for ministry and mission in this church and directs the candidate toward one of two tracks offered at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
In order to become a TEEM candidate, one must:
- Complete the Candidacy Application Process
- Receive a positive Entrance Decision from his/her synod Candidacy Committee
- Be recommended by his/her synod bishop
- Be accepted into the program by the Division for Ministry
The following criteria will also be considered:
- Discernment of a call to ordained ministry within an ethnic specific, multicultural, deaf, urban or rural ministry setting
- Prior ministry experience and a passion for mission within the context of the ELCA
- Exceptional leadership skills
- Normally, age 40 or older
Candidacy steps for TEEM candidates include:
- Initial Interview Panel
- Acceptance into TEEM by the Division for Ministry
- Theological Review Panel
The Division for Ministry appoints a Theological Review Panel (TRP) at an ELCA seminary to assess, direct, guide, oversee and advise the candidate on a suitable program of study. Members of the panel include:
- Two ELCA seminary faculty members who have received the appropriate orientation and training (appointed by the seminary dean) for the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries program.
- The Bishop’s designated staff person and/or a member of the synod candidacy committee
- A Division for Ministry representative
- One additional member giving priority to the language and cultural background of the candidate.
- For lay mission developers contracted by the synod, the area Mission Director
LTSP offers two tracks for the TEEM Program. The Degree Track is for those who already hold a bachelors degree, and leads to a Master of Divinity degree. The Certificate Track is for those who meet the criteria for admission into the TEEM Program but do not yet hold a bachelors degree.
In either track, the TEEM Competencies Assessment and Theological Review Panel’s evaluation of a candidate’s competency for ordained ministry includes assessment of an understanding of Lutheran identity as witnessed within the candidate’s context, as well as an ability to integrate the basic competencies necessary for ordained service in the ELCA. Those include:
- Biblical knowledge and understanding
- Basic understanding of theology/ethics
- Knowledge of Christianity in the United States
- Ability to understand and communicate the teachings of the Lutheran Church
- Pastoral Care skills
- Knowledge of ELCA church polity and ecclesiology
The primary emphasis of the program will be to integrate theological education and pastoral formation in order to build a solid foundation for ministry in a missional context.
Students who successfully complete the program will be awarded an LTSP Certificate in Theological Studies (TEEM). In consultation with the student’s synod, the seminary will arrange for Clinical Pastoral Educaton (CPE) or an equivalent Clinical Practicum. Internship or “Residency” will be arranged by the synod in consultation with LTSP’s director of contextual education.
The program of study for a degree ttrack TEEM student presumes the completion of an undergraduate degree. It may include some pre-seminary work depending on the assessment of the committee. Guidelines for the panel are to be followed carefully.
The Program of Study includes a minimum of 20 credit hours, study of Scripture, Christian theology, the Lutheran Confessions, church history, worship, preaching, and the polity and practices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. These are minimum requirements and the Theological Review Panel may exercise judgment in determining additional requirements prior to ordination. All courses offered in this track lead to a degree from the seminary. Additional course work may be completed after ordination.
The program of study for a Certificate Track TEEM student is focused upon 8 semester long courses which address biblical, theological, historical, and educational ministry competencies [two are offered each semester]. In addition, there are six weekend seminars in preaching, pastoral care, worship, leadership, evangelism/mission, and doctrine.
Clinical practicum/CPE and Internship/Residency will be arranged. A mentor will be assigned to each Certificate candidate as they enter and go through the educational process.
The design of the LTSP TEEM program depends on the availability of mentors to each candidate or a group of cohorts. Each mentor will be identified and assigned by the seminary in consultation with the candidate’s bishop. The role of the mentor is to assist the candidate in pastoral and spiritual formation, and to serve as a resource person in his/her studies. The mentor is someone with significant pastoral experience, and with an MDiv or higher degree. The mentor will meet periodically with the candidate(s) to monitor the progress of the student in fulfilling the course work, proctor examinations when necessary, engage in a discussion of assigned readings, and submit an annual report/assessment to the seminary regarding the overall progress of the candidate in his/her studies. The mentor will also guide the candidate(s) in practical matters of ministry, such as evangelism, stewardship, parish administration, etc.
Role of the Theological Review Panel
The Review Panel will explore with the candidate her or his understanding of Lutheran theology and commitment to the teachings of this church. The panel will explore with the candidate their personal aspirations for academic study [a degree] or their desire to demonstrate competencies in formation for ministry and ordination [a certificate]. Based on this assessment, a plan of study will be developed that strengthens the basic competencies needed for ministry and mission in this church, and directs the candidate toward one of the two tracks offered at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
ELCA TEEM Candidates
Candidates who have been recommended by their synodical bishop and who have also received both a positive entrance decision by their candidacy committee and approval to take part in the program by the ELCA Division for Ministry will 1) arrange for their acceptance into TEEM to be communicated to the seminary by the synod and 2) complete a TEEM Program at LTSP form in order to enroll.
Those who wish to enroll in the program without being official TEEM candidates will complete an application for admission to LTSP’s certificate program. On the basis of this information, the admissions committee will decide whether or not to accept the person into the program.
The synod assists the candidate in securing the financial assistance needed to complete this program. The Division for Ministry, other churchwide units, and the seminaries of this church, are resources to the candidate and the candidacy committee during the time of preparation.
ELCA seminaries reserve the right to deny a person admission if the applicant is unable to meet the necessary financial requirements, or if the applicant’s academic qualifications prove to be a major barrier to successful completion of studies
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Information from the ELCA is on their Web site: