Our Synod has been blessed with many excellent candidates for ministry over the years. The current crop is no exception. This week, I was fortunate to accompany a few of our TEEM students and their mentors for a week of classes at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. The TEEM program (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries) is a way for congregations to raise up future pastors from within their own community to be trained and prepared for ordained ministry. They take intensive courses from the seminary (either PLTS, or Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest in cooperation with Wartburg Seminary,) and do their coursework while serving in the congregation in a pastoral role. While they do not earn a Master of Divinity, they are fully trained to be pastors in the ELCA.
TEEM enables congregations that often have a hard time to find pastors continue to be served by trained ordained pastors. Most often these congregations are ethnic specific, rural, inner city, or mission redevelopments, but there are exceptions when there are candidates raised up in specific settings who are qualified to fill a needed pastoral role. The main thing is that candidates are identified by the church, not just someone who is seeking a short-cut to ordination. Currently, over half of our candidates from NT-NL are TEEM students.
I’ve really been blessed to watch the development of these students already, and it is amazing how much growth and confidence I’ve witnessed. This truly is a gift to the church, to see so many excellent pastors grow into their roles. Pastors who might not have pursued ordained ministry if someone within these congregations had not said to them, “We need you!” I am thankful for every single one of them, and for the mentors and supervisors who have been a solid and strong part of their development. God has blessed us with them all!