Why be a rostered leader in the church? or Do I have to do candidacy?

This is a question I hear often from master of arts students contemplating entering the candidacy process toward public leadership in the ELCA. There is no requirement that you must enter candidacy as a part of an MA program. So, why jump through all these hoops? What is the benefit? An answer often given is the salary and benefits guidelines that rostered leaders can expect through their call. While financial security is desirable, it is hardly a compelling reason to formalize a call to ministry through candidacy and rostering. Let me suggest a few other reasons:

  • Professional Commitment-Obtaining a theological education in preparation for your continuing ministry in the church is important to the life and ministry of our church, but it does not necessarily show your ongoing professional commitment to work as a leader in the ELCA. Just as social workers need to pursue not only the MSW, they must also meet the licensing requirements of the state, so rostered leaders in the ELCA commit to ongoing learning and professionalism in their ministry. Candidacy provides an experience in supervised preparation and ongoing expectations regarding professional development. From the perspective of a congregation or agency wishing to hire you, being rostered shows a higher level of dedication and competency for ministry.
  • Accountability- In a time when many professional church leaders are being called to account on the basis of their lack of professional boundaries, rostering increases your levels of accountability and shows your commitment to healthy leadership in the church. Not only are you accountable to your congregation or agency, but also to your synodical bishop and the community in which you are rostered. The resources available to you through the synod and community will only increase your ability to make healthy decisions about your leadership and to draw on these resources to maintain long term viability in ministry.
  • Mutuality- As Lutheran Christians we believe that the call of the community of believers is as important as the call stirred by the Holy Spirit within us. The candidacy committee of your synod acts on behalf of the whole church in calling you forth as a public leader for the church. Their responsibility is to guide you in your preparation for rostered leadership. The synod needs passionate, competent leaders for the church. So the candidacy committee acts to recognize the gifts you bring, nurtures your call to ministry and cultivates that call for the mission of the whole church. In return, you are given resources and support in the ministry to which you have been called.

I invite conversation from you regarding a call to rostered public leadership in the ELCA as an associate in ministry, diaconal minister or deaconess. The church is blessed by public leaders from all rosters!