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Candidacy Process

For ministry candidates

Candidacy is an intentional process that some denominations use to determine whether an individual is prepared to serve in professional, rostered ministry.

The specific requirements for completing candidacy depend on the type of candidate you are, as well as the type of ministry for which you are preparing.

ELCA candidates

The ELCA has two distinct rostered ministries, which require undergoing the candidacy process:

  • Consecrated minister of Word and Service (deacon)
  • Ordained minister of Word and Sacrament (pastor)

Current students can find more information on each step in the process at Candidacy in Depth.

Download a detailed checklist from the ELCA that applies to your roster on the Candidacy Forms page. In addition, the Candidacy Coordinator in the Contextual Learning office is available to help you navigate the ELCA candidacy process and provide updated information as you progress through the candidacy process.

If you are called to serve in the ELCA in one of the above rostered ministry, the candidacy journey unfolds in these four steps: 

  1. Entrance (typically occurs prior to first year of seminary study)
    The candidacy process begins by partnering with your congregation and synod as you explore your call to ministry. You will complete a candidacy application, background check, psychological evaluation, autobiographical essay, and engage in an entrance interview with your candidacy committee. Entrance can be completed alongside application to seminary.
  2. Endorsement (typically occurs in the year prior to internship)
    The second step in candidacy is Endorsement, which entails partnering with your synod and seminary faculty advisor to explore your call to ministry and the integration of your seminary study. Typically, the members of your candidacy committee travel to the seminary for this interview. You will write an endorsement essay and discuss it at the interview. 
  3. Approval (occurs in the year prior to assignment)
    Approval is the third step in the candidacy process. Your seminary faculty and your synod will each meet with you for an interview to discuss your Approval Essay (topics shared annually the summer prior to approval). Each student interviews with seminary faculty, which results in recommendation to your candidacy committee. Following faculty recommendation, the candidacy committee will interview you (typically you will travel for this) where they will then provide a decision about approval toward consecration or ordination.
  4. Assignment (occurs post-approval and when the candidate is ready to seek their first call in the ELCA)
    After approval, you may choose to move into the assignment process. This requires a series of forms completed by you, your seminary, and your candidacy committee in order for the ELCA to consider you for assignment in one of its 9 Regions. Regional Assignment is followed shortly by a synodical assignment in one of the 65 synods of the ELCA.


Ecumenical (non-ELCA) candidates

While Luther Seminary has a distinctly Lutheran approach to its commitment to educate leaders for Christian communities, it welcomes students of more than 40 denominations and celebrates ecumenical diversity within the community. Luther Seminary recognizes that the presence of and appreciation for individuals from a variety of Christian traditions is one of the strengths of an excellent theological education.

Students pursuing ministry in other Christian faith traditions should contact their denominational bodies about specific candidacy requirements. The Candidacy Coordinator in the Contextual Learning office is available for students from all denominations to help in their candidacy process.

  • Faculty and staff work with ecumenical students to find resources for meeting both degree and denominational course requirements.
  • Ecumenical students are invited to gather together informally throughout the school year to build relationships.

Ecumenical students ask important questions, challenge longstanding assumptions and contribute substantively to theological conversation. Students of all denominations benefit from greater ecumenical diversity at Luther Seminary.

Affiliated (non-Luther Seminary) ELCA candidates

If you are a candidate for Word and Sacrament or Word and Service ministry attending a non-ELCA seminary or divinity school, you are welcome to seek affiliation at Luther Seminary in order to complete your ELCA candidacy requirements.

You can also learn more about the M.A. (Studies in Lutheran Ministries) affiliated program offering.