1. WHAT IS “STAFF MINISTRY”?
Staff ministry is a form of public, representative ministry. An individual is given a call by a group of believers to carry out church work on their behalf.
2. WHAT DO STAFF MINISTERS DO?
The call itself defines the particular duties and responsibilities of a specific staff minister. Current position titles include the following: Minister of Music and Education, Minister of Family and Youth, Minister of Discipleship, Director of Christian Education, Family Minister, Director of Discipleship, Program Director, Minister of Music, Minister of Evangelism, Church Administrator, Minister of Administration, Deaconess, and Parish Nurse; Parish Assistant and Parish Associate are other potential position titles. In each case, the call would define and limit the specific responsibilities based on the needs of the calling body.
3. ARE STAFF MINISTERS PASTORS OR TEACHERS?
No. Some staff ministers, however, may initially have been trained for another form of ministry, such as teaching, and then subsequently been called into staff ministry.
In one sense, of course, any time a congregation or other calling body has more than one worker on the staff, it is a staff ministry. But we are using the phrase “staff minister” to refer to an individual who is not serving as a pastor or parochial school teacher, but instead has been called to work in association with the pastor(s), other called workers, and members in focused areas of parish ministry. While pastors are trained for the broadest scope of ministry and for theological leadership, and teachers are trained in Christian classroom education, staff ministers receive basic theological training and practical skills to equip them to serve in other specific areas of parish ministry.
4. WHAT KIND OF TRAINING IS AVAILABLE?
There are three elements in the program: general education in the liberal arts, a religion component parallel to what teaching candidates take, and professional courses designed to equip candidates with the competencies necessary to serve as staff ministers. The professional component includes both a core of required courses and a number of electives in specialized areas such as evangelism, youth work, family ministry, administration, stewardship, parish education, and the like. In addition, an internship or a series of practica is required.
The goal is to provide academic integrity, professional competence, and program flexibility in order to best serve the needs of our congregations and of our current and prospective staff ministers.
5. WHERE IS THE PROGRAM AVAILABLE?
The staff ministry program is located at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, a town of 13,750 people in south central Minnesota. In addition to classes offered during the regular semesters, courses are available through online study, in summer sessions, and sometimes at extension locations.
6. ARE OLDER STUDENTS ADMITTED?
Yes. While traditional undergraduate students are enrolled in a four or five-year degree program, with the option of also being certified in elementary education or in parish music, the length of the program for older students will vary depending on the previous study and experience of each candidate. Courses in the program are also open to current church workers — pastors, teachers, and staff ministers — who want to broaden their ministry skills or who wish to equip themselves for a possible change in ministry.
7. WHAT KIND OF CERTIFICATION IS GIVEN?
Graduates of the program receive certification in staff ministry, which indicates that the candidate has attained the entry-level competencies to serve as a staff minister. As in the case of pastors and teachers, certification is not for specific skill areas. Students may also choose to pursue an additional certification in elementary education or parish music.
8. IS THE PROGRAM OPEN TO BOTH MEN AND WOMEN?
Yes. There is no difference in training, just as there is no difference in the training of male and female students for the teaching ministry. Distinctions based on gender are determined by the congregations or calling bodies as they establish the responsibilities of their specific calls.
9. IS RESIDENCE HALL SPACE AVAILABLE?
Yes, for both single male and female students. There is no married student housing, but New Ulm has apartments and homes available for rent at reasonable costs.
10. WHAT IS THE POTENTIAL FOR SERVICE?
There currently are between eighty and ninety staff ministry positions in the congregations of the Wisconsin Synod, as well as several dozen positions in non-parish settings. While we cannot guarantee that there will be positions for everyone who prepares for service, there does seem to be a growing desire on the part of congregations to add staff ministers.
The Staff Ministry Office at Martin Luther College provides information to the District Presidents of the WELS, who are responsible for preparing lists of candidates for calling bodies, to ensure that they are aware of who is available for service as staff ministers. In addition, we maintain an ongoing effort to communicate with congregations to help them to understand the potential for increased effectiveness in ministry that staff ministers could provide for them.
For further information, please call or write the Staff Ministry Program at: Martin Luther College
Dr. Lawrence Olson
1995 Luther Court
New Ulm, MN 56073
Telephone: 507.354.8221 ext. 252