Seminary Certification at MLC

Matt Swanson was a junior math major at Iowa State University when he realized his passion was more Scripture than square roots.

“I slowly began to realize I had a great passion for spending time in God’s Word and the conversations that my faith started with friends. I was also heavily influenced by Pastor James Hein, who was at my home church at the time, Resurrection and Life-Rochester MN, and by Pastor Martin Hoesch at Bethany-Ames IA (ELS), who was my pastor at college.

“I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in December 2014 and spent the next eight months working for a teaching and tutoring organization in Rochester as I waited to start school at MLC.”

Swanson says MLC’s most difficult challenge is also one of its best qualities: “They expect a lot from you. Students are expected to show up and work hard every day. MLC does a great job of holding us to those standards that are expected of responsible Christians and members of a community.”

Matt plans to graduate in May and matriculate at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in the fall. He’s trusting God with the details of his future, of course, but he thinks he might be interested in helping with a campus ministry someday. “After spending almost four years at a public university, I made many friends of different life backgrounds, all of whom are in need of God’s grace and salvation, just like I am. Being able to share that message with another generation of students would be very special to me.”

First Sergeant Roger Emmons is hoping to answer to Pastor Emmons in a few years.

After eight years in the National Guard, 21 years in the US Army, and a bachelor’s degree in human resource management, Emmons is back in the classroom at MLC, studying Greek and Hebrew, philosophy and Christian rhetoric as part of his certification for enrollment at seminary.

“The military has a different style of learning than college,” he says. “So being able to sit in the classroom and reteach myself was a challenge. The best part, though, is just the day-to-day life at MLC, especially daily chapel. I was concerned, being twice as old as everyone, whether I would fit in. But I have made some wonderful friends.”

Emmons’ second-career journey began when he was the chairman for his congregation at King of Kings-Alexandria, Louisiana. When his pastor accepted a call to another church, their church became one of five in the district with a vacancy. With so many pulpits open on Sunday mornings, Dr. E Allen Sorum from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary gave a crash course to several men on sermon writing.

“I really enjoyed the opportunities I had to share God’s message,” Emmons says. “I served both our congregation and the satellite preaching station we had established. At the time I was working for a car rental company and didn’t like the sales aspect of the job.

“So one morning I was doing my devotion from Isaiah 42, and I realized I did not have to worry about the congregation in Louisiana. God would take care of his faithful and provide them a way to be fed. It was not all up to me. That was in late June 2015. We visited MLC in July and moved here in August.”
Roger will graduate in May and be eligible for enrollment at the seminary. “As a former drill sergeant I hope to be able to be a strong leader within the church,” he says. “But a good strong leader is one who serves.’

Roger and his wife, Tammi, have five children and six grandchildren living in Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, and Korea.

Adam Lambrecht’s degrees in English and speech from Iowa State University were a ten-year-old memory when he decided to go back to school to be a pastor.

He and his wife, Sarah, had ministry experience with Kingdom Workers and on the Navajo reservation, and Adam had served as staff minister at several congregations in New Mexico and Colorado when they opted to move the family to New Ulm so Adam could pursue seminary certification.

Going back to college carried challenges. Uprooting the family. Homework. Financial burdens. And a move back to the slightly artificial world of campus life. “One of the things I had loved most about ministry,” Adam says, “was talking with non-Christians who were hurting or bitter or lost, sharing my faith with them and reaching out with the gospel to them. And all of a sudden, that wasn’t my main job anymore. My main job at MLC was to go home and study. That was tough.”

Now an MLC graduate and a middler at the seminary, Adam often thinks of those people he served as a staff minister. And while he makes a point not to be “that guy” in class—the one who always raises his hand and says, “Well, when I was a staff minister . . .”—there’s no doubt he has experiences the younger students do not. “Once in our Education class, we started talking about how parents discipline their children. Since no one else in my class had children, I was able to bring a different perspective to that discussion—as a parent and as a former staff minister who gave encouragement to other parents. It was interesting.”
Adam is also quick to point out the many blessings of his studies at both MLC and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. “Not a day goes where I’m not thankful,” he says. “We’re closer to family, and we’ve been able to send our kids to Lutheran schools. And we’ve been continually amazed by how God has provided for us financially. A check sent by a friend in Colorado who tells us we should take our kids out for ice cream. A congregation that provides us with gift cards and Christmas presents for our kids. A complete stranger who calls up the seminary and asks if she can give some money to a needy student. We’ve been blown away by the kindness and generosity of God’s people.”

As every day passes, Adam is more excited to finish his schooling. May will bring him a vicar assignment for 2017-18. Then it’s back to seminary for senior year in 2018-19, and finally, an assignment to his own congregation, God-willing, in May 2019.

He knows he’ll be a 40-year-old rookie pastor. But he hopes that his life experience will color his ministry with compassion and insight. “I hope my experiences among the Navajo, or having my wife diagnosed with cancer or having a miscarriage, or wrestling with the adjustments that come from being a ‘non-traditional’ student have helped me develop a broad understanding of how life is sometimes different and difficult and even weird for people. And having learned what it means to have God provide for us in so many different ways in so many different places, I hope I’m able to encourage others in a very personal and meaningful way what it means when God promises, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’”

The Seminary Certification Program at Martin Luther College provides an opportunity for men who are older than traditional college students to prepare for WELS pastoral ministry.

Students who successfully complete the program and demonstrate appropriate spiritual, academic, and personal attributes are recommended to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) to continue preparation for the pastoral ministry.

Students who hold a bachelor’s degree before they enroll need two years to complete their certification requirements. Students who do not hold a bachelor’s degree usually need three years.

Professor Daniel Balge, academic dean for preseminary studies, tailors a certification plan to each student’s background, giving priority to religion and biblical language courses.
From 2006 to 2016, 27 men graduated from MLC’s Seminary Certification Program.

If you are married and/or older than 21 and you’d like to learn more about pursuing the pastoral ministry, please contact Professor Sorum ( at WLS to get started. The faculties of WLS and MLC will work together to help you through the process.