The Work of the Candidacy Committee
July 2, 2021
“The ELCA candidacy process is meant to be a welcoming and joyful opportunity for people to discern how to serve in and through the church.”
What is the Candidacy Committee?
We are a group of 17 members, who are tasked with meeting with candidates and discerning together how God is calling each of them into ministry. Our committee is a diverse group composed of lay members and clergy. Each volunteer is identified because they “bring gifts for welcoming, forming, evaluating, and building relationships with candidates.”1 While our role does involve decision making on behalf of the Synod, we view our most important job as accompaniment. The Candidacy Committee serves as one of the primary discernment partners for those prayerfully considering ordained ministry. Together with the candidate, home congregation, and seminary, we form a team that surrounds each person in prayer and mentorship. We seek to advocate for healthy leaders who are called by the Holy Spirit to serve in a variety of contexts and roles, utilizing unique gifts for ministry.
How do I become a candidate for ministry?
We encourage you to review the ELCA’s Summary of Candidacy, which gives a nice overview of the process. As you pray about how God may be calling you into new and exciting roles in ministry, take some time to invite others in your life to pray for you and with you as well. Seek out your pastor or deacon for conversation over coffee. Check in with your family. Ask a few leaders in your congregation about their thoughts. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and schedule a phone call with the chair of the committee. It might seem intimidating to have these conversations, but we are confident that God’s Holy Spirit works in and through all of those around you as you discern God’s calling. From stronger volunteer roles in your congregation to service as a Parish Ministry Associate to professional ordained ministry, there are so many ways to serve!
How can I help my congregation identify new leaders?
Bishop Brian Maas has this to say:
“Sow the Seeds is Nebraska Synod’s response to a challenge and an opportunity happening in congregations all across the ELCA. Nebraskans know you can’t just stand and watch a field and wait for things to happen. You have to prepare the soil, sow the seed, tend to the crop that comes, and then enjoy the harvest. Together, we can take advantage of the challenge and the opportunity before us and anticipate a bumper crop of leaders for Christ’s church, beginning right here in the Nebraska Synod.”
This initiative is a great resource for helping congregations to live into their call to identify and raise future leaders for the Church. There are Sow the Seed sermons and call stories from seminary students on the Nebraska Synod Vimeo page. Their story of call will lead you into deeper discipleship and the leap of faith into leadership.
I can’t be a rostered leader because I’m totally intimidated by [graduate studies, moving, public speaking, the notion of hypocrisy, my past, leaving my job, etc]. You are not alone! So is everyone else who is discerning, or has discerned, a call to ministry. It is intimidating – in part because of the intimacy of working so closely with the Holy Spirit and in part because of society’s weird cultural expectations. But the Holy Spirit moves and calls where she may, and that might include you! For a fascinating story of the call of the Church and of the Holy Spirit, and the reluctant obedience of an ancient Church Father, check out the story of Bishop Ambrose.
Who do I contact to get started?
The candidacy committee chair at email@example.com. The chair is a volunteer who is passionate about discernment and walking with candidates for ministry. I or any member of the committee would love to meet you for coffee or to chat on the phone. We promise to pray for you, answer any questions you may have, and direct you to any resources you may need. In fact, we host a free, annual retreat for those engaged with the candidacy process, and we love to host those who are discerning a call to ministry. While not a formal discernment event, it can be a low-key way to meet members of the committee and current seminary students, as well as a great chance to see the plethora of educational paths, places, and paces available for theological training.