What is the Call Process?

By Rev. Juliet Focken, Assistant to the Bishop

One of the areas that we Bishop’s Assistants spend the majority of our time in is Mobility. Mobility is just as it sounds—it’s when rostered leaders of congregations are moving from one call to another.  The most common questions that we are asked are, “How long will this take?” and “How do we make it go faster?”  Each Call Process is unique and there are different conversations that need to happen for each Call Process, but the overall process is the same.

When a minister leaves a congregation or retires, we first have conversations with the outgoing leader, then we talk to the leadership of the congregation about an Exit Interview. We set up a date to have an extra Council meeting with the leader and the Council so that we can hear what the leader and the congregation is looking for during their transitional time.  After that meeting we talk to the available Transitional Ministers (TM) in the area about the opening and see who is available.  If one of the local TM’s is available we then bring their name to the Council so that they can set up a time to have an interview and talk through a 60 day renewable contract.  If there are not any available TM’s then we look to pulpit supply and get creative with the leaders in the surrounding areas.  If the congregation is in one of our rural areas in which there are fewer available TM’s then we first look to surrounding ELCA congregations, congregations in which we are full communion partners and PMA students.

Many congregations ask if they can just get a list of all the available minister and talk to them directly.  The answer to that is no.  At any one time there are 300-350 candidates available in the United States for call, from there each candidate needs to define the areas and communities in which they are interested.  At any time, there are approximately 35 candidates that are interested in coming or staying in Nebraska for a call. Currently we have fifty congregations in different stages of the Call Process.  From there each candidate can list the top ten gifts that they bring to ministry, and on their paperwork each congregation lists their top five ministry needs.  If there are three gifts that align, we as a Mobility team pray and look at the profiles in depth to see if the congregation and the clergy could possibility be a match.  If they are, we contact the clergy and ask them and their family to take some time to look at the congregational profile to see what the Holy Spirit is telling them.  If they agree, then the congregation is given the clergy’s paperwork and from there they can start the interview process.  The whole time we are in prayer that God is growing and strengthening the leaders that are needed for call and that those leaders will then be open in conversation with a possible congregation.

As this process continues, we continue to look for ways to raise up local leaders in our communities.  If you know someone that has gifts for ministry, please talk to them about the gifts that you are seeing, and then set up a time to talk with us.  We would love to foster more growth in local leaders!

*Please note: The term candidate used here refers to both rosters of the ELCA. The two rosters are Word and Service (deacon) and Word and Sacrament (pastor).