Who should go to seminary?

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Understanding vocation and the call to Lutheran ministry

Have you ever wondered about the possibility of attending seminary? Perhaps people in your life have mentioned it to you, or you simply feel a tug toward Lutheran ministry. 

The decision to attend seminary is one rooted in the value of education and the Lutheran understanding of vocation. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at these elements and demonstrate the purpose of a seminary education.

We pray that you find this information helpful if you are considering seminary. Prospective students are always welcome to reach out to us with any questions about our program. To do so, please email Deirdre Lapp.

Why pursue formal seminary education?

As Lutherans, education, specifically that of pastors, is a rich part of our heritage and tradition. We are deeply committed to educating pastors, first and foremost because we want the people filling our pulpits to have a firm understanding of the function of the sacraments and the purpose of pastoral care.

“Everything we do at Luther House with our seminary education is with an eye on pastoral formation,” said Sarah Stenson, CEO. “We take it very seriously because it is the care of souls at stake.”

Sometimes we encounter potential students who are reluctant to commit to the seminary program. They may reason that they have already been serving a congregation, or that they have experience and/or education from a different faith background. 

To that we ask, “Would you want your surgeon to have the education of an EMT?”

“Of course not. You want your surgeon to be able to remove your appendix without killing you. That’s roughly what we’re talking about here,” said Stenson.

Similarly, some may incorrectly assume that our program is somehow a shortcut to a traditional seminary degree. In fact, the content is the same as it’s always been, in terms of rigor — it’s simply delivered in a different way. We utilize a flipped-classroom model, which allows a much more relational approach than the traditional model. 

“The misconception typically comes from people who have graduated from that traditional, residential model of education and benefited from it greatly. They make assumptions about that being the gold standard, and therefore any other method must, by definition, be inferior,” said Stenson. 

“Honestly, I probably would have thought that too, had I not been on the inside of creating this curriculum and witnessing the strong pastors that our approach is turning out. In fact, I don’t disagree that the gold standard is residential seminary education. I wish we could still do that, but we just can’t as a matter of economy and stewardship of dollars.”

“We take it very seriously because it is the care of souls at stake.”

Sarah Stenson, CEO

Here at Luther House, we have done everything we can to maintain that same academic standard, to create collegiality and community, and to stay true to our Lutheran roots, providing the strength and value of a strong theological education.

Understanding vocation and calling

Vocation is derived from the Latin vocare, meaning “to call.”

As Lutherans, we recognize that each of us has a number of callings, or vocations, in life, such as parent, spouse, sibling, teacher, nurse or garbage collector. The calling to be a pastor is no better or worse than any other — all vocations are equal, which is counter to the way many understand it.

The call to pursue seminary education always comes from the outside. Though there may certainly be an internal nudge or an itching to know more about the Bible, theology or God, it is always confirmed by outside voices. 

When we encounter potential students who have this “itch,” we always allow them to sit in on our classes at no cost. Students will quickly discern whether they have the capacity or desire to learn more, and we at Luther House can help affirm that call.

As a seminary graduate, we then understand that the call to serve as a pastor is simply a congregation recognizing that you have the specific gifts, skills and training to be the person who baptizes, gives the Lord’s Supper, marries and buries people. 

One reason we remain so firm on the concept of the external call is because when things get tough in ministry, you will always have that call to turn to. 

“These people called you. It’s not about you; it’s about what they need from you,” Stenson explained. 

Interested in learning more? Visit our website to explore FAQs about our Masters of Divinity program, or to apply! 

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