First Call Theological Education (FCTE) is a three-year structured program of theological education designed to assist newly called leaders in the transition to rostered ministry. One of the most dramatic transitions in the life of a newly rostered person is the transition from seminary or non-rostered status to the first call to public ministry. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has prescribed standards and expectations for continuing theological education during the first three years of rostered service under call.
Theological education doesn’t end with graduation ceremonies at our seminaries. Rather, theological education is a process of lifelong learning which addresses ministry in our changing community and societal contexts. This requires faithful leaders with abundant gifts and special qualities such as:
- depth in the faith
- practical congregational skills
- competence to communicate across cultures
- capacity to reach out to unchurched people
- ability to make connections between faith and everyday life.
Foundations for these competencies have been laid in seminary education. To a large extent, however, the ministry skills are finally realized only in the practice of ministry in the setting of a specific congregation and its larger social, economic, and cultural context. Newly called leaders learn to do ministry and develop a “habit of the heart” for lifelong learning during these early years of service.
Theological education is a process of lifelong learning which addresses ministry in our changing community and societal contexts. FCTE programs are designed, offered, supervised and evaluated by synods, following churchwide standards. Synods may do this individually or in cooperation with other synods in their region.
The Synods of Region 8, including the Upper Susquehanna Synod, have provided FCTE cooperatively. Annual gatherings are held, usually from Tuesday through Thursday of the first week of November at the Antiochian Village Conference and Retreat Center, 140 Church Camp Trail, Bolivar, PA 15923. Plenary sessions and a wide-variety of workshops are offered.
First Call Mentoring
Developing a mentoring relationship has the potential of being a significant source of support during a rostered leader’s first call. The Upper Susquehanna Synod encourages all first call pastors to identify a mentor from among their colleagues during the first six months of ministry. While mentoring is useful from the first day, allowing six months enables newly called rostered leaders to identify a colleague with whom the newly called pastor believes he or she can relate. Rather than assign mentors, our synod is convinced that these relationships have a better chance for success if they are self-identified. Prior to identifying a mentor, newly called pastors can turn to the dean of the conference, the bishop and his staff, and other experienced colleagues.