Mobility forms and congregational profiles of the ELCA list over two dozen “leadership needs” or “ministry interests,” in the hope that enduring and happy matches can be made when we check the same boxes. But so often it is the intangible and mysterious that matters, whether we are aware of it or not. Lay people who complain about or praise ministerial functioning and job performance may often be looking beneath the surface to the heart of their leaders. And their leaders may be seeking out hints for better stewardship programs or youth group activities when what they really need is to pay more attention to their spirits.
In 1994 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as part of its Study on Theological Education, organized a Work Group on Pastoral Identity in the Division for Ministry to give special attention to the dynamics of pastoral formation and identity. From surveys conducted and theological and psychological literature reviewed, the group concluded , “Pastoral identity has two aspects. The first is the subjective but powerful realization that one is an authentic pastor to a particular people at a particular time in their history. The second aspect is that realization of people in the congregation or ministry setting that a certain called person is an authentic pastor to them.” We believe this statement is applicable as well to the formation of our lay professionals and in this issue we want to look at ministerial identity as both a sense of one’s confidence in God’s grace and call to ministry, and a confirmation by the congregation of one’s call to ministry in a certain context.
This issue begins with a description by Constance Leean Seraphine of a new program in the ELCA called First Call Theological Education, which attempts to ensure that newly called pastors and rostered lay leaders are supported in their ministerial formation. This is followed by Robin Currie’s reflections on her seminary education from the stance of a newly called pastor. A lay person (and homeopathic veterinarian), Judith Rae Swanson, knows what it’s like to find a pastor who authentically represents God’s grace and compassion.
The remaining articles address the question, “What are some of the disciplines that help nurture the character of a minister of the Gospel?” F. Dean Lueking reflects on the importance of teamwork and mentoring. Anne Lee, an Associate in Ministry, lifts up the value of forming mutual ministry committees to support rostered leaders. Disciplines of health, and awareness of unhealthy work habits, are the focus of Jack Finney’s article. Using a well known article by Joseph Sittler as a point of departure, John R. Seraphine explores some broad dimensions of what it means to bear faithful testimony to God’s word in ministry.