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. FCTE is for all rostered leaders: pastors, Associates in Ministry, and Diaconal Ministers in the first three years of their first call, and is designed and coordinated within each synod of the ELCA.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has prescribed standards and expectations for continuing theological education during the first three years of rostered service under call. The common purpose of first call theological education is to enhance the transition from seminary to parish. The desired outcome is that during their first three years under call, pastors and rostered lay leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will have made the initial transition into their respective leadership roles and will have grown in knowledge of God’s Word and the Lutheran confessional witness, in love for Jesus Christ and his Church, and in commitment to its mission.
The three primary content areas of the FCTE program are:
- Ministerial Identity – assuming a religious leadership role
- Ministry Skills – learning how to provide leadership for the variety of functions in the life of the congregation
- Context of Ministry – discovering the history, values, and commitments of the specific setting of ministry
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.