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The Limited Public Ministry Program


Every other month we get an update on what’s been happening recently at our Immanuel Lutheran High School, College and Seminary in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

To the male readers of the Lutheran Spokesman, especially those who are past the traditional age of college, we pose this question: Have you had a desire to serve the Lord in the pastoral ministry, but for one reason or another found it difficult to fulfill all the college and seminary education? If so, please read on about the Limited Public Ministry (LPM) program.

The program began as a convention directive of the CLC in 1974. By design it was set up for “experienced laymen who have expressed the desire to be of greater assistance in the ministry of the church,” having “the opportunity for early retirement from their secular career and … convinced that they have both zeal and energies to combine with their experience toward a fruitful service in the public ministry.” (Proceedings 1974) As a limited ministry, however, the individuals enrolled would only have limited training (about two years) and limited areas of responsibility. Their work would be “under the guidance of a supervising pastor.” The graduate would not be recognized as one trained for the pastoral ministry in the traditional sense, but would be trained to carry out some of the functions of the pastoral ministry.

After it was formally set up with ILC involvement, a few early-retirement-age men were able to enroll in the program in the late 1970s. At the time,+ the required courses included specialized classes that were outside the traditional curriculum. For various reasons enrollment was quite low over the years since the program’s inception. In 2010 the course work of the program was changed so that only existing ILC college and seminary courses were to be taken by Limited Public Ministry students in a required two-year program, with a possible third year recommended so that students would not miss any of the program’s courses that are part of the complete seminary cycle.

Prior to the June 2021 Convention, the Limited Public Ministry program went through another revision in which CLC men aged 35 or older can now enroll in a required three-year program that consists mainly of seminary courses in the traditional seminary curriculum. Applicants need not have previous college experience, nor prior knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. Required college-level courses include Church History, Symbolics (Book of Concord and other orthodox confessions), Old Testament and New Testament religion survey courses, and beginning level Greek. The required seminary courses include Bible interpretation (Hermeneutics), sermon writing and delivery (Homiletics), Christian Education, Pastoral Theology and Counseling, Evangelism, all the cycled Dogmatics (doctrine) courses, and all the cycled Gospels courses. It is also required that two of the three years be taken in residence, with an available option for the first year of instruction to be taken remotely, either online or in a distance learning format of some kind that would involve the student’s pastor or some other qualified individual.

The original expectation that a graduate called into the Limited Public Ministry would carry out his work under the supervision of another pastor is still in place and is noted in the seminary catalog on page 25: “The type and extent of work to be done by the LPM graduate is determined by the call extended to him and should not be assumed as part-time only. The training given to LPM students is intended to prepare them for full-time work in the limited public ministry, with the understanding that his work is under the supervision of another CLC pastor.” Students also undergo an evaluation process before they can graduate.

More information about the Limited Public Ministry program and a full listing of its course work can be found in the seminary catalog, accessible online at the ILC website by going to the “resources” page and clicking on College-Seminary Catalog–AY 2022. Those interested in learning more about the LPM program at ILC may contact the dean of Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, Prof. John Ude.

We encourage Spokesman readers to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38) and to bless the training of such laborers through the traditional and the limited public ministry programs at Immanuel.

Steven Sippert is professor at Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.