Answering a Divine Call

Published on May 30th, 2018

Imagine being tasked with the job of filling multiple employment vacancies for a diverse and multi-cultural clientele each and every year. Requests come from a wide variety of settings, including rural, urban, and everything in between. The talent pool is vast and includes job candidates from across the entire nation. Filling these openings requires an in-depth knowledge of 20-30 potential candidates per position and includes multiple client meetings and hours of prep work—just to fill one vacancy! (And there are several.)

That’s exactly what the LCMS district office undertakes each year, filling positions vacated by pastors, DCEs and deaconesses, as well as principals and teachers throughout the district. It’s a huge job, but the district office doesn’t have to face the task alone (unlike professional headhunters, who rely on their own strengths to find talent and relocate individuals who meet specific job requirements). Instead, the Divine Call is a process that is unique to Lutheran churches and can most accurately be described as a crucial partnership between God (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit), the district office, and pastors and their congregations, or teachers and schools.

Take the Divine Call for pastors, for example. In addition to divine guidance, the team at the district office takes advantage of a national database, which helps link pastors and churches through three primary tools: the Personal Information Form (PIF) and the Self-Evaluation Tool (SET) for each pastor, as well as a Congregational Self-Study and Profile, which is available through the LCMS Indiana district website. These documents provide a wealth of helpful information for the pastor and congregation alike, identifying a pastor’s strengths, weaknesses and ministry preferences, along with the congregation’s hopes, dreams, and needs for the future.

Rev. May at the district office can sort through the PIFs and SETs of LCMS pastors across the nation based on the congregation’s self-identified future pastor qualifications, creating a list of 50 – 75 potential pastors. From there, Rev. May narrows the search based on a variety of limiting factors. “Sometimes, a pastor is in the middle of a building project,” says Rev. May. “Other times, he might want to stay near aging parents.”

In the end, Rev. May comes up with a list of 10 – 12 names of strong potential pastors, which he then shares with the congregation. From here, the congregation creates a Call Committee, which evaluates each of the pastor’s strengths and weaknesses. They then present up to five possible pastors for the church’s consideration and vote, with a 51% majority required to call a single pastor.

The entire process can last up to six months or up to a year with multiple meetings and hours of careful consideration and prayer, but the results are worth it in the end. “It’s an exciting job,” says Rev. May, president. “What a joy when a congregation receives a new pastor! Often, I am privileged to be part of Installation Day, when the new pastor, teacher, DCE or deaconess is formally installed in the new ministry position.”

At that time, candidates and congregations make vows as they promise God and one another that they will to work together in ministry. “It’s always a delight and the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the worker and the congregation,” says Rev. May. “The day often includes a reception with a snack or a full-fledged meal. The next day, the work of ministry begins!”