“I was blown away from day one.” That’s how Dan Sheafer, associate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, describes his vicarage experience at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Pensacola, Florida. “I was interested in getting a good experience with a lot of different opportunities through my vicarage,” he says, “and I was open to going anywhere that might be a good fit.”
That’s just what he found nearly four years ago in this vibrant Lutheran congregation located in historic Pensacola. The church welcomed him in style with an all-out “Vicar-tory” party, complete with a band, dancing, and a full-blown potluck. “It was exciting to be part of a congregation that wanted me to learn and grow,” says Dan.
This kind of growth opportunity is exactly what the vicarage is designed to deliver, helping future Lutheran pastors gain indispensable, hands-on experiences in all types of ministry settings. In addition, the vicar gains valuable insight from the mentoring pastor, along with constructive feedback from the congregation throughout this yearlong ministry “internship.”
According to Rev. Dan May, LCMS district president, “The vicarage offers Lutheran pastors the kind of learning and discovery that is essential for the formation of an effective pastor. This training takes place under the auspices of an effective mentor, a pastor who is good at what he is doing and can explain the job well.”
Because the vicarage occurs during the third year of the seminary experience, vicars return to the seminary for a fourth year, filled with a better understanding of their future ministry. “During my vicarage,” says Dan, “I began to see the bond that’s built between a pastor and his congregation.” For Dan, that bond was fully realized when he discovered how hard it was to say goodbye. “Pastors have an effect on people’s lives in ways we can’t imagine. Things that might not be so important at the time might just mean the most.”