First Call Theological Education

Kris Litman-Koon, Good Shepherd Lutheran, Columbia, Chair of the SC Synod FCTE Committee

FCTE is a ministry of the ELCA which provides a mentoring process and a support system for all rostered leaders – Word & Service and Word & Sacrament — during their first three years under call. FCTE is designed to provide sustaining support which will help these servants of the church experience long and fruitful careers.

In the South Carolina Synod, FCTE has four major expectations: participation in a professionally-led colleague cohort, attending committee-led training in practical ministry elements, openness to a partnership program, and attending a retreat.

Rostered leaders in FCTE join a cohort that is led by Mark Tidsworth of Pinnacle Leadership Associates. This Cohort will meet approximately six times during each year, and the goals are to equip the rostered leaders with tools to successfully navigate and lead a congregation, to provide a space to process ministry challenges, and to develop the career-long expectation that the best ministry always seeks collaboration with other professional ministers.

Training in practical ministry elements is organized by the committee. Examples of these elements include navigating the congregation’s budget and healthy conversation skill between parties of conflicting viewpoints. The committee that oversees the FCTE program is quite unique. In general, the committee members are those people who most recently completed the FCTE program. This allows for a freshness in ideas on the committee and it allows the committee to evaluate its work via recent memory as participants.

The partnership program connects individual members of the committee with individual FCTE participants. This partnership seeks to build trust, to offer mutual prayer, and to share each other’s wisdom. Once someone has been assigned to the SC Synod for call, it is the committee’s goal to begin this partnership immediately, even if time passes before a call is extended to the individual.

Every three years, Region 9 of the ELCA has a Stewardship Retreat for FCTE participants. This takes place at a wonderful setting in Georgia, and it is an opportunity to meet fellow rostered leaders from multiple synods. The theme throughout the retreat is both personal and congregational stewardship.

In addition to the above four areas of expectation, the FCTE Committee also sees itself as the “welcome wagon” for the synod. Twice each year, at the Synod Assembly and at the Synod Fall Convocation, the committee hosts a luncheon for the committee members and FCTE participants. However, we also invite to these luncheons those rostered leaders who have transferred to this synod during the previous year. The reasons for this are to welcome these leaders, to guide them through what they can expect at assembly and convocation, and to help them establish in South Carolina their own collaborative relationships of professional ministers, which we believe are necessary for a successful career in ministry.