Reflections on Implications of First Call Research
Surveys in 2002 and 2003
With the ELCA Research & Evaluation, the ELCA Division for Ministry conducted an initial First Call Theological Education Survey with first call rostered leaders, collected in 2002 (with a 75% return rate). A follow-up survey received 510 completed questionnaires through October 2003, a 65% response rate. In this second survey, respondents were asked to give specific reasons behind a particular finding of significance from the first survey. Some questions also asked for specific suggestions in addressing a problem which emerged from the 2002 findings. Report summaries from ELCA Research & Evaluation (November 2003
and December 2003
summaries) are found here
The Division for Ministry (now ELCA Vocation and Education unit) also developed a summary report from the two FCTE surveys, including verbatim comments from survey respondents to illustrate each of the findings.
From consultations with synod and seminary leaders, the following statements were developed about how the research could impact ELCA seminaries, synods, candidacy committees and churchwide offices. Implications for ELCA Seminaries
- Select more diverse congregations for internship experiences (e.g., small town/rural, mission development, multicultural contexts, community organizing, female senior pastor).
- Better training of internship supervisors; present clear expectations of what is to be experienced and learned in congregational life during internship year.
- Encourage more concrete connections to be made by faculty in all seminary classes between theological language/concepts and practice.
- Offer spiritual formation and imprint on the hearts of students the need for spiritual formation, retreats, spiritual guides, etc. in their first call and beyond.
- Review and discuss first call research pointing to differences between first and second career ministry candidates.
- Engage in serious discussion about sexism in our church and gender differences in ministry styles, values, and leadership.
Implications for ELCA Synods and Candidacy Committees
- Present to assigned candidates the synod’s call process and expectations they should have of time lapses from assignment to a call; clarify who takes responsibility for staying in touch during these tense weeks/months of waiting for a call.
- Communicate with honesty and integrity helpful information about the congregations recommended – e.g., what could be challenges as well as blessings in those congregations.
- Appoint person(s) to be first call contact/liaison with synod who would stay in touch with candidates and provide hospitality, making sure they don’t feel alone in their first call, etc.
- Be firm about expectations of colleague group involvement; help identify mentors/coaches for those in more isolated calls.
- Be involved as much as possible in first call programs, especially those planned and organized by a regional person or committee.
- Have standard expectations across synods of candidacy committees giving support after students have been approved, assigned and waiting to be ordained.
- Impress on newly called the need for taking time off – for Sabbath times, etc.
Implications for Churchwide Units
- Bring institutional leaders together across similar contexts/roles to talk about how to improve the whole system.
- Create a “best practices” handbook for online review and expansion by seminaries and synods; use these as resources for first call summits and consultative meetings.
- Write grants with partners to institutionalize needed changes in the system.
- Work with First Call Theological Education synod/regional coordinators and planners on ways to improve the FCTE process, communication and expectations, based on the Transition into Ministry project’s research findings.