Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is experiential learning focused on the education of persons in ministry. It offers participants the opportunity to convert experience into learning in direct, integrated ways while practicing the art of pastoral ministry. Among the benefits of such learning are growth in pastoral/ministerial identity, spiritual-theological reflection and enhanced self-understanding. Interaction with peers and supervisors in an interpersonal learning group is a key dimension of the program.
For decades, Lutherans have been pioneers and leaders in Clinical Pastoral Education. As early as 1951, the Lutheran Advisory Council on Pastoral Care, formed in the late 1940's, noted the desirability of providing CPE within all of the seminaries and decided that national standards for CPE needed to be formulated. Today, expectations and opportunities for CPE in the ELCA make it an indispensable part of preparation for ministry - for candidates and seminarians, for lay persons, for those preparing for a certified specialized ministry or those preparing to become clinical educators.
The programmatic standards for an approved, Supervised Clinical Ministry program include, but are not limited to, the following:
- A specified period of no less than 400 hours, including supervised clinical practice in ministry, structured group, and individual study and reflection.
- Active reporting and evaluation of one’s practice of ministry, utilizing a small peer group and individual supervision.
- Supervision by an individual who is appropriately trained, qualified and credentialed.
- An inductive, experiential mode of learning that uses the clinical/case method and focuses on one’s whole person in the practice of ministry.
- Growth in learning the art of pastoral and spiritual care through conceptual models from theology, ethics, and the behavioral sciences.
- A context of interpersonal ministry which includes potential for involvement in pastoral care, social justice ministry, worship and music, preaching, program management, teaching, etc.
- An individual contract for learning, developed collaboratively by the student and supervisor, which addresses:
- Expression of a personal theology of pastoral ministry.
- Enhanced self-understanding and self-integration: spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, and relational.
- Ability to initiate helping relationships.
- Identification of personal strengths and weaknesses in ministerial functioning.
- Ability to use pastoral supervision for personal and professional growth and to develop the capacity to evaluate oneself in ministry.
- Capacity to engage a peer group for consultation and receive support and challenge in ministry.
- Development of one’s pastoral identity and authority while working collaboratively with interdisciplinary teams.
- Formulation of clear and specific goals for continuing pastoral formation.
CPE in Preparation for Ordained and Lay Rostered Ministries
The ELCA requires that all candidates for ordained ministry complete one unit of Supervised Clinical Ministry. For various reasons, those preparing for ministry as Associate in Ministry, Deaconess, or Diaconal Minster may also choose to complete one or more units of CPE. Candidates for ordination are expected to meet the CPE requirement prior to internship and must have completed it prior to the approval interview.
Alternative programs and equivalencies must be evaluated and approved by a student’s seminary in consultation with the student’s synodical candidacy committee and the ELCA Vocation and Education unit. Candidates in the ELCA who opt for a non-accredited program should be mindful that they will not fulfill the appropriate unit of CPE required for admission to an ACPE residency. This may have important bearing for those considering future training leading to endorsement and certification in specialized pastoral care ministry or those desiring to train for supervision.
The seminary has primary responsibility for the management and administration of the CPE educational requirement. Programmatic standards, criteria for evaluation, and guidelines for the approval of programs and supervision are maintained and provided by the ELCA Vocation and Education unit.
CPE for Laypersons
Lay people with interest in preparing for various ministries of care are eligible for enrollment in a CPE program. CPE can offer the opportunity to "try out" ministry in a supervised, clinical setting, to gain desired skills for a variety of ministries, and to address the above standards. Applicants must meet prerequisites for admission as designated by each accredited center. Currently, only rostered or eligible for rostering persons are able to apply for Churchwide ecclesiastical endorsement.
Training for Ministries in Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling and Clinical Education
Ministries in Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling and Clinical Education are the embodiment of the church’s commission to minster to persons in special need — the ill, the imprisoned, the elderly, the conflicted and the isolated. By its very nature, MCPCCE reaches into the rapidly changing institutions and social structures of our world. It requires extensive specialized training and preparation. Specializations are numerous and diverse and include general healthcare ministry, pastoral counseling, hospice, long-term care, corrections, mental health ministry, rehabilitation, police and fire department chaplaincies and more.
Those who seek ecclesiastical endorsement and professional certification are required to complete a minimum 1600 hours (4 units) of documented, supervised pastoral care experience relevant to their particular ministry of chaplaincy, pastoral counseling or clinical education. CPE is the preferred means to meet this requirement. This training requirement is often fulfilled by completing a one-year stipended residency program. However, the four units may also be accumulated separately. One unit of the required four units may be equivocated in discussion with the MCPCCE Office of the Vocation and Education unit.
Preparation as Clinical Educator/Supervisor-in-Training (SIT)
Over the years, Lutherans have been leaders in the supervision and management of Clinical Pastoral Education. Currently, there is a growing need for Lutheran CPE Supervisors and abundant opportunities for service.
The Supervisor-in-Training program requires additional residency, usually two or more years. Supervisory residents focus on learning the art of CPE supervision. This occurs in a process that includes the experience of supervision, reflection on learnings, and evaluation of the experience.
The ELCA provides Clinical Education Scholarships to qualified candidates preparing for certification as educators in pastoral care and counseling ministries. Eligible applicants must be in a contractual arrangement with a training center and be ecclesiastically endorsed or in the process of seeking MCPCCE Endorsement. Guidelines and application forms are available through the Department for Ministries in Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling, Clinical Education.