One of my favorite memories of our daughters’ experiences with the church is when we worshiped in a very small congregation. They were about seven and two years old then. Because the congregation was so small, everyone pitched in. I went to all-ages Sunday School with them, my seven-year-old was an acolyte, our youngest danced in the pew to the hymns, and there was an area at the back of the sanctuary where the children colored during worship. We were fortunate because we were within driving distance from Gettysburg Seminary and an intern pastor or vicar led worship for us each week.
Throughout our NC Synod, there are congregations just like the one we loved. These congregations do not have a full-time rostered minister, but they do have a community of the faithful who want to gather together as God’s people, to hear God’s Word preached and taught, and to receive the gifts of Holy Communion regularly. But often these congregations are not in convenient locations where there are student ministers or retired ministers, and that’s where a synodically authorized minister becomes a gift to congregations.
The NC Synod is now admitting our first cohort to the new Synodically Authorized Minister (SAM) program. SAM candidates generally are lay people who have discerned a call to lead and preach but are not pursuing a seminary degree or rostered ministry. They are asked to complete entrance requirements—similar to those for rostered ministry candidates—and then begin their ministry education and training. Over 18 months, each cohort will participate in learning intensives so they share a sound foundation in theology, Scripture, preaching, and pastoral care. They are both mentored and supervised during their education and during their ministry. SAMs who have completed their training can then be commissioned to serve in some of our smallest or most distant congregations. Often it will be the congregation that they call home, but always it will be at the bishop’s discretion—and their authority is limited to that one congregation for a specific, renewable term. Whereas rostered ministers serve congregations of all sizes and some even serve on staff in large congregations, SAMs are being raised up specifically to fill an unmet need in congregations that do not have the staff or cannot call a rostered minister to geographic or financial constraints.
Learn more about the NC Synod’s Synodically Authorized Minister Program.
Questions? Contact the Rev. Pam Northrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-987-0102.