September Issue: What is FCTE?


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First Call Theological Education (FCTE): What is it?

By Rev. Emily Carson

Ministry is an adventure. Like any other vocation, those who serve as clergy and deacons don’t enter the field as perfect, all-knowing leaders. Instead, they are well-trained professionals who do their best to apply the knowledge they have and learn more along the way. The Southeastern Minnesota Synod provides a three-year educational and leadership development experience for new rostered ministers to empower them during their first formative years of a new call to ministry. It is called “First Call Theological Education” (FCTE).

FCTE participants gather together three times every year for three years for day-long learning experiences. They also participate in an annual retreat. The day-long gatherings and retreats are centered around six main leadership themes:

  • developing a ministerial identity;
  • assuming a religious leadership role and finding a balance between ministerial and personal identity;
  • developing ministry skills;
  • learning how to provide leadership for the variety of functions in the life of the congregation or agency being served;
  • understanding one’s context of ministry; and
  • discovering the history, values, and commitments that shape ministry in the particular place of service.

Another component of FCTE are colleague groups. Each group meets monthly for a few hours and is facilitated by a veteran rostered minister from the synod. For Rev. Marie Anderson, who most recently served as interim pastor for Highland Prairie and Elstad Lutheran Churches, her colleague group was a major highlight of her FCTE experience: “It was valuable to meet others new to ministry and new to the synod. It meant I knew people at synod and conference events.”

Over the course of several years, the relationships between participants grow and strengthen. That sense of connectedness to her colleagues remains a ministry blessing for Rev. Beth Krolak. She currently serves as pastor of Grand Meadow Lutheran Church. Rev. Krolak shared, “The colleague group was so valuable. It helped us establish lifelong connections, saw us through the loss of a beloved colleague, and for me, it set a pattern of reaching out to my colleagues.”

For Rev. Charlie Leonard who now serves as pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, FCTE provided time and space to develop his ministerial identity and gain insights from peers. He valued being able to talk through day-to-day situations and then receive invaluable guidance from others: “That was the kind of advice that FCTE brought out in conversations; it doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

First Call Theological Education is a high priority area for the Southeastern Minnesota Synod. It supports our synod’s ongoing commitment to developing leaders who are ready to follow Jesus into a changing world. Congregational mission support dollars help underwrite the costs of FCTE. Participants also pay a portion of the cost, and the congregation they serve pays the remainder. It is a shared investment between the synod, the rostered minister and the congregation. Together, we are able to support an initiative that is so much stronger than anything that we could do individually.

For more information about First Call Theological Education, please contact Rev. Susan Miller at 507-280-9457 or

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