Twice a year the Region 2 Synods of the ELCA, which include Southwest California, Pacifica, Grand Canyon, Sierra Pacifica, and Rocky Mountain, collaborate in providing a high-quality First Call Theological Education program for the region’s first call deacons and pastors. Twice a year for this three-day, two-night event is held within one of the five synod’s territory on a rotating schedule.
These education events include interactive presentations on topics relevant to the formation of first call leaders, with ample opportunity for them to have mutual, collegial support, and to take part in recreational activities or simply to rest. Deacons and pastors both affirm the gift of this kind of education and networking with rostered ministers from regional synods.
Pastors and deacons expect to serve God’s people through teaching, preaching, caring, and visioning – but in the modern church are often required to spend time managing and administering a non-profit organization. Therefore, during the first week of November, 2017, 40 first call rostered ministers met at California Lutheran University to be coached in executive skills by members of CLU’s School of Business faculty. Topics included Knowing Who We Are, Leadership, Entrepreneurial Imagination, Branding, Marketing, and Human Resources. Bishops Guy Erwin and Andy Taylor of the Southwest California and Pacifica Synods were present, as well as SWCA Synod Director of Finance Andreas Hirsch, who let a workshop on tac preparation.
Regional leadership has the challenge of keeping the costs of the FCTE program reasonable for participants, who are responsible for their travel costs and are asked to pay a $300 registration fee for each event. Even with each synod contributing $1,500 per year towards the program, it’s difficult to cover event costs. First call pastors and deacons are typically compensated at the lower end of synodical guidelines, and often serve congregations or organizations that operate on a modest budget, and today’s synods have lean budgets.
The synods of Region 2 are very grateful, therefore, to the generosity of the Mission Investment Fund, a financial ministry of the ELCA, for supporting First Call Theological Education events, as well as to California Lutheran University and staff for hosting November’s opportunity. MIF investments advance the ministry of the church, funding building and renovation loans for ELCA congregations and ministries with an understanding of their unique needs. Additionally, interest paid on MIF loans helps fund the loans of other ELCA congregations.
The next scheduled First Call Theological Educational event will be held April 17 -19 at the Mercy Center in Burlingame, and the next is scheduled for November 13 – 15 in the Rocky Mountain Synod.