At the Forefront of Contemporary Ministry: The TEEM Program at LSTC

LSTC graduates Jason Williams (TEEM), Stephen Styles (MA), Bishop Curry, Sean Ramsey (TEEM) and Llewelyn Dixon (TEEM) at the 2023 LSTC graduation
From left: LSTC graduates Jason Williams (TEEM), Stephen Styles (MA), Bishop Curry, Sean Ramsey (TEEM) and Llewelyn Dixon (TEEM) at the 2023 LSTC graduation

Theological Education for Emerging Ministries, otherwise known as the TEEM program, is a leadership formation process that authorizes leaders from distinguished Word and Sacrament Communities who have served in an emerging ministry site to become fully authorized ministers in the ELCA. TEEM scholarship at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) prepares participants for Word and Sacrament and Word and Service ministries in the ELCA. In our contemporary world, where the need for placing candidates for calls can sometimes be felt acutely in certain ministry sites, TEEM can offer a new way for the ELCA to foster the success of changemakers in ministerial practice.

The TEEM concept is borne of collaboration and innovation and a widespread desire in the ELCA to see to the needs of the twenty-first century Church and world. Indeed, this leadership formation process has long been part of ELCA discussions: it was described in the Study of Theological Education in (1993; 1995); the Study of Ministry (2003); the ELCA’s Plan for Mission (2003); and authorized in the ELCA Constitution of 2004. These were all loci of critical conversations about the importance of honoring faith in context and providing an attainable formation process for those leaders currently serving in emerging ministry sites and who had been identified and recommended for participation by a synod bishop.

TEEM scholars at LSTC have two paths they can take depending on their personal preferences. In the first pathway, TEEM students take master’s level courses along with other LSTC students, getting credit for MDiv courses they complete. In two years, they will take six courses and seven workshops. TEEM students can also, in collaboration with students at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, meet three times a year to take intensive courses with other TEEM participants. Both pathways lead to the same place: a certificate and becoming a pastor in the ELCA.

Establishing the TEEM formation process serves two purposes: enriching communities in need and providing opportunities for those leaders who otherwise may not be able to attend seminary. In a world where bi-vocational practice is becoming increasingly common amongst ministers, TEEM scholarship can provide the crucial bridge between encouraging more ministers to answer their call and the financial realities many candidates face. As Sean Ramsey, who attended the TEEM program at LSTC noted, “I cannot say enough great things about the TEEM Program at LSTC…I have a full-time career that has high demands on my time. The TEEM program was God sent, as I was looking for ways to balance both my desire to be obedient to God’s calling and manage my demanding career. The program has been flexible enough that classes fit around my schedule at the church and work.” Ramsey’s experience is characteristic of TEEM scholars at LSTC and other participating institutions, who note that the process was highly supportive and empowering. 

TEEM candidates benefit from programmatic flexibility, opportunities for participating in mentorship, and the support of their nominators as well as opportunities to be steeped in synodical and field education. Even more importantly, each participant is placed in internships designed to meet their individual needs and is supported by their own Competency Assessment Panel (CAP); this panel identifies which academic work and training will be most beneficial for the candidate as they move forward in their educational journey. The panel will assess areas including: the candidate’s understanding of the Bible, theology and ethics, Lutheran Confessions, church history, worship, teaching, evangelical mission and stewardship, ELCA structure and polity, administration, service, and pastoral care. By assessing these areas early, TEEM candidates are supported in their process moving towards approval and, after their coursework and hands-on field work, well-prepared for their first call. As LSTC TEEM graduate Pastor Llewellyn Dixon has said, “I would truly encourage this program because it gives you all the necessary building blocks that you need to be successful.” 

In 2023, LSTC celebrated as three graduates earned their TEEM certificate: Jason Williams of Shekinah Chapel in Riverdale, IL; Sean Ramsey of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago, IL; and Llewellyn S. Dixon of Jubilee Faith Community in Country Club Hills, IL. Opportunities for TEEM scholars to serve communities most in need abound. TEEM participants’ work, scholarship, and dedication to their calls expand the possibilities for the ELCA’s reach and impact across the world, ensuring that tomorrow’s leaders in faith can successfully move forward with their calls to ministry.

To learn more about the TEEM program, contact Scott Chalmers at SChalmers@LSTC.EDU.

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