By Sarah Reinsel
A new system for ecclesiastical endorsement was recently published by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Specialized Spiritual Care Ministry, also known as Specialized Care.
Specialized Care, formerly Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM), supports church workers serving in specialized settings such as hospitals, prisons or senior living communities.
By serving in these chaplaincy roles, Specialized Care workers extend the Word and Sacrament ministry of the local congregation, bringing the Gospel to people who, for one reason or another, cannot come to hear it on a Sunday morning at church.
Previously, Specialized Care used one generalized system of endorsement for its church workers. But since these workers serve in such a wide variety of ways, a new system was developed based on feedback from current Specialized Care workers so that endorsement options would better suit their needs.
Now, rostered LCMS church workers can seek ecclesiastical endorsement under three different tiers:
- Specialized Care Primary Endorsement, which is for rostered church workers who serve part-time in a specialized setting while serving full-time in another role;
- Specialized Care Standard Endorsement, which is for rostered church workers who serve full-time in a chaplaincy role in a specialized setting; and
- Specialized Care Fellows, which is reserved for select Specialized Care workers who have successfully achieved standard Specialized Care endorsement, have highly developed skills in the art of spiritual care, and have demonstrated multi-year leadership experience.
“Before, endorsement was a one-size-fits-all system,” said the Rev. Brian Heller, Specialized Care manager. “The move to a three-tier system means endorsement is more accessible. For example, full-time church workers who want to volunteer in chaplaincy roles or serve part-time now have an endorsement option.”
Another new tier, Specialized Care Fellows, will allow experienced Specialized Care workers to serve as mentors for church workers going through clinical pastoral education. Fellows will also be eligible to serve on ecclesiastical endorsement committees, facilitate Specialized Care training initiatives, and contribute their scholarly work to be published as Specialized Care resources.
“Ecclesiastical endorsement helps church workers be confident in their identity as a Lutheran church worker serving in a non-Lutheran context,” Heller said. “It also helps connect them with Specialized Care so we can reach out to them, provide them with resources and get recommendations from them about how we can support them.”
Specialized Care also supports church workers through assistance with continuing education, providing training and professional development conferences, and facilitating networking opportunities.
Ecclesiastical endorsement, an official recognition of the LCMS Office of National Mission, means that the rostered person has met certain theological and ministerial standards for serving in Specialized Spiritual Care ministries that are endorsed by the district. Often, professional certifying organizations and employers require ecclesiastical endorsement. Endorsement also helps districts and other calling entities in their consideration of call eligibility.
Specialized Care workers supplement the witness and mercy outreach of their local LCMS congregations. An important goal of their work is to connect the people entrusted to their care — whether they are faithful or unchurched — to a local LCMS church and pastor.
“The people serving in these roles are like spiritual care paramedics,” Heller said. “They build relationships and trust with people, listen to them and care for them, and do ‘triage’ until we can get them to the hospital — a church.”
All rostered church workers are eligible for ecclesiastical endorsement with Specialized Care. The updated Ecclesiastical Endorsement Standards and Procedures manual is now available at lcms.org/specialized-care.
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Posted Dec. 7, 2023