Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)



First Advisor

Deborah Loyd, DMin

Second Advisor

Dan Brunner, DPhil

Third Advisor

Tricia Gates-Brown


According to the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth selected twelve men to be his disciples. Three years later, one of the twelve had betrayed Jesus and ended his own liferepresenting an apostolic attrition rate of eight percent. One challenge to Christian denominations today is the attrition rate of trained pastors and deacons serving in congregational settings. Research suggests that up to 50 percent of pastors leave congregational ministry within ten years of their ordination. Other sources dispute these figures. Although up to 20% may leave congregational ministry in favor of specialized ministries, further study, or retirement, a significant number report leaving because conflict and/or financial struggles simply wear them down or cause them to question whether the call was still upon them. This dissertation examines the rate of first call clergy attrition in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and offers a strategy that a synod can use to support its first call pastors and deacons in developing greater resilience in their first call and continuing to pursue their vocation as ordained ministers. Section One examines the available data on ELCA candidacy and attrition as well as some of the challenges reported by first-call pastors, especially those in the millennial generation. Section Two surveys current education strategies employed by the ELCA and other denominations for the first two to three years of pastoral ministry. Section Three makes scriptural and theological case for continuing review of first call formation and proposes a theory to undergird formation today. Sections Four and Five offer a strategy for a three-year first call formation curriculum designed to assist first call pastors and deacons to develop more resilient ix leadership and find joy in God’s call to public ministry for as long as God intends. Tables, a Glossary and the four-part strategy and supporting material are found in the appendix.

Included in

Christianity Commons