Q. I was a certified (SAM, PLM, AIM, Diaconal) minister in my previous denomination. Can I get any credit for my previous work?
A. We give you all the credit in the world for having completed a ministry training program in your previous denomination. However, we believe that whatever training you have already received bears no resemblance to our program. Those of us who make up the BTRA Board and faculty were formerly pastors and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Through some miracle of God’s providence we managed to graduate from seminary with our respect for the reliability of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions intact. Throughout our years in parish ministry we discovered that most of what our liberal professors had taught us was utterly useless in the real life practical world of the parish. In fact, in a discussion with a colleague over liberal Biblical scholarship I said, “I reject this stuff because it kills faith!”
You see, it’s not that we don’t think you probably learned some valuable things in your previous training. It’s just that we have discovered that the parish ministry training programs of our previous denomination were inconsistent from synod to synod. We have already had some students who were graduates of these programs. We discovered there were some gaping holes in their training. In one case a recent S.A.M. graduate did not even know how many sacraments there were. (Seriously!)
We believe there are some non-negotiable skills and reading that make a good parish pastor. When we extend the right hand of fellowship and offer to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and defend your right to be a parish pastor we need to know a few things about your training.
For example: Did your previous training teach you the historic and scientific reliability of scripture? Did your previous training include a study of the Lutheran Reformation and the Book of Concord? Have you ever read Walther’s “The proper distinction between Law and Gospel” with regard to preparing your sermons each week. Did they teach you how to do a wedding, funeral, baptism, or other special services? Do you feel absolutely ready to take on the ministry of an entire small town parish on your own?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO! Then, we believe that you should enroll in our entire course of study.
Please understand that those of us who make up LCMC have seen the devastation caused by pastors and ministers who really don’t believe in the Scriptures or understand the Lutheran Confessions. What BTRA is, in a way, is a 2 year colloquy. It is a way for us to truly get to know the hearts of our students so that we can unreservedly recommend them for call to a parish.
Now, If you truly feel you are already adequately prepared to conduct parish ministry we recommend that you contact the LCMC Ministry Board or the Colloquy Committee of one of the Districts listed on the LCMC website and schedule an interview for yourself. If they certify you then you may be placed on the available for call list. But they may not help you to find a call.
What we offer you is more than just a basic education in the essentials of parish ministry. We are inviting you to become a part of collegial fellowship of parish pastors that challenge and support one another in the quest for better ministry.
When you study with one of us you not only gain the knowledge of that subject from our ministry perspective, but you also gain an advocate in the world of ministry. Not only that, you also become a member of the growing national fellowship of our students. This network will provide you with the awareness of congregations that may be in need of someone just like you!
Q. How long does this course of study take?
A. How fast can you read?
No, seriously, each class should take about a minimum of 3 months to complete. However, we have decided that since each of our students is dealing with a unique set of life circumstances we need to be flexible enough to allow you to work at your own pace.
Our Worship skills course is being redesigned to include a unit which corresponds to each of the other 5 classes. Therefore, you are, in effect, always enrolled in two of our classes simultaneously. We expect that 6 months should be enough time for even the plodders to finish a class. But with special permission we may grant you a longer time yet.
So I would say that with breaks between classes for registration/book purchases, etc. you could expect to finish our course in a minimum of 20-24 months and a maximum of 5 years.
Q. What kind of Degree do you offer?
A. We offer several Degrees
We offer a degree of common sense that is greatly lacking in this world today. We offer a degree of practical experience that is second to none. We even offer a degree of friendship and partnership in the Gospel for a lifetime. However, we do not offer an Academic Degree.
We have come to realize that’s really not what most churches are looking for today. We are looking for people with servant hearts that are willing to go to small town and rural communities where the salary they are able to offer wouldn’t make the payments on a Seminary Grad student's loans.
In the case of larger congregations, we are looking for parishioners who see that their full time pastor could use some regular help but realize your congregation can only afford one full time pastor.
In each of these cases you don’t need an academic degree….You simply need a heart for Jesus.
In our National Association, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), we are committed to promoting the priesthood of ALL believers. Therefore, our congregations are free to call whomever they desire to serve as their pastor…even Great-Aunt Gertrude if they think she preaches a great sermon! We at BTRA believe that every Christian is ordained in their baptism and called to a lifetime of unique ministry based on their personal Spiritual Gifts. Now that’s not to say just anyone can be a pastor. There are some specialized skills that you should acquire and practice. We believe in Seminary education. That’s why all of us went to Seminary. However, we have come to believe that such advanced education may have become an unaffordable luxury for many. That’s why we created this program. Now, those of you who are sensing a desire to move into the office of public parish ministry may now answer that call without depleting your 401K or selling your house. We think that is worth more than a bunch of letters after your name. If that is really important to you there are a number of wonderful seminaries in this country. They will be happy to charge you 20x our tuition in exchange for those letters. But they won’t give you any more opportunity to do ministry.
Q. I think I want to enroll. What do I do?
A. When you fill out the Contact Us form you will receive a communication from the Registrar. Any questions you have will be answered and the enrollment process will be explained. You will be sent an application and Congregational Endorsement form, or you may copy them from the BTRA Application page of this site.
The Congregational Endorsement assures the board that you will have the support of both your congregation and your pastor. If you are currently serving in the position of lay pastor because your congregation has no pastor, you may have to seek out a pastor in your area who will agree to serve as a mentor as you pursue your studies. If this doesn't seem possible, please discuss alternatives with one of the instructors. This is necessary because, as a student, you will find it helpful to have someone near for face to face discussions. The initial plan was for BTRA instructors to serve as mentors and meet with students periodically, but this has proven to be costly and often very difficult since the Academy has students from all over the country. The Academy has been using the web cam with Skype and WebEx for communicating and these tools will be invaluable to our students, too.
Also, the annual convention of LCMC is a wonderful place to get to know your instructors. In 2010 BTRA hosted a mini gathering for Board, Instructors, and students at one of the hotels. It was so successful that it will be continued at future gatherings.
Instructions for returning your application and fee are included in the application. If you have further questions prior to applying, please contact the Registrar and she can direct you to one of our pastor/instructors.
Registrar is: Winifred Churchill Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 507-752-7586
Q. I'm enrolled—now what?
Your first course is the Old Testament. Pastor Kent Wallace will contact you and give you the information you will need to get started. You will, ideally, want to plan regular time to devote to the required reading and writing involved.
As you progress through each course, you can expect some communication from the Recorder. In general your instructor will keep the Recorder comprised of your progress. If circumstances make it necessary for you to move more slowly or even take some time off, the Recorder will keep in touch.
We want to keep an open line of communication and provide whatever support you may need. As you complete each course you will receive instructions on the next course and its instructor. In most cases the instructor will contact you, however, many courses are completely on line so you can often begin as soon as you receive the needed access.
Each new course requires that the $500.00 fee be paid before you begin unless other arrangements have been made. This fee is to be sent to:
Beyond The River Academy Atten: Marceil Kleine 602 Second St. North Swea City, IA 50590