Specialized Pastoral Ministry

Meeting the Needs of Others

Through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Specialized Pastoral Ministry programs, more than 580 ordained pastors as well as commissioned men and women receive training to serve as institutional and emergency services chaplains, pastoral counselors and clinical pastoral educators.

These professional church workers offer comprehensive service that includes Word or Word and Sacrament ministry, counseling, compassionate care and contextual education for specialized pastoral ministries.

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  • Chaplains work in institutions such as:

    • Hospitals

    • Prisons

    • Hospices

    • Retirement homes

    • Homes for people who are physically and mentally challenged


    Chaplains work in Emergency Services Chaplaincy such as:

    • Law enforcement

    • Fire fighting


    Chaplains work in Disaster Response


    Pastoral counselors work one-on-one or in small groups in:

    • Clinics

    • Private practices

    • Counseling centers

    • Congregations


    Specialized Pastoral Ministry programs address human concerns in multiple settings:

    • Self-worth in later years (long-term care facilities)

    • Lifestyle changes (general health care facilities)

    • Values and meaning in life (mental health care centers)

    • Justice, forgiveness and interpreting God's love (correctional institutions

    • Direction for life renewal (pastoral counseling settings)

    • Quality of life at life's end (hospices)

    • Spiritual renewal (substance abuse and counseling centers)

    • Maximum spiritual potential for individuals (people with disabilities)

    • Crisis response (workplace, fire/police headquarters)

    • Disaster trauma services (through congregations or other institutions following an emergency)


    Training and equipping ministers to serve in various, specialized settings, clinical educators:

    • Assist students in applying their theology clearly and meaningfully

    • Teach skills which equip ministers to provide counseling and pastoral care to people who are suffering and/or are in crisis

    • Help students become aware of the grace and strength they have by the power and mercy of the Holy Spirit to keep themselves out of God's healing way

Are you suited for SPM?

Specialized Pastoral Ministry

LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry invites you to explore opportunities to serve God’s people in a non-parish setting. Take an anonymous online survey and browse information to help you evaluate if God is leading you to this unique, important ministry.

 Explore opportunities

Disaster Response

Disaster Response Chaplaincy

LCMS Disaster Response chaplains provide support and resources to congregations who are providing mercy to their members and community. Discover how to receive LCMS-recognized training and credentialing to minister to those suffering from disaster.

 View brochure



Zion XVII Conference

With much surprise and disappointment, Specialized Pastoral Ministry regrets to inform you that the Zion XVII Conference has been canceled.

Please note that the LCMS SPM recipients of the Christus In Mundo Award will still be recognized. This will take place at the LCMS International Center on a date yet to be determined.


SPM Brochure

Learn about the Specialized Pastoral Ministry and Clinical Education program and its requirements.

 Download brochure


Call Process

Specialized pastoral ministers interested in receiving a call from the LCMS Board for National Mission should follow this process.

 Download info sheet

 Code of Ethics


Ecclesiastical Endorsement

The LCMS endorses its specialized pastoral ministers for field work through a process involving an endorsement application, continuing education, peer reviews and annual reports.

 Get started

 Annual Report Form

 Peer Review description

 Code of Ethics

 Personal Data Form


Emergency Services Chaplaincy

Emergency services chaplains provide emotional and spiritual care to members of law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire services.

 Read brochure

 View video presentations

 Training resources

 Activity report form

 Personal Data Form



Eligible ordained and commissioned individuals seeking ecclesiastical endorsement and certification/credentialing may apply for a scholarship.

 Learn more and apply


‘Not Forgotten — The Story of Jack Baird’

While feeling alone and hopeless in prison, Jack Baird heard God’s Word from Pastor Steve Waterman and a prison ministry group. Baird accepted Christ and was baptized in prison. 

 Watch video

Prison Ministry

Resources and events are available to help in ministering to those in prison.

 Prison and Jail Ministry brochure

 Grant Request Form — LCMS Jump Start Prison and Jail Ministry

 Guidelines for Celebration of Holy Baptism in a Correctional Setting

 Purchase “Prison and Jail Ministry Handbook” (revised 2018, lulu.com)

 Devotions: “Prisoner’s Reflections: Meditations for Prisoners”

 Freed in Christ Bible Study: Participant Guide

 Freed in Christ Bible Study: Leader Guide

 District Coordinators


Prison/Jail Ministry Conference

View presentations and workshops from the “Captive Souls ... Mercy for All” conference, which met Aug. 17-18, 2018, in St. Louis.

 Watch presentations



Prisoner’s Reflections: Meditations for Prisoners is a collection of devotions written by Thomas Bird, a Lutheran Christian who was in prison for many years.

 Download devotions


Zion XVI Conference Presentations

The Zion XVI Conference focused on the importance of chaplaincy, pastoral counseling and clinical pastoral education in the Lutheran church.

 Presentations  |  Video archives


“Pastoral Care in Pluralistic Contexts” Conference

Rev. Dr. Philip Kuehnert and Rev. Lee Joesten made presentations at a “Pastoral Care in Pluralistic Contexts” conference, and Rev. Russell Helbig led Bible Study.

 Listen to presentations


Verbatim Outline

A template is provided to guide specialized pastoral ministers through contacting those in need, and the outline helps document visits for peer and/or supervisor review.

 Download outline


Caring Connections

Caring Connections is an inter-Lutheran journal for practitioners and teachers of pastoral care counseling.

 Read Caring Connections



Rev. Robert Zagore
Executive Director, Office of National Mission


  Staff Directory

Contact the LCMS

Send a message    888-843-5267

Ministry Overview

Specialized Pastoral Ministry trains and endorses LCMS ministers to serve people who are ill, imprisoned, aging, troubled, conflicted and isolated.

Download information sheet

Recent Articles & Stories

Specialized Pastoral Ministry – Reporter
Obituary: Rev. Dr. James Rivett, former coordinator of LCMS Prison Ministry
Tuesday, August 25, 2020 10:48:52 AM

Still time to register for April ‘Making Disciples for Life’ conference
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 2:29:51 PM

McDaniels, Wurster honored with Christus in Mundo award
Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:44:56 PM

 View Archives

 Stay up-to-date

A Pastoral Touch provides opportunities for service, important announcements and a quarterly pastoral letter from the LCMS Office of Specialized Pastoral Ministry.

Sign up to receive A Pastoral Touch and other newsletters in your myLCMS profile.

Read A Pastoral Touch Archives


You can help SPM

Your gift for Specialized Pastoral Ministry supplies materials and focused resources to LCMS ordained and commissioned workers serving as chaplains, counselors and educators in places like hospitals, prisons, retirement homes and long-term care centers for the elderly and disabled.

Gifts also support the recruitment, certification (endorsement) and training scholarships for potential SPM clergy.

Give Now

Give by mail

To make a donation by mail, make a check payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” or “LCMS.”

Write “Specialized Pastoral Ministry” or “SPM” on the memo line of your check or on an enclosed note, and send to:

  • The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
    Mission Advancement
    P.O. Box 66861
    St. Louis, MO 63166-6861

Give by phone

To make a credit card gift over the phone, you can call the LCMS toll-free gift line between 8 a.m. and 4:10 p.m. Central time.

  • 888-930-4438


Contact LCMS Mission Advancement if you have questions or want to discuss the impact you can have on the LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry through your Christian giving.

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A contribution designated (restricted) for a specific purpose when accepted, will be used only to fund expenses related to that purpose. Occasionally, we may receive more in contributions for a particular purpose than can be wisely applied to it in the foreseeable future or the purpose may cease to be feasible. In these situations, the LCMS will make reasonable attempts to contact contributors to apply their contribution differently. If a contributor cannot be contacted, the LCMS will use the gift to meet a similar pressing need that most closely matches the contributor's original intent. Consistent with Synod Board policy, no more than 13.5 percent of a charitable contribution may be allocated to administering gifts and communicating with contributors. Contributions received and accepted by the LCMS are deemed to be in agreement with this statement.

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