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Pastoral Vacancy Guide

A pastoral vacancy presents unique challenges to a congregation. The resources listed and linked below seek to provide congregations and their members with information to help them navigate a vacancy and the process of calling of a new pastor.

The congregation will work closely with its district president its circuit pastor throughout the vacancy and calling process. Their primary point of contact will be the congregation's president.

Our North Atlantic District President is Pastor Michael Seifert. Your congregational president should contact him right away if your pastor announces the end of his service at your congregation.

Managing the vacancy

Announcing the vacancy

Typically the pastor will first announce the end of his service to the congregation's leadership. The leadership should confirm that the district president is informed as soon as possible. The pastor and leadership should be prepared to explain the next steps once the pastor publicly announces to the congregation. 

Pastoral care during the vacancy

The district president will assist the congregation in securing basic pastoral care during the vacancy. The high pastoral vacancy rate across our church body presents challenges here. Click here for details.

Education and encouragement

Our Forward in Christ magazine has published a four-part series entitled, The Lord Calls. Promoting and even printing these articles for your congregation will provide valuable information and encouragement.

The calling process

The pre-call meeting

The calling process begins with a pre-call meeting with the district president. He will lead an in-person meeting with the entire congregation at a time that facilitates maximum participation. At this roughly two-hour meeting he will present a Bible study on the divine call, explain the calling process, and discuss the congregation's particular needs and preferences regarding its next pastor. Everyone in the congregation is invited to fill out a survey before the pre-call meeting. Click here for details.

Preparing the call packet

Before the congregation extends a call, they will need to invest significant time in preparing a packet of information to send the pastor they call. It will include an introductory letter, a signed call form, information about the congregation, and details about compensation and benefits. This packet should be sent within twenty-four hours of the call meeting. Click here for details. 

The first call meeting

After the pre-call meeting, the congregation will schedule the first call meeting with the district president. It must be at least two weeks after the pre-call meeting. The district president will bring a "call list" of two to three candidates including basic biographical information, ministry experience, and self-assessments of their strengths and preferences. After discussion about the candidates and prayer, the congregation's voters will cast secret ballots until a candidate receives a majority. The congregation's president will notify the pastor-elect immediately by phone and send the call packet within twenty-four hours.

Over the next few weeks the congregation should be in regular contact with the pastor-elect as he deliberates the call. Click here for details.   

Subsequent call meetings

If the pastor-elect accepts the call, the congregation, in consultation with the incoming pastor and the district president, begins planning for the transition and installation.


If the pastor-elect declines the call, the congregation should contact the district president about drawing up a call list for another call meeting. The district president may have the circuit pastor or another pastor serve as his representative at subsequent call meetings. 


On average, congregations extend about ten calls until one is accepted. While averages can inform expectations, they are not predictions of any particular congregation's experience.   

Requesting a seminary graduate

Every May, graduates from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary make themselves available for assignment into the pastoral ministry. Congregations may request such an assignment through their district president. 

Welcoming your next pastor

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