Pre-Ministry Studies at Luther College

Feature - College Ministries - Candlelight Service

I came to Luther because of the wide variety of opportunities for me to learn more about the Church's history and other world religions. Luther is not only a place to learn about the early Church's theology, but to develop your own. Alongside professors and my peers, I have been pushed to expand my faith and academic understanding of religion.

Carla Hoppe '18

Luther College has been a leader in preparing its graduates to serve faith communities across the country and the world. In the last decade alone, over 100 Luther alumni have attended seminaries within the college’s denominational body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and many more have studied in other denominational seminaries and divinity schools. Luther alumni have also participated in service and volunteer programs across the world, including the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission Program and Lutheran Volunteer Corps.

The Department of Religion will work closely with you to pursue your vocational interests in ordained parish ministry, youth ministry, chaplaincy, Christian education, or pastoral counseling. 

The following are common questions about pre-ministry studies at Luther College:

What experience do religion professors have in helping students prepare for seminary and for religious vocations?

The religion faculty has significant experience in helping students prepare for seminary studies and for careers as religious professionals. Many of our faculty members have experience teaching in seminaries and divinity schools, and several are also ordained clergy with experience in the parish. The combined experience of our faculty members enables us to provide excellent mentoring if you are interested in pursuing seminary studies and a variety of religious vocations.

Is a major or minor in religion required for pre-ministry students?

A religion major or minor is not a requirement for admission to most seminaries or divinity schools. However, many students who graduate from our religion program later tell us that their coursework at Luther gave them a much-needed foundation upon which to build in seminary or divinity school. Our graduates also appreciate the opportunity they had at Luther to take courses in multiple religious traditions, particularly since courses in traditions beyond Christianity are not always offered in denominational seminaries.

Does the Department of Religion recommend certain courses for pre-ministry students? 

We believe that all of the courses taught in our department are beneficial if you intend to enter seminary. We offer a wide array of courses that will provide you with facility in biblical languages and literature as well as knowledge of the history and theology of Christian traditions. The department will also work in conjunction with the Luther College Career Center and College Ministries to help you set up internships in churches and other religious organizations. These internships prove invaluable in assisting Luther students in discerning their callings.

In addition to courses in Christian traditions, the department will provide you with the opportunity to gain a level of competency in many other religious traditions, something that is not always possible in denominational seminaries. Our professors teach survey and advanced courses in Judaism, Islam, East Asian religions, and South Asian religions. These courses go a long way toward preparing students to serve as leaders and facilitators in interreligious dialogue and in building bridges between and among many different religious traditions in a globalized, pluralistic world.

What if I'm interested in children, youth, or family ministry?

We have many alumni who go on to serve with distinction as youth leaders in congregations and in other settings such as camping ministries. Luther offers a sound academic preparation and a wide array of opportunities for developing and practicing leadership skills that you can apply to ministry with children, youth, or families.

The Department of Religion offers a broad program in the academic study of religion that will help prepare you for a variety of vocations in ministry. If you are interested in children, youth, or family ministry, you will have the opportunity to work with an advisor to select appropriate courses and to explore internships that will assist with your vocational discernment and preparation.

Who should I speak with if I wish to explore the possibility of seminary and to plan an appropriate course of study? 

Our pre-ministry coordinator, Professor Kristin Swanson, can provide you information on the many seminaries and divinity schools our graduates have gone on to attend. In addition, any faculty member in the department, in consultation with your advisor, can help devise a course of study in preparation for seminary. Interested students are also encouraged to engage in ongoing conversations with any of the college pastors or the Roman Catholic chaplain in College Ministries, each of whom has substantial experience both in the parish and in working with pre-ministry students. Finally, College Ministries will provide you with plenty of opportunities to gain hands-on leadership experience through volunteer work, work study, and a broad spectrum of ministry experiences and leadership opportunities.

Which seminaries or divinity schools are the most common destinations for Luther graduates?

Our graduates have gone on to study at seminaries and divinity schools near and far. Many Luther alumni have attended ELCA institutions such as Luther Seminary, The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, and United Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia. Others have studied at institutions not affiliated with the ELCA, including Harvard Divinity School, the University of Chicago Divinity School, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary.

Financial Assistance Available

Luther College offers students considering ministry financial assistance in several ways:

  • Seminary Visit Travel Funds
  • Funds for Unpaid Internships

For details about seminary visit travel funds and funds for unpaid internships, contact College Ministries.