Specialized Pastoral Ministry

Meeting the Needs of Others

Through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Specialized Pastoral Ministry programs, more than 580 ordained or 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

Educational resources

Devotions for prisoners

SPM educational events celebrate blessings, give insight into struggles, and explore the dangers of crossing these lines.

 Online Clinical Pastoral Education

Event presentations

zion conference

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

 Presentations  |  Video archives

Resources & Services


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


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


Caring Connections

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

 Read Caring Connections


Christus In Mundo Award

Rev. R. James Rivett and Rev. Dr. William W. Wagner received the Christus In Mundo Award in 2016. The award recognizes significant contributions in specialized pastoral ministry.

 Read story and view photos



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


Ecclesiastical Endorsement

The LCMS endorses its specialized pastoral ministers for field work through a special process involving application for endorsement, 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 (ESC) provide emotional and spiritual care and support to members of law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire services.

 Read brochure

 View video presentations

 Training resources

 Activity report form

 Personal Data Form


Informational Brochure

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

 Download brochure


Prison Ministry

Learn about events and resources available for ministry to those in prison.

 Prison and Jail Ministry brochure

 Guidelines for Celebration of Holy Baptism in a Correctional Setting

 Purchase “Prison and Jail Ministry Handbook” from thebookpatch.com

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

 Freed in Christ Bible Study: Participant Guide

 Freed in Christ Bible Study: Leader Guide

 District Coordinators



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

 Learn more and apply


Verbatim Outline

This 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



Rev. Joel Hempel, Director

  Contact Ministry

  Facebook Page




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 – LCMS News & Information
A Pastoral Touch – December 2017 Newsletter
Wednesday, December 20, 2017 4:50:10 PM

A Pastoral Touch – August 2017 Newsletter
Friday, August 11, 2017 4:39:18 PM

Partnership provides respite after disasters
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 11:23:05 AM

 View Archives


 View more LCMS events

 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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