Specialized Pastoral Ministry

Meeting the Needs of Others

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM) is the embodiment of the church’s commission to minister to persons with special needs.

Through the SPM program, 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.

SPM chaplains serve people who are ill, imprisoned, aging, troubled, conflicted, and isolated. 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.




How do chaplains serve?

Chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, and clinical pastoral education are united in the work of caring for broken souls through a listening ear, sharing of God’s eternal love in Christ, prayer, the Sacraments, and worship.

Those serving in Specialized Pastoral Ministry are intentionally missional in their ministry and at the same time are sensitive to the needs of hurting souls.

Those involved in SPM — whether in chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, or pastoral clinical education — encounter people in the midst of everyday settings as they bear witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Those in SPM reach out to people in their deepest need at some of the most vulnerable moments of life. These situations could help someone suffering in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Illnesses and accidents
  • Quality of life during palliative care and hospice care
  • Disabilities
  • Caregiver fatigue
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Low self-worth
  • Elder care
  • Mental health struggles
  • Justice, forgiveness, and interpreting God’s love
  • Spiritual and life renewal
  • Substance abuse
  • First responder stress
  • Disaster recovery trauma



Where do chaplains serve?

In touching so many lives at so many points of mission, SPM takes place in diverse, specialized, and geographical locations.

Settings for these ministries include:

  • Hospitals and health care facilities
  • Long term care facilities
  • Hospice
  • Mental health facilities
  • Corrections/prisons
  • Pastoral counseling
  • Clinical education
  • Rehabilitation medicine
  • Substance Abuse
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Law enforcement
  • Fire and rescue agencies
  • LCMS Disaster Response
  • Workplaces



Who can be an SPM chaplain?

SPM clinical educators train and equip ministers to serve in specialized settings. The nature and design of ministry varies with the specialty and setting of human care.

  • Ordained and commissioned persons are eligible to serve in SPM.
  • Individuals serving in SPM also need to possess specific preparation and competencies related to the specialization.
  • All applicants must have no less than a Master's Degree in theology, followed by additional, specialized training. This specialized training consists of documented specialized education or supervised pastoral care and counseling education and training relevant to the particular ministry. The amount and kind of specialized training is determined by the particular SPM in which one wants to serve.
  • Ecclesiastical SPM Endorsement is normative and expected of those pursuing SPM. Certification in a particular professional organization may also be required. Ecclesiastical SPM Endorsement is achieved by meeting with an area consultation committee, which forwards recommendations to the SPM office.



Interested in becoming a chaplain?

Are you curious about ways you may be able to minister to people in a non-parish setting?

LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM) invites you to explore the vast opportunities to serve in this unique and important area.

Take an anonymous online survey and browse information to help you evaluate if God is leading you to this unique, important ministry.

Resources include:

The survey is one way to help identify suitable candidates for Specialized Pastoral/Spiritual Ministry. It is important to remember that no one, on paper, possesses the perfect set of personal characteristics for either parish ministry or SPM.


Prison and Jail Ministry

“Remember those who are in prison as though you are in prison with them.” (Heb. 13:3a)

* To receive free printed copies of these resources, contact LCMS Prison and Jail Ministry Coordinator Don Sundene at lcmsprisonministry@lcms.org or 888-843-5267.

Free Bibles available

Through a generous family, LCMS Prison and Jail Ministry is able to offer large-print Bibles at no charge. The Bible highlights appropriate passages for inmates and chaplains.

To receive one or more free Bibles, contact LCMS Prison and Jail Ministry Coordinator Don Sundene at lcmsprisonministry@lcms.org or 888-843-5267.

Bible studies


  • ‘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

Conference presentations

  • “Captive Souls ... Mercy for All” — View presentations and workshops from the prison/jail ministry conference, which was held in 2018 in St. Louis.
     Watch presentations

Contact information

  • Don Sundene
    Prison & Jail Ministry, Contract coordinator
    The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


Conference presentations

“Captive Souls ... Mercy for All”

View presentations and workshops from the prison/jail ministry conference, which was held in 2018 in St. Louis.

Zion XVI Conference

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

“Pastoral Care in Pluralistic Contexts”

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.


Emergency Services

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

Rev. Brian R. Heller
Specialized Pastoral Ministry


  Staff Directory

Contact the LCMS

Send a message    1-888-843-5267

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

LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry – December 2018 newsletter
Friday, December 21, 2018 9:22:38 AM

LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry – August 2018 newsletter
Monday, August 13, 2018 12:19:58 PM

LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry – April 2018 newsletter
Monday, April 23, 2018 6:05:37 AM

 View Archives

How to Help

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.

SPM Emails

Complete our easy sign-up form to receive free newsletters and other resources from LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry (Chaplaincy and Counseling).

Also, select other LCMS ministry topics to receive related information.

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The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Inc., including Mission Central (in Mapleton, Iowa), is an IRS registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity.

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 toward another aspect of ministry that aligns closely the contributor’s goals and values. 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 and in recognition of a more challenging economic and philanthropic/fundraising environment due to inflationary pressure, not more than 12.5 percent of any charitable contribution will be allocated to administering gifts and communicating with contributors (compared to a not-more-than ceiling of 10.5 percent the previous fiscal year). Contributions received and accepted by the LCMS are deemed to be in agreement with this statement.

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