Discerning the Call to Ordained Ministry
M.Div. Wartburg Seminary | B.A. Wartburg College

The Accelerated Ministry Program for ordained ministry is designed to reduce the time and cost to become a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor. Normally, this process takes eight years total, but this program allows the student to finish in six, with three years for each degree. The program looks like this:

  • Bachelor of Arts at Wartburg College in Waverly      
    (one term using Wartburg Seminary’s digital learning platform)
  • Master of Divinity at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque      
    (includes 18-month internship)

The internship component is required by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for ordination. The Collaborative Learning Model of Wartburg Seminary is an innovative approach to delivering theological education. Students are taught by seminary faculty, trained supervisors, and mentors in a local congregation. 

Special Scholarships

Students selected for this program will receive special scholarships provided by grants and generous donors for a portion of their undergraduate and graduate program tuition.

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Click above to see a video describing the Accelerated Ministry Program. The Rev. Dr. Kristin Wendland is an alumna of both Wartburg College and a Lutheran seminary, and was a pastor in a congregation before earning her doctoral degree. She is now back at Wartburg College as an associate professor of religion and helps advise students in the accelerated program.

From the moment students express interest in the program, we begin to support their discernment. If God is calling them to serve in a way other than ordained ministry, they will still graduate from Wartburg on time.

When you enter the program, you’ll have the support of Wartburg College faculty, staff and fellow students to help you navigate the discernment process:

One-on-one mentoring with an ordained minister, to help you know the Holy Spirit’s leading and God’s call in your life.

Connect with other students in the program: Monthly cohort activities, including discernment retreats, devotions, enneagram workshop, and more!

Experiential learning opportunities: Coursework will include short-term internships at area congregations, and leadership in Spiritual Life & Campus Ministry. 

If God is calling you to serve in a way other than ordained ministry, you will still graduate from Wartburg College on time.

There is no one path to becoming a Lutheran minister. In your undergraduate studies, you can study in a variety of subjects in addition to religion. We will work with you to individualize your courses to meet your goals and the program requirements. You can also participate in athletics, music, travel opportunities, and student organizations as you discover your passions. 

Curriculum Sample

Year 1:

  • Inquiry Studies
  • English Comp 
  • Phys Ed
  • Oral Communication
  • Math/Log
  • Science
  • Humanities
  • Religion 
  • Major credits
  • Elective May Term course

Year 2:

  • Inquiry Studies (Diversity)
  • Social Science
  • Foreign Language
  • Science 
  • Major credits
  • Elective May Term course

Year 3:

  • Religion
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Capstone
  • Major credits
  • + 2-3 Seminary courses
  • Elective May Term course

What’s the motivation for this program?

  • We believe God is calling us to encourage young men and women to pursue a call to ordained ministry. This program will significantly reduce the cost and time to become a Pastor without compromising the quality of the preparation.
  • The ELCA (and other denominations) have a significant clergy shortage due to the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation of Pastors.
  • Wartburg College and Wartburg Seminary were founded when Wilhelm Loehe sent Georg Grossmann to the United States.

How is it possible to finish a bachelor’s degree and Master of Divinity degree in six years rather than eight?

  • We’ve streamlined the curriculum to reduce redundancies and have some classes count for both seminary and college credit.

Do you have to major in religion?

  • No. There are several different majors and minors students can choose from, including religion, political science, psychology, sociology, history, economics, art, English, business administration, and international relations.

Who is eligible for the program?

  • Students age 18 to 25 who are considering a call to ordained ministry and are admitted to Wartburg College.
  • Students will also need to be approved for entrance through the ELCA candidacy process or its equivalent in other denominations by the time they complete their bachelor’s degree. We will help guide them through this process.

What if a student enters the program but decides not to go on to seminary?

  • Students who decide they are not called to continue on to Seminary and/or are denied candidacy will still retain all their credits towards a BA at the college. They will not have to pay back any scholarship money.

How will students be able to discern whether they are called to ministry at such a young age?

  • There will be an intensive discernment and faith formation component while the students are at the college. Caring faculty and staff will help you with the discernment process.
  • Students will also participate in ministry leadership opportunities through Spiritual Life and Campus Ministry and/or congregations.

Will students save money through this program?

  • Yes! There are scholarships available to program participants in addition to the financial aid they will be receiving.
  • Getting a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in six years instead of eight also will be a major cost savings.
  • The final part of the program will be in a congregation with a pastor/mentor. Students will be part-time interns and finish their seminary classes. Because they’ll be getting paid during that time, there will be minimal debt incurred in this period.

Is this program just for Lutherans?

  • No! Students from other traditions are welcome as long as they are willing to attend an ELCA seminary and meet the entrance requirements for their denomination’s candidacy process.
Wartburg Seminary Logo

Wartburg Theological Seminary is one of seven theological schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Wartburg is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission and educates women and men to serve the church’s mission as ordained and lay leaders. Established in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1854, Wartburg Theological Seminary is in its 164th academic year. Wartburg College and Wartburg Seminary share a long history and collaborative working relationship that began with the mission outreach of Pastor Wilhelm Loehe in Neuendettelsau, Germany, in the 1850s. The values of this shared ethos come to expression in the respective histories of the two educational institutions. 

Kern Family Foundation Logo no white space

This program was made possible through a grant from the Kern Family Foundation, a Wisconsin-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1998 by Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern through the partial sale of their business, Generac Power Systems. More information can be found on their website,

Generous donors for decades have given financial support to students at Wartburg College who are studying to become ministers. Read about how O. Jay and Pat Tomson of Mason City have made challenge gifts specifically to the Wartburg Accelerated Ministry Program since the program’s start in 2018 to encourage others to give their support.

“There is an ever-present need for new pastors to fill the vacancies in our Lutheran parishes created by normal retirement of clergy,” said the Tomsons. “As the number of individuals graduating from our affiliated seminaries has continued downward there has become an obvious need to reverse this trend. Tuition and living costs associated with seven to eight years of formal education are expenses that are very onerous for candidates for a Master of Divinity degree and most often require assuming a significant amount of related debt.”

If you’d like to make a financial gift to aid the next generation of Lutheran clergy, please click the button below. 

First-year Accelerated Ministry Program student Bailey Erickson of Mason City was an assisting minister at Wartburg College’s Ash Wednesday service in February.

“There’s affirmation that this is what I’m supposed to be doing”

Ever since taking a tour, the Wartburg campus in Waverly has felt like home to Accelerated Ministry Program student Bailey Erickson. “Learning about ministry is what brings me joy. There’s affirmation that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” She also has opportunities to assist with worship at weekday chapel services, plays guitar with the Sanctuary worship band, and sings with Kantorei, a chamber choir. Click here to read her story

Sam Pfab and Ellie Nabholz meet in Cardinal Commons. Ellie is a student in the Wartburg Accelerated Ministry Program.

“I met my people through this program”

Learn how Accelerated Ministry Program student Ellie Nabholz felt welcome connected in her first year. Even during the pandemic, Ellie still experienced the camaraderie, mentoring and preparation that marks the first year of the program. “I like the close-knittedness that we have in the program, and not just among the first-year students.” Click here to read her story