Continuing Education

The Saint Paul Area Synod strives to provide affordable continuing education for leaders in all stages of their ministry. This includes annual, periodic and ongoing programming so that every rostered minister and deacon is always learning new skills and perspectives for serving the church. We draw on the rich, local resources of our metropolitan area as well as nationally recognized leaders and experts.

Bishop’s Theological Conference

The Bishop’s Theological Conference is typically held in October outside of the Twin Cities as a time for active rostered leaders to connect, relax and learn. Outside speakers lead us in topical and text studies for this multi-day event. Our 2019 conference featured Dr. Eric Barreto of Princeton Theological Seminary as the keynote speaker. The 2020 conference will be Oct. 11-13 at Cragun's Resort in the Brainerd Lakes Area.



The synod offers both spring and fall ministeriums for rostered leaders to gather for education and worship.


The 2019 spring ministerium focused on the cooperative relationship between pastors and deacons. View the photo gallery on Facebook.The 2020 spring ministerium, a blessing of vocation service, will be held April 7 at House of Prayer in Oakdale.


This 2019 fall offering, a joint event with the Minneapolis Area Synod, was held November 21 at Luther Seminary. Minneapolis Bishop Ann Svennungsen’s sermon addressed the call to move beyond fear and division in a world of many religions and world views. The sermon can be found at 15:35 in this video of the opening worship service.  Keynote speaker Dr. Rahuldeep Gill, tenured professor at California Lutheran University as well as the campus inter-religious strategist, addressed challenges for the Lutheran community in engaging in inter-religious relationships. He is a Sikh scholar and astute commentator on contemporary culture. Click here the video of Dr. Gill's address.

First Call Theological Education

For rostered leaders in the ELCA, First Call Theological Education (FCTE) is mandatory for the first three years. Our program seeks to encourage a balance between the development of peer and mentor relationships, a life of engagement in the synod and wider church, and a habit of lifelong learning. Participants, ministry sites and the synod sign a covenant to demonstrate our mutual commitment to your becoming a healthy, sustainable leader in the ELCA. Hear how FCTC has impacted the ministry of one recent participant. 


Lilly Grant Cohorts

In 2019, the synod applied for and was awarded a $375,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative. Our grant, “From the Center Outward,” is based on the idea that the healthiest, most sustainable ministry starts within. The grant will support new learning opportunities for the next five years. Three new cohorts will be offered starting in 2020:

  • Second Act Cohort – for rostered ministers in years four through ten of public ministry
  • Kubernesis Seminar – for rostered ministers who have gifts or interest in senior/executive leadership
  • Leaders of Color Cohort – for rostered ministers who are persons of color

The application process has been completed for the Kubernesis Seminar as well as for the first round of the Second Act cohort. Watch for details on the second round in 2021. Learn more.

Business 101

“They don’t teach you that in seminary, do they?” Business 101 half-day workshops are offered periodically to provide access to affordable learning about the nuts-and-bolts of church leadership. From reading budgets, to understanding your congregation’s legal liabilities, to effective staffing, these are designed to help you become more equipped to manage the life of your congregation well. Business 101 typically runs in the spring and the summer/fall. Stay tuned to synod communications for the next offering.

Boundaries Workshops & Book Groups

Boundaries education is required for all rostered ministers in the Saint Paul Area Synod at least once every five years. The initial day-long training includes foundational understandings of boundaries and power along with conversation on harassment, self-care, and the synod’s updated sexual misconduct policy.


Those who have previously participated in a Boundaries Workshop in our synod may renew their training requirement by participating in a Boundaries Book Group. Participants study The Integrity of the Body of Christ: Boundary Keeping as Shared Responsibility by Arden Mahlberg and Craig Nessen. Pre-reading and attendance at two meetings are necessary to meet the requirement.

Learning Cohorts for Rostered Ministers

As a metro area synod, we have many opportunities to gather, and we do so often. But, however valuable a one-day workshop can be, a life in ministry is also replete with questions and demanded skills that need more time to develop. To help address this need, we offer several sustained small group studies of a critical question or aspect of ministry, designed to teach us and help us live further into our callings. The topics change frequently and we strive to offer opportunities for our leaders to learn with and from one another under the guidance of exceptional facilitators. Many of our learning cohorts are subsidized by the synod, a reflection of our commitment to providing ongoing access to the wealth of experience and resources already present in the Twin Cities.


Past cohort topics have included pastoral care for mental health, becoming an effective supervisor, stewardship, contemplative practices, reading women theologians, conflict and resilience, consensus building and more.

Pamoja 2020: A Congregational Leadership Summit

January 29-February 14, 2020

Building on the strong history of our Bega Kwa Bega relationship, a cohort of rostered ministers from across the synod is being formed to participate in a Congregational Leadership Summit in Iringa in February 2020 with fourteen of our peers from across the diocese and other partners in mission. In each of our contexts, God’s church is continuing to change and congregational leaders face significant challenges. Whether it be rapid growth and maturation in the ELCT or the necessity of re-engaging one’s community and neighbors in the ELCA, now – perhaps more than ever – we need each other and the wisdom and witness that one another brings. Over the course of a week, through mutual teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer, we will find ourselves on The Way together. This cohort is now full. Watch for photos and follow along on Facebook this February.



With questions or comments about any of these learning opportunities (including a suggestion for a topic or facilitator), contact Anna Marsh, executive assistant to the Bishop, at