School for Lay Ministry

School-for-Lay-Ministry-logo-250x306The Northwestern Minnesota Synod’s School for Lay Ministry’s purpose is to provide Adult Christian Education in the areas of Worship, Old and New Testament, Lutheran Confessions, Pastoral Care, and Church History. To do this, we draw on the gifts of seminary professors, those who serve in specialized ministries, and others.

What is expected? While some of the participants of the program do fill in for pastors or serve congregations in other ways, that is not the expectation. Many come to learn more and grow in their faith. We would love to see you there!


And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.
Romans 12:1-2

We believe in the life-long calling to live out our baptismal covenant, to learn, to grow, to serve, and to love one another. Our synods’ school for lay ministry embraces the vital ministry of helping God’s people to discern and use their gifts with confidence within their families, friends, congregations, and communities.

We seek to deepen the understanding of theologically-curious laity; and empower lay people to serve their congregations as life-long learners, educators, friendly visitors to those in need, evangelists, lay preachers, worship leaders, musicians, ministers of prayer, and other pathways to serving God and neighbor.


School-for-Lay-Ministry-4-275x300The present program originated in the western North Dakota District, ALC, in the 1980s. It was a program to equip lay people to preach where ordained people were unavailable. Neighboring synods with similar needs founded similar programs. Parishes in Northwestern Minnesota heard about this opportunity and immediately after the formation of the ELCA in 1988, the NWMN synod established a school of lay ministry. It was called the “GIFTS” program.

In 2011, the Northwestern Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota synods joined together to share and grow this ministry. In addition to supporting lay preaching, the program now provides education for lay people for their own purposes and edification, as well as equips lay people to serve their neighbors as Bible study leaders, Sunday School teachers, parish visitors, music leaders, and in many other ways.

Certificate Program

School-for-Lay-Ministry-1-300x218Completion of the certificate program is not necessarily the goal of people who attend School for Lay Ministry classes. If a participant wishes to work toward a certificate, they must complete of all six categories required for eligibility (Old Testament, New Testament, Worship and Liturgy, Pastoral Care, Lutheran Confessions, and Church History). They must also attend at least one session of a Luther Seminary’s School for Lay Ministry classes, which can help fulfill one curriculum category requirement.

People often continue attending classes after they obtain a certificate as part of their life-long learning to live out their baptismal covenant.

Students should keep track of their own credits, and when they have completed the 6 course categories and seminary session, they can submit a request to the School of Lay Ministry Advisory Committee for approval to receive a certificate. The certificate grants no special privileges.

Download a helpful worksheet to keep track of completed classes: PDF | DOCX


Classes are offered at a central location three times per year. Courses are usually offered in October, February, and April. Courses are usually held from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on a Saturday.

School-for-Lay-Ministry-2-300x216Over a two year period, courses are offered in:

  1. Old Testament
  2. New Testament
  3. Worship and Liturgy
  4. Pastoral Care
  5. Lutheran Confessions
  6. Church History

To teach these classes, we draw on the gifts of seminary professors, those who serve in specialized ministries, and others.

2016-2017 Schedule

October 8, 2016

Theologizing over Rubble: Jeremiah, Pain, and Promise
Lutheran Social Services Building, Fargo, ND

This course is a study of the book of Jeremiah that highlights its function as a theological response to the compounded traumas of exile, loss of land and sovereignty, and theological disorientation. Issues related to Jeremiah’s historical and social dimensions along with its usefulness in the construction of Christian identity and vocation are given priority.

March 4, 2017

Creating Worship Vitality in Any Setting
Lutheran Social Services Building, Fargo, ND

“What are the essential components that bring life – vitality – to worship? How does this differ based on context, history, and congregation size? What can leaders do to enhance both the meaning and the experience of worship?

Jay Beech will convene a conversation with participants around these questions. He will report on the early findings of the Study and Enrichment of Worship and Music in Small-Member Congregations currently being conducted by The Center for Worship & Music Studies in six synods of Region 3 – ELCA. The day will also include interviews with leaders from congregations of various sizes in Eastern North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota Synods that experience vibrant and life-giving worship.

April 22, 2017

Bereavement: Reaching out with Care and Healing
Lutheran Social Services Building, Fargo, ND

Pr. Gayle Bintliff recently retired as a parish pastor. Prior to her ordination in 2001, Pr. Gayle Bintliff served as Director of Lay Ministries at her home congregation in Williston, ND. She also worked as a hospice director and chaplain before becoming a full time seminary student in 1997. Pr. Gayle Bintliff thinks that one of the most important aspects of pastoral care can be summed up in two words: Pay Attention.


At present, the fee is $50 which includes morning refreshments and a noon meal.


If you or someone you know would like to participate in the certification program, download theSchool for Lay Ministry Program Application Form: PDF | DOCX Please fill out and mail to the NWMN Synod Office.

More Information

For more detailed information about the School for Lay Ministry, please download the School for Lay Ministry Brochure. Please print and share this brochure in your congregation or with people in whom you see the gifts and desire to be a part of this ministry.


School for Lay Ministry

C/O Northwestern Minnesota Synod
Concordia College
Moorhead, MN 56562

NWMN Synod Office: (218) 299-3019


Pastor Laurie Natwick

(218) 299-3019

Jerry Peterson

(218) 736-5515

Pastor Sue Koesterman

(701) 232-2574