The synod authorized lay ministry (SALM) program trains and supports laypeople to provide worship and community care in their congregation when rostered leadership is not a viable option.
The ELCA recognizes that certain congregations remain vital despite — by reason of geography, economics, and/or otherwise unique factors — being unable to access or support the ministry of even a part-time ordained ELCA pastor or pastor from one of our full communion partners. In such circumstances, the synod bishop and SALM Board may consider, together with the congregational council, the possibility of synod authorized lay ministry. If a leader (or small team of leaders) from within the congregation is identified as having potential and a sense of call for ministry as a SALM, the synod may help equip them for the congregational-based ministries of preaching, sacramental and worship leadership, Bible study, visitation, spiritual growth, and, outreach.
SALMs are raised up from within a congregation and their authorization by the synod bishop to preside at the sacraments is specific to that congregation. Their training includes participation in the Oregon Synod’s Lay School of Theology courses with supplemental integrative assignments, as well as additional training in preaching and presiding at Holy Communion. SALMs are mentored by an ordained pastor and reauthorized annually by the synod bishop in consultation with the SALM Board. These courses and mentoring relationships are intended to support SALMs and honor the meaningful challenges that come with the role.
SALMs are not rostered ministers (i.e. pastors or deacons); however, SALMs do share some of the same responsibilities as rostered ministers and are viewed as faith leaders in their communities. Therefore, the assessment, preparation, authorization, and support for the SALM role is informed by the candidacy process for rostered ministers. It is not as extensive as the training and candidacy process for rostered ministers, but it is facilitated and undertaken with similar seriousness.