Vicar program a blessing to more than just Vicars

St. Paul’s, Columbus, Ohio, has been participating in Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s vicar program for almost 50 years. The vicar program allows third-year seminary students to spend a year studying at a WELS congregation. Vicars preach, lead worship, teach catechism and Bible classes, lead and attend various church meetings, and visit hospital patients and shut-ins, all under the supervision and with the support of the congregation’s pastor. 

At St. Paul’s, support for the vicar program is strong. Hear firsthand from those involved:


“The congregation has grown to enjoy watching young men come in unsure of themselves, in many cases, then see them grow and mature in different areas just in time to return to the seminary for their final year. The vicar program has also been a great help for the pastors. The vicars provide assistance so that more work can be done for the congregation.

“Personally, I have been blessed to work with young men who get me back to the basics. Having been out for some time now, you tend to let some things go by the wayside. Having to check their preparation for sermon writing has kept me focused on my own practice.”


“My husband and I feel it is a privilege for St. Paul’s to be able to supplement the years of formal instruction these men have had with the sort of real world, interpersonal experiences that will let them reach people where they are spiritually.

“Our vicars are usually in their mid 20s when they arrive at St. Paul’s, and with that youthfulness we think they bring a certain energy or zeal for doing the Lord’s work. They are excited to put their training into practice, and they work tirelessly to serve and to improve their service.

“One of the things we appreciate the most from our vicars, on a personal level, is the fine role model they represent to our kids. In fact, one day while driving around on errands, I asked my son who he would most like to be like. I fully expected him to say he’d like to be like his favorite athlete or his uncle, typical teen answers. Instead, he named a vicar who served at St. Paul’s that our family became very close to. Coming from a teen, that is quite a test-ament to the impact these young men have on our kids!”


“On call day, you feel the nervous excitement and anticipation all the previous vicars and pastors talk about . . . yeah, words are an understatement . . . especially when your last name starts with a ‘Z.’ At last I heard my name, followed by ‘St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Columbus, Ohio,’ and my heart was torn. In the back of my mind, I had been hoping for somewhere exotic, somewhere warm, somewhere not in a big city. I met with Pastor Sims right after the call service, and somehow I must have not been in the right frame of mind, because all I could remember from meeting him was how worried I was.

“And then I moved here with my amazing wife, Caitlin. I came in with the attitude, ‘Well . . . if all else fails, at least God has blessed me with her.’

“He must have thought that was funny, because I’ve been blessed beyond belief here at St. Paul’s.

“The members here are unbelievably supportive. I don’t know if there’s yet been a weekend where we haven’t been invited to do something! And there isn’t a better pastoral mentor in WELS than Pastor Sims. The insights I’ve learned from him together with his attitude toward learning together has been a huge part of what has made this year the best year of my life.

“The whole experience has been such a blessing. If you’re looking for one phrase that sums up vicar year, I believe my classmate and friend Daniel Slaughter, who is serving as a vicar down in southern Columbus (Grove City), summed up vicar year the best when he said, ‘I went into this vicar program thinking about how I will be able to serve the members of my church. It turns out that the members have been serving me more than I could ever possibly dream of serving them.’ ”

Learn more about the vicar program, including how some are placed in home mission settings, in the April edition of WELS Connection.


Volume 102, Number 4
Issue: April 2015

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