If you want to learn more about ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarships, the eligibility criteria and the application process, you’ve come to the right place!


ELCA Fund for Leaders offers four types of scholarships:

  • Full-tuition scholarships provide full tuition to all recipients for their Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degrees. Recipients will receive funding for the equivalent of six full-time semesters (MDiv) or four full-time semesters (MA). Part-time study is allowed and Fund for leaders will work with the student and seminary on an appropriate payment schedule. Full time internship and clinical pastoral education are currently excluded. In cases where a student’s actual tuition is less than our scholarship, seminaries will apply any difference toward other costs, such as books and fees. Note that scholarship funds used to cover costs beyond tuition, books, and fees (such as room and board, insurance, etc.) will count as taxable income to students. Applications are completed and submitted online through ELCA GrantMaker. Once awarded, you will not need to reapply. The scholarship will be renewed automatically as long as the student remains in good standing with both the seminary and their candidacy process. Please see full list of eligibility criteria below.
  • Mission developer scholarships: Students are nominated by their seminary, in coordination with their synod bishop and Director for Evangelical Mission (DEM). These scholarships are one-year awards but are automatically renewable for additional years if the student remains eligible. Award amounts vary each year. Please see full list of eligibility criteria below. Note: Do not complete this application unless you have received an invitation to do so!
  • Federal Chaplaincy Ministries scholarships: These scholarships vary in value based on funds available and the number of students awarded scholarships each year. These are one-year awards and are intended for students attending an ELCA seminary and preparing for ministry as a military, Veterans Administration (VA) or federal prison chaplain. This scholarship is awarded through ELCA Federal Chaplaincy Ministries. Students may complete and submit an application online through ELCA GrantMaker. Please note: The scholarship has a variety of documents that require you to obtain signatures. These will be emailed to you when you register.
  • ELCA Fund for Leaders Synod or Congregation Scholarships: These scholarships are offered to ELCA seminary students by synods and congregations that have established a scholarship fund through Fund for Leaders. Do not complete this application unless you have received an invitation to do so. Students nominated by their synod submit an application online through ELCA GrantMaker.
  • TEEM Scholarships: The TEEM Scholarship is for all current ELCA seminary TEEM students and those who will begin the TEEM program this current fall semester, who are taking coursework. Please contact your ELCA seminary to inquire about being included as a TEEM recipient.

There are set periods of time each year during which ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship applications are accepted. Please note that applications — particularly applications for full-tuition scholarships — require multiple documents and may take several weeks to complete. Please begin early to allow time for submission!

For scholarships that will be awarded for the 2024-2025 academic year:

  • Full-tuition scholarships: Applications are accepted in ELCA GrantMaker from Dec. 1, 2023, to Feb. 23, 2024.
  • Mission developer scholarships: Applications from nominated students are accepted in ELCA GrantMaker from Dec. 1, 2023, through Feb. 2, 2024.
  • Federal Chaplaincy scholarships: Applications are accepted in ELCA GrantMaker from Feb. 12, 2024, through March 15, 2024.
  • Synod and congregation scholarships: Applications from nominated students are accepted in ELCA GrantMaker from May 15, 2024, through June 5, 2024.
  • TEEM scholarships: No application required. Contact your ELCA Seminary TEEM program director by September to be considered for this scholarship.

We seek people who are passionate about Jesus Christ, spiritually grounded, ecumenically oriented and committed to growing their leadership capacity in an increasingly complex world. Applicants must demonstrate outstanding leadership potential and be exceptionally gifted in ministry, innovation, creativity, and other qualities that will make them successful leaders for a changing church. All applicants must plan to be enrolled at an ELCA seminary during the coming academic year and must be pursuing rostered ministry in the ELCA. The following eligibility criteria apply for specific scholarship types:

  • Full-tuition scholarship candidates:
    • Must have been offered admission by at least one ELCA seminary, anticipate receiving an offer of admission by application due date or be an admitted student at an ELCA seminary.
    • Plan to enroll as a new, first-year ELCA seminary student in the fall of the coming academic year. Students who will have completed no more than one semester of seminary coursework by the start of the upcoming fall semester are also eligible to apply.
    • Are pursuing a Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree.
    • Are pursuing rostered ministry in the ELCA – Word and Sacrament or Word and Service.
    • Applicants must have begun the candidacy process in an ELCA synod. If applicants have not received a positive entrance decision at the time of application submission, the applicant’s synod bishop must give permission for FFL to consider their application. Scholarships are provisional until the applicant receives a positive entrance decision.
  • Those planning to pursue the following types of seminary programs ARE eligible to apply:
    • On campuus, hybrid or distance learning.
    • Master of Divinity (deacon or pastor candidates) or Master of Arts (deacon candidates) degree program.
  • Mission developer scholarship candidates:
    • Must be identified and nominated by their seminary in coordination with their synod bishop/DEM.
    • Must be a current student (2023-2024 academic year) at an ELCA seminary.
    • Must be pursuing a place on the ELCA roster as either a pastor or deacon.
    • Can be residential or non-residential students.
    • Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) program.
    • May have been awarded a FFL Synod or Congregation Scholarship.
  • Federal Chaplaincy scholarship candidates:
    • Must be attending an ELCA seminary.
    • Must be preparing for ministry as a military, Veterans Administration (VA) or federal prison chaplain and enrolling or enrolled as a Master of Divinity student at an ELCA seminary.
    • Military applicants must intend to pursue appointment as a chaplain candidate and a commissioned officer. VA hospital or prison chaplaincy applicants must have completed one unit of CPE.
    • Must be pursuing a place on the ELCA roster of Ministers of Word and Sacrament (pastors).

Synod or congregation scholarship and TEEM scholarship candidates:

Candidates for synod or congregation scholarships must be nominated. Not every synod has a Fund for Leaders scholarship to give away. We suggest reaching out to your synod to inquire about potential resources that may be available.

All TEEM candidates studying at an ELCA seminary are eligible to receive the yearly TEEM scholarship as long as they have coursework remaining to complete their program. Students who have completed all coursework and are working on other ordination requirements (such as CPE) are not eligible.

TEEM scholarship recipients are identified at the ELCA seminaries by the TEEM program director.


To remain eligible for Fund for Leaders scholarships, students must continue to be in good academic standing with their seminary and must be proceeding as expected with their candidacy committee. First-year full-tuition scholarship recipients must receive a positive entrance decision from their candidacy committee by the end of their first semester to continue to receive funding.


TEEM students are eligible for TEEM scholarships, Mission Developer scholarships and Synod or Congregation scholarships (amounts vary each year). They are not eligible for the Full-tuition Scholarship. Seminaries identify TEEM students for the TEEM scholarship. Mission Developer, Synod and Congregation scholarships require a nomination. Nominees are notified with an email containing application instructions.


For your application, you will be required to provide the following materials:

  • An essay (up to 5,000-character count, approximately 725 words) in which you describe your faith journey, to include the events and factors that formed your faith and nurtured your sense of call to public ministry. Your seminary admission essay may be used for this requirement provided that it does not exceed the 5,000-character count limit.
  • A video essay, no longer than five minutes, in which you respond to prompt questions provided with the application. After you upload this video to YouTube or a similar site, provide a direct link to your video in the application.
  • A copy of your most recent academic transcript (unofficial transcripts are acceptable).
  • Optional: A list of your volunteer experience from the last three to five years.
  • A copy of an offer-of-admission letter from at least one ELCA seminary, and preferably one from each seminary you are considering attending (Fund for Leaders scholarships may only be used at ELCA seminaries).
  • A PDF copy of your positive entrance decision from your synod of candidacy, if you have one.

Other supporting materials that are required for application but must be submitted separately by third parties include the following. (NOTE: The application deadline applies to these materials as well; please plan your time accordingly.)

  • Letters of recommendation from 1) an ELCA rostered minister and 2) a layperson who knows you and can speak about your leadership experience and potential. (Neither of these people may be relatives.) The application includes a downloadable form to give your letter writers, with instructions for them to submit their letters to FundforLeaders@elca.org on your behalf.
  • Candidacy verification form: To qualify for a Fund for Leaders scholarship, you must have either received a positive entrance decision or already begun the process of applying for candidacy. Whichever is the case, a candidacy verification form signed by your synod bishop is required. Please download the form from the application page, send it to your synod and request that the synod submit it to FundforLeaders@elca.org by the application deadline.

Each type of Fund for Leaders scholarship has its own selection process.

  • Full-tuition scholarships: Eligible students apply directly to the ELCA Fund for Leaders through ELCA GrantMaker. The Fund for Leaders convenes a selection committee composed of a representative cross section of the ELCA. The committee considers all application materials and makes scholarship selections.
  • Mission developer scholarships: Each ELCA seminary nominates up to three students each year. Nominated students apply through ELCA GrantMaker. A committee of ELCA Directors of Evangelical Mission reviews all completed applications. Synod Verification forms will be required.
  • Federal Chaplaincy scholarships: Students apply directly through ELCA GrantMaker. The ELCA Federal Chaplaincy Ministry convenes a selection committee to consider all application materials and make scholarship selections.
  • Synod or congregation and TEEM scholarships: Synods and congregations with ELCA Fund for Leaders endowment funds nominate candidates using processes determined by each synod or congregation. Nominated students apply through ELCA GrantMaker. Fund for Leaders staff verify student eligibility.
  • TEEM: All TEEM students verified as eligible by their seminary may receive this award.

Lutheran-year students are eligible for synod and congregational scholarships for the required coursework they complete at an ELCA seminary. You must be nominated to receive these scholarships, so please check with your synod to explore what resources are available. Students must have been accepted to an ELCA seminary as an affiliated student. Candidates from other Christian traditions using the TEEM pathway to fulfill requirements from their Theological Review Panel are also eligible for the TEEM scholarship.


Fund for Leaders scholarships can be used at any of the seven ELCA-affiliated seminaries. Recipients can transfer to another ELCA seminary and retain their scholarship. Fund for Leaders scholarships cannot be used at non-ELCA seminaries or divinity schools. The ELCA seminaries are:

  • Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
  • Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Chicago, Ill.
  • Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of Lenoir-Rhyne University, Columbia, S.C.
  • Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of California Lutheran University, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University, Columbus, Ohio
  • United Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg/Philadelphia, Penn.
  • Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa

Vocational discernment resources and more information about all seven ELCA seminaries can be found here.


Although Fund for Leaders awards are intended primarily to pay for tuition, books and fees, students who receive full-tuition support through their seminary or the Fund for Leaders may also receive Fund for Leaders synod, congregational, and/or Federal Chaplaincy Ministries scholarships to help with additional expenses. Note that scholarship funds used to cover costs beyond tuition, books and fees (such as room and board, insurance, etc.) may count as taxable income to students. Students receiving scholarships are encouraged to work with seminary financial aid offices to ensure there is a clear understanding of any tax implications of such scholarship awards.


If you transfer, your Fund for Leaders scholarship will follow you to any other ELCA seminary. If you transfer to a non-ELCA-affiliated seminary or divinity school, your scholarship will be discontinued. This is true of any scholarship type.


ELCA seminaries have differing scholarship and financial aid policies. Some seminaries guarantee full-tuition scholarships to some or all of their students; in those cases, it may still be to a student’s advantage to apply for other scholarships such as those offered by the Fund for Leaders. Please check with your seminary’s admissions and financial aid team for details.


For all scholarship types, Fund for Leaders sends payments twice per academic year (fall semester and spring semester) directly to your ELCA seminary in your name. These payments occur automatically for all scholarship awards, and you need not request them. Fund for Leaders staff communicate with seminary staff to verify continued student eligibility and ensure that the current amounts of scholarship funding reach the right students at the right times. Please note that Synod Congregation, TEEM and Federal Chaplaincy Ministry Scholarships are one-year awards and require an application each year (TEEM students do not apply themselves for FFL TEEM scholarships).


No. Applicants only need to be known to their candidacy committee and have started the candidacy process. Selected recipients will receive a provisional scholarship until we recieve a copy of their positive entrance decision. Fund for Leaders requires notification of a positive decision by the end of the student’s first semester.


If you applied for and received the scholarship in good faith and later discern that the Holy Spirit and the church are not calling you to rostered ministry, you will not be required to repay the funds already granted to you. However, your scholarship will be immediately discontinued.


Perhaps you can do both! By special arrangement with the YAGM program, if you apply for and receive a full-tuition scholarship from ELCA Fund for Leaders, you may defer that scholarship for one full year to participate in the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program. It is also possible to apply for the full-tuition scholarship during your YAGM year. If you apply for a full-tuition scholarship and do not receive it, you are welcome to apply again in future years, provided you meet all eligibility criteria.