Garrett Anklum is a 2022 graduate of CUW's Director of Church Ministries program.

One of the more common questions our Director of Church Ministries (DCM) program advisors receive is: What’s the difference between a DCE (Director of Christian Education) and a DCM?  

Rev. Kurt Taylor (’88), who oversees the DCM program, is here to answer that question!

Church Work Programs

What is a DCM?

According to program director Rev. Kurt Taylor

Most people know what a DCE is. For one, the program has been around much longer than the DCM program, which is relatively new at about 5 years old.

DCEs have been so successful and so integral to our synod’s congregations that they have gained a very well-earned and excellent reputation. Though young, the DCM program is also quickly growing a trusted and valued reputation.

There are subtle differences between the two, but here is the bottom line:

  • BOTH DCMs and DCEs prepare men and women for professional church work
  • BOTH DCM and DCE graduates are eligible to receive a call into an LCMS congregation or other LCMS entity

Rather than go through an exhaustive listing of similarities and differences between the two programs (which might unintentionally suggest that one is better than the other), I’ll attempt here to simply highlight some of the features of the DCM program since it is much less familiar to our church body.

1. The DCM program is a four-year program which culminates in a bachelor’s degree and a certification to receive a call into LCMS church work.

You can apply for the program here.

Related: Meet Hannah Gillrup, the first CUW graduate to receive a call as a DCM

2. DCM students major in theology.

When one looks at the core list of classes required for a DCM one sees that the majority of classes are religion classes. The classes build on themselves from the introductory Old and New Testament classes and Biblical Theology, up to classes in Law and Gospel, and The Lutheran Confessions.  Sprinkled through are classes on how to apply the core confessional theology the students are learning.  “Teaching the Faith,” “Communicating Bible Messages,” “Religious Education of Youth and Adults,” “Christian Caregiving,” “Religion in America,” “Lutheran Worship,” “Evangelism 1 and 2,” “Youth Ministry 1 and 2” are among the practical theology classes required for those in the DCM program.  Our students graduate extremely competent in theology and are tremendous assets to the pastor who can trust that their DCM knows his or her stuff theologically.

3. DCM students minor in Nonprofit Management.

One of the unique features of the DCM program is that the students minor in classes designed to give them real-world introductions to how a church operates administratively. Being taught from a church point of view, DCM students learn about marketing, fundraising, grant-writing, legal issues, managing change, and management principles.  LCMS District executives and professional church workers currently in the field have lauded this portion of the program because of how practical and useful this sort of education will be for the DCM graduates and the congregations that receive them.

4. DCM students choose a specialization.

In addition to the required theology classes, a student then chooses a specialization which prepares them even further for a particular area of church work. Among the specializations are Evangelism, Missions, Parish Teaching, Pre-Deaconess, Social Ministry, and Youth Ministry. Over half of DCM students have chosen Youth Ministry as their specialization, especially because along with all the other things they’d be able to do in and for a congregation, their highest goal is to be a youth director.  As such, they take extra classes in that field.

5. DCM students do two, semester-long internships.

In other programs, an internship comes at the end of class work and last for six months or even a year. The DCM program incorporates two internships, lasting one semester each, into the student’s semester class-load.  One internship is broad, meaning, the idea is that they get the broadest possible exposure to how a congregation operates by shadowing a pastor or other church workers.  The other internship, called a “Practicum” is in the student’s area of specialization.  So, if a student is specializing in Youth Ministry, the practicum will be a semester of shadowing a youth director at a church or a camp director at a youth camp etc.  The internships can be performed at one of the many, many LCMS congregations in the area of Concordia Wisconsin, or can be done at a student’s home church during a summer.  By doing the internships this way, DCM students are done in four years and are eligible to receive their first call.

6. DCM students are often called from the same “pool” as DCE students.

What this means is that when congregations submit a request for a professional church-worker through the Concordia University System, directors of all the auxiliary office programs at the Concordia’s see those requests. So, if a congregation is looking for a youth director and has submitted a request, the DCM program director sees that request and, if a student suited for that position is available, will contact the congregation and let them know.  This is how most of the DCM students get placed.

7. There is a 100% placement rate for all traditional DCM students.

Every student who has taken the full DCM program on campus and has requested a call, has received a call. We are seeing that congregations are more and more desiring a professional church worker to work under a pastor’s leadership.  The “job market” is very promising.  As the DCM program grows and more students are requesting calls, their willingness to locate anywhere in the U.S. makes it very probable that there will be a call available for them.

8. There is a DCM minor.

Students who may have church work in the back of their minds, but are majoring in another discipline—like marketing, finance, business—may minor in the DCM program. Typically, these are students who have their sights set on the business world or the marketing world, but take DCM classes so that they may be eligible for a call at a later time.  They will have taken enough theology credits to qualify them for receiving a call, and at some point in their lives, if they’ve had their fill of business or marketing, may then approach a congregation with the necessary credentials to be called as a church-worker.

9. There is an online DCM certificate program.

Typically, those in the online program are already working at a church, but they and their congregation desire the necessary theological education to make them eligible to receive a call. These are students from all ages and all over the country who take online classes for about 2.5 years, including an internship, and then are extended a call from the congregation at which they had been working. A bachelor’s degree is required to receive the DCM certification. Most in the program already have that degree, but those who do not may also work concurrently with CUW to achieve a BA along with the DCM certification.

10. The DCM Program is rapidly growing.

Five years ago there was one DCM student on campus. Now there are 30. The program has become a force at CUW and is gaining recognition. There are also about 20 online students as the word is getting out.

11. You should meet these students!

I am certain the same can be said of the students in the DCE programs across the synod as well. Our DCM students are vibrant, excited, motivated, in love with the church, and in love with their Lord. God has touched these students with the desire to prepare for church work. And they are responding magnificently! They are focused on the cross of Jesus Christ and the salvation won by Him. They are immersed and enamored with confessional theology and how it all points to the grace of God. And they are eager to serve! God will richly bless them and their congregations, and all of us in our LCMS through these DCM students. You would become very optimistic about the future of our synod if you were to meet them!

Feel free to reach out to me to learn more or to find out if there is a rising DCM who might be the right fit for your congregation.

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