Becoming a Minister

When people of faith believe that they have received a call to be ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA), the Presbyterian Church has a process to work with you and your congregation to prepare you for this ordained office.

The process of preparation for ministry involves two phases: Inquiry and Candidacy.

The Inquiry Phase is for you and your church to explore your call together with the presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) to determine your suitability for ordination through spiritual development, guidance, goals, and consultations.

After the presbytery approves, you to enter the Candidacy Stage and continue to work with CPM to become certified and ready to receive a call.

Perhaps the most overwhelming part of the entire process is filling out so many papers; having so many conversations; and the many steps in the process. Once you become an Inquirer, you’ll have the support, encouragement, reminders and help you need.

It’s also important to note the the Book of Order requires you be an active member of a church in Grace Presbytery for at least six months before applying to become an Inquirer.

Please note: All related forms & documents are located in the Committee on Preparation for Ministry section of the Document Library.

Inquiry phase steps

STEP 1 – Talk it out

Talk to your Pastor, Moderator of Session and/or other church officer. You begin the process by telling your call story to this supportive friend/colleague. With this person, you can begin the conversation about appearing before your session for their endorsement for Inquiry. 

STEP 2 – Learn about the process

Please review the information found on the Grace Presbytery website. Much of the information found there will help guide you through the application process. There is a link to all of the forms that will be used throughout your preparation for ministry. Included on the website are links to resources that may be helpful, as well as reminders of important dates and deadlines, such as registration for ordination exams. 

STEP 3 – CPM visits your session

If more than one year has elapsed since your session has been visited by CPM, a member of CPM will need to meet with your session. This person will inform and encourage your session on how to support and care for Inquirers and Candidates, as well as discuss any changes in the process since the last time an Inquirer/Candidate came under care of the session. Talk with your leadership and have your Moderator or Clerk of Session call the presbytery office to arrange this visit.

STEP 4 – Fill out forms and submit them to your Session!

All related forms & documents are located in the Committee on Preparation for Ministry section of the Document Library.

Submit all forms to your Clerk of Session prior to your interview with your session. This is how they will learn about you and your call. Take your time and answer all of the questions thoughtfully and carefully. Computer-generated or typed responses are required throughout the process. The content as well as the presentation of your paperwork, and the thought and care put into answering each question will determine the initial impression you make to both your session and the CPM.

STEP 5 – Appear before your Session

After you have submitted these forms to your Clerk of Session, set a date where you can meet and interview with the Session of your church. It is important that they hear your call story.

When they endorse you for Inquiry, they will need to fill out the Session Evaluation and Recommendation, Form 1D, which includes the selection of an elder to be a liaison between you and your Session. Both you and the moderator of the Session also need to sign the Covenant Agreement and Inquirer Release, which is Form 2B.

STEP 6 – Send paperwork to the presbytery

After your endorsement by your Session, the following documents must be on file with the presbytery office before your Inquiry interview can be scheduled. Your file becomes a permanent part of your PC(USA) record.

Forms 1A, 1B,1B-1, 1C, 2A and 2B – Make sure that they are completely filled out and then ask the clerk of your Session to mail them to the presbytery office. The Clerk shall fill out Form 1D on behalf of the Session and should include it with the other forms.

Criminal Background Check Release Form – In addition, there is a form that allows a member of the Grace Presbytery staff to conduct a criminal background check. This is standard policy of presbytery and cannot be waived. This will not cost you anything. Be advised that if there is a positive hit on your background check, it does not necessarily preclude you from coming under care of Grace Presbytery. In such an event, a member of presbytery staff and/or the moderator of CPM will have a conversation with you regarding that past incident.

Post-high school transcripts – You will need to have every institution of higher learning (community college, college, university, graduate studies, seminary, etc.) send an official transcript to the presbytery office for inclusion in your file.

All of these documents need to be on file at the presbytery no later than 10 days prior to your interview.  The one exception to this requirement is the report based on your psychological evaluation, which will be sent directly to the presbytery by the evaluator.

STEP 7 – Psychological Evaluation

All individuals who wish to come under care of Grace Presbytery as Inquirers are required to undergo a psychological evaluation. It is up to you to schedule your appointment.  You will receive information about the process from presbytery staff.

A note about confidentiality: Your psychological evaluation and your criminal background check results are kept securely in a locked cabinet at the presbytery office. Your evaluation will be copied for the committee to read on the day of your interview. Following your interview, the copies are destroyed and the original is returned to its secure location.

STEP 8 – Schedule your interview

After you have submitted all your paperwork and have set a date for your meeting with the psychological services provider, call the presbytery office to set a date for your CPM Inquiry interview.

Once you become an Inquirer, you will be assigned a CPM liaison who will help guide you through the rest of the process. We look forward to hearing your call story and journeying with you through the process of exploring your call to Christian service.

General Requirements

Clinical Pastoral Education

Every Inquirer/Candidate shall complete at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) from an accredited program of the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education.

It is the Inquirer/Candidate’s responsibility to be sure that written copies of the supervisor’s final evaluation of the Inquirer/Candidate are forwarded to the CPM to demonstrate that this requirement has been successfully fulfilled.

CPE is not a substitute for an internship – it is in addition to the internship requirement.

Polity Requirement

In order to be fully conversant with the polity of the PC(USA), every Inquirer/Candidate shall be required to show polity preparation by passing a course in PC(USA) polity.

Criminal Background Checks

CPM requires criminal background checks for all persons under its care. Background checks may be repeated by the presbytery at anytime while you are under our care.

Healthcare Coverage

All Inquirers/Candidates must have healthcare coverage for themselves and any dependents from the beginning and throughout the entire process of preparation for ministry. Evidence of such coverage must be shown to the CPM at each step of the process.

Inquirers/Candidates are free to obtain healthcare from the provider of their choice. The Board of Pensions of the PC(USA) offers healthcare coverage to seminary students at a very reasonable cost. This plan will also allow plan members to continue coverage in any ‘gap’ time between graduation and receiving a call. Many other plans terminate coverage upon graduation or charge expensive premiums to cover this in-between time.

The Board of Pensions application forms can be downloaded from the board’s website at www.pensions.org. If you have any question or want more information, call the Board of Pensions at 1.800.773.7752.

Internship guidelines

In addition to meeting the academic requirements for the Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent, every Inquirer/Candidate shall complete an internship assignment. Ordinarily, the internship will be an intensive, full-time experience for a period of three months OR an extended, part-time experience (10 or more hours per week) for nine months. CPM has established the following guidelines:

1. The Inquirer/Candidate shall have their internship placement approved by the CPM prior to starting the internship. The Inquirer/Candidate shall give a copy of their learning objectives, contract or covenant to CPM via their liaison.

2. The CPM expects the internship experience to be one that helps to expand the sInquirer/Candidate’s understanding and breadth of ministry. Ordinarily, the Inquirer/Candidate will not serve an internship within her/his home church. It shall be at a PC(USA) church.

3. It is the Inquirer/Candidate’s responsibility to be sure that written copies of the supervisor’s final evaluation of the Inquirer/Candidate are forwarded to the CPM to demonstrate that this requirement has been successfully fulfilled.

4. The Inquirer/Candidate must meet all of the internship requirements below:  Each Inquirer/Candidate should have some experience in each of the following areas during the course of their internship:

  • Worship Leadership – the Inquirer/Candidate shall assist in both the planning and leading of worship on a regular basis.
  • Preaching – the inquirer/Candidate shall preach at least twice and receive formal feedback from both supervisor and members of the congregation.
  • Pastoral Care – the Inquirer/Candidate shall have some experience in, or exposure to, hospital, in-home calling, and/or ministry at time of death.
  • Teaching – the Inquirer/Candidate shall teach some age group, preparing a lesson plan, presenting the lesson, and then evaluating the effectiveness of their lesson.
  • Administration – the Inquirer/Candidate shall have some experience of working with a committee or task group and regularly attend session meetings.
  • Evangelism/Mission/Outreach – the Inquirer/Candidate shall have some experience that involves at least one of these areas.

CPM may require additional experiences based upon an individual’s preparation needs.

Preaching Requirement

Every Candidate shall preach a sermon for members of CPM.

Listening Team will be coordinated by the Candidate’s CPM liaison (ordinarily with at least two members of CPM). The Candidate and/or the session may designate additional elders or pastors to listen to the sermon and provide feedback on the CPM evaluation form.

Preaching Passage shall be one of the lectionary texts for the Sunday closest to the date of preaching.

Exegetical Paper will be written by the Candidate based on the preaching passage. This exegesis paper is also part of the Candidate’s preaching evaluation.

Pastoral Prayer/Prayers of the People must be written by the Candidate and may or may not be used in the worship service. That prayer will be submitted with the sermon text and the exegetical paper.

Preaching Site is determined by the Candidate in consultation with their CPM liaison. One possible site for preaching is the Candidate’s home church. This allows for the church to hear and experience the Candidate’s growth, and provides the Candidate with a familiar environment.

Feedback from the CPM designated listeners will take place after the worship service. A standard CPM evaluation form will be used to provide encouragement and challenge on the Candidate’s preaching, exegetical paper and prayer.

Deadlines

The sermon text, the exegetical paper and a copy of their Pastoral Prayer/Prayers of the People must be sent to the Candidate’s liaison at least one week prior to the sermon date.

Final Assessment

At the final assessment pre-consultation Form 3 shall be used to evaluate readiness for ministry specifically as regards the Book of Order requirements:

Evidence of readiness to begin ordered ministry as a teaching elder shall include: a) a candidate’s wisdom and maturity of faith, leadership skills, compassionate spirit, honest repute, and sound judgment; b) a transcript showing graduation, with satisfactory grades, at a regionally accredited college or university; c) a transcript from a theological institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools acceptable to the presbytery, showing a course of study including Hebrew and Greek, exegesis of the Old and New Testaments using Hebrew and Greek, satisfactory grades in all areas of study, and graduation or proximity to graduation; and d) satisfactory grades, together with the examination papers in the areas covered by any standard ordination examination approved by General Assembly. Such examinations shall be prepared and administered by a body created by the presbyteries.

(G-2.0607 )

All of the following are to be computer-generated or typed:

  • Forms 1C and 3
  • Proof of Health Insurance
  • Statement of Faith
  • Completed Personal Information Form (PIF) (not yet submitted to Church Leadership Connection)
  • A 3,000-character summary of the Candidate’s understanding of:
    • God and Trinity
    • Creation, including human nature
    • Jesus Christ: Person and Work
    • Sin and Redemption
    • Revelation and Scripture
    • Church and Sacrament
    • History and Eschatology
    • The Reformed Tradition

All other materials in your file shall be reviewed at this assessment. When the written requirements are received, the Candidate will be contacted to come before either the entire CPM or a minimum of three persons of the committee.

A written summary of the final assessment will be completed using Form 4. Upon approval by CPM, the completed PIF can be circulated, and Form 6 will be completed for the Candidate’s file.

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