Welcome! We are so glad you’re here!
We hope that the following information will answer some of the questions you have and also assist you in the application process should you feel called to apply.
What is a Commissioned Pastor (CP)?
- A CP is a ruling elder of a Presbyterian Church and is active in the life and ministry of his or her local church. It is not necessary that he or she currently be active on the Session.
- A CP is someone who has responded to God’s call to enter into ministry. Presbyterians believe that, in baptism, we are both gifted and called into the ministry of Jesus Christ. The ministry God calls us to can change over time. CPs come to ministry because they have left their lives open to the Holy Spirit, asking questions about how God might want to use them in serving Jesus Christ.
What is required to become a Commissioned Pastor?
Grace Presbytery seeks persons:
- Who have mature faith, a compassionate spirit, emotional intelligence, openness to learning, capacity to listen, and teachability;
- Who are naturally endowed by God with abilities especially suited to ministry;
- Who have undergone additional education and training so that she or he can perform the ministry tasks that are essential to the life of the church. The Presbytery is responsible for determining what education and training is required in each case and for deciding when its expectations have been satisfactorily met.
What is Required of the Presbytery in Relation to a Commissioned Pastor?
- Authorization: Every form of ministry in the Presbyterian Church requires prior authorization. This lies at the heart of a Reformed understanding of ordination. The nature of the church is that we, together, grant permission so that some can serve the needs of the whole. Presbyterian polity stipulates that permission must be granted to administer the sacraments and moderate a session in the place where the CP is “commissioned.” What distinguishes a CP from a Minister of Word and Sacrament (MWS) is that a CP’s authorization regarding the sacraments and session is specifically limited by the Presbytery to a particular church or region.
- Supervision: Presbyterians take seriously the health and well-being of ministry-related relationships. The challenges are great and the stakes are high in every ministry context. This is why the Book of Order establishes CP ministry as being under “supervision.” Each Presbytery must decide how it will carry out this responsibility. Grace Presbytery understands supervision as a gift of support, guidance, counsel, correction, and encouragement to CPs charged with a great responsibility.
- Accountability: In ministry, we do not answer to our own consciences alone. All in ordained ministry are accountable for what we say and do. This accountability is embedded in our ordination vows which place us in a network of caring relationships through which we “have each other’s backs.” Structurally, accountability is lived out through the Committee on Ministry (COM) and its Commissioned Pastor Task Force.
Discerning God's Call
Discernment requires prayer and reflection. It also requires conversations, with those who know you well, about your faith and experience, talents and gifts, and your motives for wanting to be a CP. Asking your pastor what she or he thinks is not only wise, but a pastor’s recommendation is required by Grace Presbytery.
Completing the Application
In our searchable document database, you’ll find an application in writeable PDF form.
Look over it carefully. Completing the application begins your relationship with the Presbytery CP Task Force which will use it for our interview with you. The application asks for basic information, written responses, and personal references. A recommendation from your church Session is also required.
Filling out the application is one step in the application process.
This process includes an interview with two members of the Task Force who will contact you for a meeting. The process also requires that you complete a background and credit check.
Generally, all Grace Presbytery CPs are required to receive training in: preaching and worship, administration of the sacraments, pastoral care (including funerals, hospital visitation, and managing conflict), finance, Bible, biblical interpretation, Reformed theology (what it means to be Reformed), practical polity, and mission.
If you have received training in any of these areas through seminary-related programs, Presbytery-structured CP classes, online education, or other means, that work will be reviewed and training in that subject may be exempted from what is required of you. Our hope is that this preparation process be experienced as a journey of theological/spiritual formation, and not as “jumping through hoops.”
At the same time, we know that seminary programs, such as a Certificate in Ministry (CIM) program, must address the needs of a wide range of denominational affiliation and non-denominational Christian expression. This means that seminary-offered classes, particularly in the areas of Reformed theology, Reformed worship and sacraments, cannot give the attention necessary for a CP’s preparation.
As a result, anyone from Grace Presbytery enrolled in a CIM program should expect to participate in additional learning events provided by the Presbytery in order to be considered “ready” for service as a CP in Grace Presbytery. It is wise and prudent for CIM students to notify Grace Presbytery once a CIM program has been started. Doing so makes it possible to best coordinate the preparation and training needed for eventual CP ministry.
One essential component to CP formation and preparation in Grace Presbytery is practical competence or skill development. This is especially true in the areas of leading worship, preaching, and presiding at Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Seminary-offered classes can sometimes offer face-to-face practicum training, but this is not without limitations. Grace Presbytery, therefore, is committed to offering training in worship and the sacraments that is of a “laboratory” nature. In such classes, learning “about” is integrated with learning “how to.”
Examination & Commissioning
Generally, upon completion of one’s training, there will be a final review by the Task Force followed by a recommendation of “readiness” made to the Committee on Ministry (COM).
This will signal to COM that you are available for consideration in any ministry situation where your gifts, availability, and “fit” are discerned to be a possible match for ministry. It is sometimes the case that a CP in-training might be judged sufficiently “ready” for assignment while not yet having completed all the training requirements.
While such possibilities are not the norm, they sometimes present themselves as a wise and suitable strategy for offering the best solution to a pressing ministry need. Conversely, it is also sometimes the case that there might be no opportunities for ministry when you finish your training. If that happens, both the Task Force and COM will be mindful of your availability as ministry needs develop.
Support & Enrichment
Grace Presbytery’s CP preparation process is communal and collegial.
Once accepted into this program, you become part of a community of learners that includes currently active CPs as well as those in training. We believe there is much we can learn from one another and have found the mutual support and encouragement of a communal approach to be essential. Mentorship in Grace Presbytery is more a community experience than an individual one.
No matter where you are in the process, you are part of the community of CPs in Grace Presbytery.
This community meets regularly throughout the year for ongoing enrichment events, support gatherings, and shared time over lunch at Presbytery meetings.
This time spent together, learning from and helping each other through the ups and downs of ministry, is a gift that cannot be measured.
Commissioned Pastor Task Force
Chris Bartley, First Presbyterian Church, Fort Worth
Cindy Baker Burnett, Main Street Presbyterian Church, Honey Grove
Rev. Nancy Drake, Honorably Retired (Moderator)
Rev. Michele Goff, First Presbyterian Church, Henderson
Rev. Ashley Drake Mertz, Grace First Presbyterian Church, Weatherford
Mary Jo North, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Denton
Staff Contact: Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Callender, Grace Presbytery