Committee on Preparation for Ministry

The Committee on Preparation for Ministry oversees and cares for inquirers and candidates for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.

About the Preparation for Ministry Process:

The preparation for ministry process was adopted by the 198th General Assembly in 1986 and sent to presbyteries for their affirmative or negative vote.  Following the affirmative vote of the presbyteries, the new process was initiated throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1987.

The purpose of the Preparation for Ministry Process of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is: 

  • To help all church members, whatever their occupation, discern and fulfill their Christian vocation; and
  • To provide the best possible leadership for the Church by assuring that persons who feel called to be ministers of the Word and Sacrament receive the fullest personal and professional preparation for this office (G-14.04.01).
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is firmly grounded in the Reformed tradition in its relationships with men and women who feel themselves called by God to be ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Both in exploring with these persons their sense of vocation and in all subsequent procedures leading to ordination, the Reformed understanding of the Church underlies what the Book of Order calls “full preparation” for ministry (G-14.04.01).

As Reformed Christians, Presbyterians understand the Church as a community called into being by Jesus Christ.  It is Christ who gives the Church its faith and life, its unity and mission, its officers and ordinance; and Christ is its head in all things (G-1.0100). Presbyterians believe in the priesthood of all believers – that is, that all church members regardless of their occupational choice, are engaged in ministry.  That is their Christian vocation (G-5.0102).  Some among them may be called by the Holy Spirit, through the Church, to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament.  Thus the ministry of the Word and Sacrament is one among many occupations through which men and women express their God-given interests and abilities in life and daily work.  Response to this calling, as to every other, is approached through a careful process of exploration and testing carried on with the community of faith, during which gifts and motivations are evaluated in light of the needs of the Church and the world.

The essential role of ministers of Word and Sacrament is set forth in the Bible and in the Church’s constitutional documents.  Among its key concepts which have been proved valid by the Church’s experience through the years are the following:
  1. Ordained ministry is a gift of God to the Church; 
  2. Ordained ministers equip church members for their ministry by proclaiming the good news in Word and Sacrament, teaching faith, caring for people and, along with elders, ensuring that the life of the congregation is governed in an orderly way
  3. The Church actively seeks and ordains persons whose gifts and abilities equip them for the ministry of the Word and Sacrament: if a person ordained to this ministry is later called by God to other work, the Church can release him or her from ordained office
  4. One experiences God’s call to ministry privately as an inner urgency. The Church, however, experiences that call publicly as it affirms that individual’s gifts for ministry and confirms God’s call through acts of ordination and installation.
Responsibilities: 

The relationship between the Church and those who feel called to be ministers of the Word and Sacrament carry important responsibilities for all involved. 

For congregations: 
It means educating all members in the biblical and Reformed understanding of Christian vocation and helping believers understand that the call of discipleship includes making responsible occupational choices.  It also means nurturing and encouraging persons seeking to discern their call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

For Inquirers and Candidates who enter into the process: 
It involves a sense of solemn obligation to God and to the Church.  In some cases this means that it is the individual’s responsibility to recognize and accept the fact the she or he is called to a ministry other than the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

For presbyteries:
Iit means developing effective means of testing and validating the calls of those seeking to become ministers of the Word and Sacrament, providing them with guidance and oversight, and bringing to active Candidacy those with appropriate abilities and motivation.  In order to ensure that this important work is effectively carried out, those chosen to serve on Committees on Preparation for Ministry need particular gifts, skills and commitment.

For theological institutions: 
It means upholding the Reformed standards of an educated ministry for providing Scriptural, historical, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical disciplines, as well as opportunities for students to develop personal and professional skills.

For all participants, involved in the process of preparation for ministry:
It means relating to one another in continuing openness to God’s grace, with mutual trust and respect based on the assurance that God has given everyone gifts to use in the Church’s ministry.