Information for Sessions
Donegal's CPM looks forward to partnering with sessions and congregations in supporting those called into discernment and preparation for ordered ministry. We hope the following information is helpful to you and encourage you become familiar with all parts of the process through our online portal so you may best support those under care. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.
The process of becoming a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is divided into two phases: the Inquiry Phase and the Candidacy Phase. The Inquiry Phase is intended as an exploratory time for an individual seeking to determine the validity of one’s call and the nature of their gifts. The Candidacy Phase, which occurs after the person, the sponsoring Session and the Presbytery affirm the call, is used as a time of deliberate preparation and spiritual growth.
The entire process lasts a minimum of two years, with the Candidacy portion lasting at least one year. Acceptance as an Inquirer DOES NOT GUARANTEE acceptance as a Candidate for ordination.
From the earliest stages as an Inquirer, a person should be observed, nurtured, encouraged, and counseled by their Session and Presbytery. The Session usually selects one of its members to work on their behalf and to maintain contact with the individual and the Presbytery; the Presbytery’s responsibility is accomplished primarily through its Commission on Preparation for Ministry (CPM).
In addition to the duties of guidance and nurturing, the Session has specific areas of responsibility over three distinct periods (registration, inquirer period, and candidacy):
- Determine that the individual has been an active member of your congregation for a minimum of six months
- Consult with the CPM chairperson for information and forms to be completed as well as a date for the Session to be visited by a member of the CPM for initial conversations on the whole process.
- Receive papers (Forms 1, 2A & 2B) from the applicant and distribute them to the Session prior to the interview.
- THEN, interview the potential Inquirer. Possible areas for consideration are:
- What personal qualities are evidences of a healthy and vital faith in God through Jesus Christ?
- How is that faith currently being expressed through the individual’s participation in the worship, life and mission of this congregation?
- What various motivations impel the sense of call (e.g. service to God and the world, compassion for God’s children, guilt, the need for power and status)?
- What real and potential talents for ministry are evident in this individual (e.g. the ability to communicate, interpersonal skills, leadership or administrative abilities)?
- What is the level and adequacy of the individual’s academic interest, ability and motivation?
- What is the evidence of his/her physical health and stamina?
- What is the evidence of his/her emotional well-being?
- What is the evidence of his/her self-discipline?
- How does the individual plan to finance his or her education?
Send a positive recommendation concerning the applicant, originals of applicants papers (Forms 1A-1D), along with the information on the Session’s liaison to the CPM chairperson. The CPM will then interview the person and make a recommendation. If the CPM recommendation is negative, it will be explained to the sponsoring Session.
** Please note: the date of acceptance by the CPM is the beginning of the Inquirer Phase.
- Following CPM’s affirmative vote, you may include recognition of the person as an Inquirer in a worship service. This will help the whole congregation to know the person and to know of his/her plans for ministry.
- Be prepared to pay at least 1/3 of the cost of the individual’s career evaluation and psychological testing required by the CPM. The Presbytery pays 1/3 and the individual pays the other 1/3 (unless the church chooses to pay this portion).
- Provide financial support for education, if necessary, and, if possible. Many churches give an amount each month. You may also help with some kind of scholarship program involving loans and/or grants.
- You can write letters, particularly if the Inquirer goes to seminary at some distance from home. Be sure to send the church newsletter and other information that would regularly be sent to members.
- Always remember the individual’s family. They too have made a big adjustment, especially if moving away to seminary is involved
- Invite the person to assist in worship and/or to preach.
- Plan to have the Session liaison attend the annual CPM consultations.
- Review the report of each annual consultation and be aware of specific areas of growth as well as areas to receive special efforts for the following year.
- It is not a requirement, but many Sessions choose to have an annual review with the Inquirer prior to the CPM annual consultation.
- When appropriate, receive from the Inquirer Forms 5A & 5B in preparation for the interview considering movement to Candidacy status. All Session members should have these before the interview.
- Then, interview the Inquirer concerning the transition to Candidacy, using as a basis Forms 5A & 5B, personal discussions, consultation reports, and the six statements of the PC(USA) Advisory Handbook Page 8) The following are helpful suggestions:
- Does the person’s faith enlighten life or obscure it? (Does his/her faith build bridges or walls?)
- Does the inner sense of call seem real to you, and healthy? (Is it a call to care for God’s people, as opposed to a sense of guilt or a magical mission that sets the person above all other people?)
- Does the person have the talents to be a Minister of the Word? (For instance, a good speaking voice, a bright mind, a compassionate presence, a searching intellect, a genuine affection for people, a love for the church?)
- Would you be pleased to have this person be your pastor? (Granted, there is a big journey ahead for the applicant before ordination, but you ought to be able to assume that when the journey is completed, you would accept, with enthusiasm, this person as your pastor.)
Following the interview, make a recommendation to the CPM chairperson concerning the transition along with originals of Forms 5A & 5B.
- Following the CPM’s affirmative vote, you may include recognition of the person’s candidacy in a worship service. This will help the whole congregation to know the person and to know of his/her plans for ministry.
- Continue to offer guidance, support, and financial aid as the individual completes the necessary requirements and becomes certified for ordination. Many churches give a monetary amount each month. You may also help with some kind of scholarship program involving loans and/or grants.
- When an appropriate call for service has been accepted and the person has been ordained, remove his/her name from the membership roll while continuing to pray for this person that he/she be a willing participant in God’s plan.
If it is determined that an individual’s gifts and call are not leading toward ordination as a Teaching Elder, the process has still been a success. The ultimate goal is to find each person’s God-chosen place of service and, as Presbyterians, we believe we are all called to minister.