How to Become a Presbyterian Teaching Elder/Pastor (a guide for friends and family who are legit confused)

November 15, 2017

Essentially, this is an update.

Yesterday, I was certified ready to seek/receive a call by my home Presbytery (Presbytery of Western Kentucky). This means I can search for a job! So exciting and terrifying!

No, I haven’t graduated. Nope, I’m not ordained yet. This has nothing to do with my masters degree and no, that’s not even the last step of the whole process. But it’s one that involves a live and up-front oral examination by teaching and ruling elders at a Presbytery meeting, so it’s a bit of a big deal.

Basically, I’m working two tracks at the same time. I’ve listed my completed steps in GREEN and my still to be completed steps in RED.

Track #1

Get a Masters of Divinity Degree (MDiv). This is a 75 hour degree and must include (because I’m Presbyterian) the languages of Hebrew and Greek, classes in Hebrew and Greek Exegesis, Reformed Worship, Presbyterian Polity, and a class in Presbyterian history and confessions, as well as the standard MDiv classes in Bible, history, theology, missions, ministry, and Christian Education.

Note: This involves a generous amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Track #2

Fulfill all the requirements for Ordination, which include:

Become an Inquirer (usually before or just after the start of seminary). This involves a lot of paperwork and interaction with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM). I did this in May 2013.

Complete a psychological evaluation. I did this in July 2016. I “passed!”

Complete Clinical Pastoral Education/Student Chaplaincy at a hospital. I did this (ish) during Spring semester 2016.

Become a Candidate for Ministry (cannot happen until one has been an inquirer for a year and one must be a candidate for at least a year before ordination). This involves sharing a statement of faith and faith journey with the home Presbytery and requires their vote. I did this in August 2016.

Pass written Ordination exams in Bible Content, Theology, Polity, Worship and Sacraments, and Exegesis. I completed this step in July 2017.

Meet with home Presbytery’s CPM annually. Meet a final time to be examined before being certified to seek a call.

The group of Henderson Presbyterians who attended the Presbytery meeting and supported me at the examination yesterday.

Optional (but required in my Presbytery): Be examined on the floor of Presbytery to be certified ready to seek/receive a call. This is what I did yesterday.

Finish the PIF (Personal Information Form–like a really long resume with leadership competencies listed, essay questions, a statement of faith, work and education and service history, and lots of other fun pieces of information.

Upload PIF to the official pastor/church dating site.

Find a call/job that is validated for ordination. (This of course involves skype and in person interviews and negotiations and about a million hours of prayer, probably.)

Meet with the receiving Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry for examination for ordination. And pass that examination.

Officially receive a call to a ministry that is validated for ordination.

Complete Track #1 (see above). 

FINALLY GET ORDAINED (that has it’s own mini-process, you’ll be glad to know. Presbyterians love a decent, orderly process.). Either simultaneously or after ordination, get installed as the pastor at the calling church. (And from that point on, new calls will require an examination by the receiving presbytery and an installation service at the new church.)

Whew! Is that clear and simple or what?

So currently, I’m still completing requirements for my MDiv (I have to finish this 7 hour semester and complete 7 additional hours next semester). And I’m preparing to upload my PIF and start seeking a call, because I do plan to seek a call that is different than the non-ordained one I currently have. I won’t be ordained, however, until I earn my degree and receive a call and pass the ordination examination in the receiving presbytery.

Essentially I’m at least six months away from ordination, and probably longer than that. Which means that although yesterday was an accomplishment in its own rite and another box checked off the list, nothing is really completed or accomplished overall. I’m still working the tracks.

I’m so grateful for the support and love that comes in the form of encouraging words, questions about the process, and celebrations from near and far. Step by step, to God be the glory.

“Let us hold fast to the promise of hope without wavering, for God who promised is faithful.” Hebrew 10:23

One response to How to Become a Presbyterian Teaching Elder/Pastor (a guide for friends and family who are legit confused)

  1. You’re an inspiration to so many Becky. I know it’s not been easy or even enjoyable at times but you will make a great pastor in part because you’re a compassionate, kind, loving Christ filled woman. I’m proud to call you a dear, close friend. All the best in completing your credentials and calling.