The office of Commissioned Pastor (formerly called Ministry Associate) is recognized in the Christian Reformed Church as a flexible, very localized alternate ordination into ministry. Ministry Associate is an “umbrella term” for a variety of ministry positions where this ordination may occur: Evangelist, Chaplain, Minister of Outreach, Youth Pastor, Minister of Congregational Life, and many more. As the Church Order Supplement to Article 23-a says, “The office of ministry associate is applicable to a variety of ministries, provided these ministries fit the guidelines adopted by Synod 2001 and that the other Church Order and synodical regulations for the office of ministry associate are observed. These include ministries such as education, evangelism, pastoral care, music, ministries to children, youth, adults and others within or outside of the congregation.”
Demonstrate Need and Job Description
Ordination to the office of Commissioned Pastor arises out of a local ministry context. That ministry will
- a) show the need for such ordained leadership and
- b) create a job description.
The job description will then be considered by the classis in consultation with representatives from three neighboring classes (i.,e. the synodical deputies). Once all are agreed that the ministry as described in the job description fits the intention of Article 23 (as described by the guidelines adopted by Synod 2001), the process toward ordination can continue. This process involves verifying relevant ministry skills, gathering appropriate documents, preparing a sermon to be critiqued (if preaching is part of the job description), and preparing for an oral exam at the classis level.
It is noteworthy that up to this point very little has been said about the individual to be ordained. There is an underlying assumption that an individual will emerge that can fit the ministry position being created or recognized. All parties concerned need to be in prayer that such a “match” will occur and be affirmed through this process of discernment.
If someone is involved in an area of church-related ministry that would be well served by the ordained leadership of a Commissioned Pastor, the prospective candidate is encouraged to speak to the classis leadership in her or his area. Individuals who wish to be used in ministry as an ordained ministry associates, should talk to their local church or classis leaders. They should seek out especially the members of an area CMLT. Together as a church we are actively praying to the Lord of Harvest, that workers will be sent into his harvest field. (c.f. Luke 10:2)
FLOW CHART SUMMARIZING THE PROCESS OF ORDAINING COMMISSIONED PASTORS
Recognition of a ministry need for ordained leadership
Development of a job description
Approval of a job description
Preparation for ordination
Examination by classis
Character, Competency, Knowledge
Commissioned Pastor candidates are to show character, competency, and knowledge that is consistent with their calling and the needs of a ministry position. These include the following which are taken from Church Order Supplement, Article 23.
- Knowledge of Scripture
- Knowledge of Reformed doctrine
- Knowledge of the standards of the church and the Church Order
- Practical matters regarding Christian testimony, walk of life, relationships with others, love for the church, approach to ministry, and promotion of Christ’s kingdom
Approaches to Training for Ordination
There are a variety of ways to prepare for examination and ordination. These include small groups, mentoring, peer learning, Christian college or seminary courses, online resources, supervised internships, and focused and directed local church service. Organizations that have developed training programs for Commissioned Pastors include Church Leadership Center, Church Leaders Institute, Timothy Institute, and Calvin Theological Seminary. For more information on these organizations, click here.
Specific print resources are recommended for training. The readings in these books are in the areas of biblical knowledge, theological knowledge, and skill for the practice of ministry. For a list of these books and the competencies to which they relate, click here.
The Ministry Associate Handbook (to be revised to reflect the new, Commissioned Pastor, title) provides a comprehensive overview of the Commissioned Pastor designation. An index to the Handbook and related Christian Reformed Church information is available by clicking here.