Located within Associations (and Conferences acting as Associations), Committees on Ministry embody the crux of the United Church of Christ's covenantal relationships. At their best, the committees invite and facilitate critical participation of authorized ministers, calling bodies, Members in Discernment, lay leaders, Associations and Conferences in that covenant in order to foster the relationships needed for healthy and effective ministries. Promoting and clarifying the Committee on Ministry role to local congregations can benefit those covenantal relationships; sample brochures from York Association (Maine Conference) and Western Association (New York Conference) can be adapted by COMs for this purpose.
2018 Online Trainings for Committees on Ministry
The following online trainings are available throughout 2018 for members of Committees on Ministry. Each training is hosted by MESA via the Zoom platform, with a maximum of 50 participants per training. No registration is required; attendees can click on the appropriate Zoom link to join an online training up to 15 minutes before the listed start time. Trainings will engage the drafted Manual on Ministry materials. Questions about a particular training can be directed to the listed MESA Team member.
Ministerial (and Congregational) Evaluation with Elizabeth Dilley
January 9, 2:30 – 4:00pm ET
Fitness Review Training with Elizabeth Dilley
January 23, 2:00 – 4:00pm ET
Ministry of Committees on Ministry with Holly MillerShank
February 20, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET
Best Practices for Sabbaticals with Elizabeth Dilley
March 7, 3:00 – 4:30pm ET
Ministerial Code of Ethics with Holly MillerShank
March 19, 3:30 – 5:00pm ET
Assessment with the Marks with Rachel Hackenberg
March 22, 2:00 – 3:30pm ET
Response Team Training with Elizabeth Dilley
May 16, 7:00 – 9:00pm ET
Departure Ethics for Pastors with Elizabeth Dilley
May 23, 3:00 – 4:30pm ET
Best Practices in Retirement with Holly MillerShank - Cancelled due to National Staff In-service
June 5, 2:00 – 3:30pm ET
Ministerial Boundaries in Social Media with Malcolm Himschoot
June 26, 3:00 – 4:30pm ET
Ministerial (and Congregational) Evaluation with Malcolm Himschoot
July 12, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET
Committees on Ministry and Mental Health Awareness with Holly MillerShank
July 19, 2:00 – 3:30pm ET
Pastoral Relations Committees with Stephen Boyd
August 23, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET
Response Team Training with Elizabeth Dilley
August 28, 2:00 – 4:00pm ET
The Ministry of Committees on Ministry with Holly MillerShank
September 20, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET
Departure Ethics for Pastors with Elizabeth Dilley
October 23, 7:00 – 9:00pm ET
Best Practices for Ecclesiastical Councils with Stephen Boyd
October 30, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET
Best Practices in Retirement with Holly MillerShank
November 7, 2:00 – 3:30pm ET
Response Team Training with Elizabeth Dilley
November 15, 7:00 – 9:00pm ET
For orientation to Committee on Ministry work:
Members of Committees on Ministry can explore their vocation and the basics of their work using the Committee on Ministry Toolkit, a comprehensive and interactive resource designed to aid in the training of Committees on Ministry. The COM Toolkit includes orientation resources for new committee members, case studies, guidelines for ministerial oversight, scholarship and education programs for Members in Discernment, and a breadth of forms needed for Committee on Ministry Work.
The foundational Manual on Ministry is available online, as is a compilation of UCC polity resources. Both the COM Toolkit and the Manual on Ministry are useful webpages for Committee on Ministry members to bookmark.
Also useful to Committees on Ministry is the discernment resource, Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers, developed from the 2005 Pronouncement on Ministry Issues. In particular, Committees on Ministry might use the Marks Assessment Rubric and Journaling the Journey for concrete application of the Marks in conversation with Members in Discernment and authorized ministers.
For an overview of the diversity of Committee on Ministry structures and procedures across the United Church of Christ, committees are encouraged to read and reflect upon the Committee on Ministry Research Report (conducted 2014).
For work with those seeking ministerial standing:
Access to the Ministerial Profiles Portal [PDF]
Access to the UCC Ministerial Profiles Portal depends upon a person’s ecclesial status (Member in Discernment, Privilege of Call, Ordained Ministerial Partner), ministerial authorization (Licensed, Commissioned, Ordained), and ministerial standing (e.g. leave of absence, retirement, termination). Please review the PDF to understand how the actions of Committees on Ministry correspond to individuals' access to the Profiles Portal.
Covenant of Discernment and Formation: Preparing for Authorized Ministry in the United Church of Christ [PDF]
This brochure overviews the process of discernment and the roles of each partner covenanting in this stage of preparation for authorized ministry in the UCC.
Regional Theological Education Programs
There are a variety of UCC-sponsored and other regional education programs available locally. Some of their offerings may be appropriate for part of the preparation for authorized ministry; other RTEP offerings may be used for continuing education of authorized persons. Contact your local Association and/or Conference for additional information about RTEP opportunities. Regional offerings of UCC History and Polity Courses are curated online by the UCC History and Polity Teachers Network in conjunction with MESA.
Dual Standing and Privilege of Call [PDF]
This document clarifies the distinction between "dual standing" and "privilege of call" within the United Church of Christ for those ordained in denominations other than the UCC.
Formula of Agreement/Orderly Exchange (FOA) [PDF]
Significant understandings have been developed between the UCC, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Reformed Church in America, whereby we recognize and honor each other's faith, practice and ministries. The Formula of Agreement for the Orderly Exchange of Ordained Ministers allows ministers of one denomination to be invited to consider serving a congregation in one of the other denominations. Such invitations are extended by judicatory staff, thus allowing ministers in one denomination to serve congregations in another denomination. Conference or association staff can assist ministers seeking more information.
Formula of Agreement/Orderly Exchange (FOA) and Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing (OMPS) [PDF]
There are distinct differences between the FOA and OMPS agreements. The former agreement, between UCC, Presbyterian Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Reformed Church in America, provides the opportunity for the minister of one denomination to be invited to consider serving a church on one of the other denominations. The latter agreement with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) provides opportunity for ministers in each denomination to search for a position in the other communion. This document outlines the processes to be followed for the FOA/Orderly Exchange and OMPS. Conference or association staff can assist those seeking more information.
For work with authorized ministers:
Information Review Form for UCC Ministers [PDF]
The regular information review between authorized ministers and Committees on Ministry is a basic tool for attending mutually to the covenantal relationship.
Leave of Absence [PDF]
Leave of Absence is a good and unbiased standing in the UCC for those authorized ministers who are neither active nor retired. This flowchart can help Committees on Ministry discern when to grant Leave of Absence.
Support for a Fitness Review [PDF]
On-site training for COMs, Conference staff, and Conference or Association Response Teams regarding the work of situational and fitness reviews is available from the MESA team. The training offers an introduction to the principles, priorities and processes of a fitness review. To schedule a training, contact MESA team leader Holly MillerShank.
Per Section 3 of the Manual on Ministry, "a four-way covenant is motivated by the Church's conviction that ordained ministers in ministries other than in local churches need to be active and participating members of a local church of the United Church of Christ and that calling bodies have the responsibility to the ecclesiastical system when they employ an ordained minister." Four-way covenants are written uniquely according to the setting of ministry and in conversation between the minister, Association, local church and place of ministry/employment, as a matter of both support and standing. Sample four-way covenants include a covenant for judicatory ministry and a covenant for hospital chaplaincy.
Government and Professional Endorsement
Ecclesiastical endorsement is verification by the denomination, to a government or professional organization, of an authorized minister's good standing, experience and maturity. Not all employers require ecclesiastical endorsement. Sample endorsement letters and application forms are included on the Ecclesiastical Endorsement page.
Boundary Awareness Training
Committees on Ministry and Associations/Conferences often cooperate in planning boundary awareness training for authorized ministers. Please review these Marks of Faithful and Effective Boundary Awareness Trainers when planning such events; these guidelines have been developed by the Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization (MESA) Team.
Guidelines for Authorized Ministers
For ethical expectations and accountability guidelines: Code of Ethics (part of the drafted 2017 Manual on Ministry), Departure Ethics, and Social Media Boundaries. Departure Ethics and Social Media Boundaries.
For work with congregations:
Resources for Local Church Leaders
Including committee guidelines, liturgies and study guides, the Leaders Box, and more
Manual on Church: Perspectives and Procedures for Association and Local Church Covenantal Partners [PDF]
This resource explores the covenantal relationships between local congregations and Associations (or Conferences acting as Associations). It is to be used by and with Committees on the Ministry, Association and Conference staff, and local church leaders to foster dialogue and increased understanding of what it means to "walk together in all God's ways" as expressions of the church.
Ministry During the Interim Time [PDF]
A guideline of expectations for interim ministry, including observations on the accountability of interim ministers (especially useful to Committees on Ministry) and the compensation of interim ministers (especially insightful for congregations in transition).
Considering a New Church Covenant in the United Church of Christ [PDF]
This booklet describes a process of mutual exploration which will help a non-affiliated church explore the United Church of Christ along with a UCC Association. The goal of the exploration process is to decide whether to enter into a formal covenanted relationship. See also the page for congregations considering ministry within the United Church of Christ.
Congregations Sharing Ministry
Two primary documents are available for congregations considering sharing programming, staff, space and/or merged ministry. GEMS (God's Ecumenical Ministry Shared) is for churches of different denominations considering shared ministry. Getting Together: Models and Processes for Local Church Cooperation describes five different models to consider (Yoked, Cluster, Federated, Union and Consolidated) and some considerations for collaborating.
When a Church Leaves the Denomination [PDF]
A 2004 address by Barnet M. McKee to the Council of Conference Ministers.
"The gifts Christ gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." - Ephesians 4:11-12
An increasing number of Members in Discernment and clergy feel called to serve in specialized ministries: from spiritual direction to campus ministry, from hospice chaplaincy to pastoral counseling, from intentional interim ministry to CPE supervision, and many more. Explore further information about Specialized Ministry in Professional Organizations and Specialized Ministry in Government Organizations.
Within the broad range and varied titles of specialized ministries, "chaplaincy" denotes institutional ministry—ministry on behalf of the church but outside a traditional church setting—in places like hospitals, prisons, and the military services. Chaplains especially must demonstrate the ability to work well independently and to function in religiously and culturally pluralistic environments.
While the United Church of Christ affirms multiple paths to authorized ministry, it should be noted that organizations employing chaplains and specialized ministers often require a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary, credits in Clinical Pastoral Education, and special training; they also may have requirements for age and physical condition.
Many (but not all) specialized ministry settings ask for Ecclesiastical Endorsement by a minister's denomination. There is a distinction between "standing" as an authorized minister within the United Church of Christ and "eccleciastical endorsement" by the United Church of Christ. The granting of ministerial standing (ordination, commissioning or licensure) means that a person is deemed sufficiently prepared and equipped for ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ. Ecclesiastical endorsement is verification by the denomination that an authorized minister is in good standing, has gained the necessary qualifying experience, is willing and capable of working collegially in a religiously and culturally plurastic setting without prejudice, understands that they are not to evangelize in a specialized ministry setting, and has the maturity to represent the United Church of Christ to the calling institution. Collected here are requirements and forms for Ecclesiastical Endorsement in both professional and government organizations; please note that not all employers require ecclesiastical endorsement.
Special Message: More UCC Chaplains Needed
The United Church of Christ currently has 46 clergy serving as chaplains in the military services. A generation ago, we had three times that many. The decrease can be attributed to a number of factors, including the denomination’s stance as a Just Peace church, fewer seminarians and clergy who can meet the age and physical requirements and, in the past, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Other mainline Protestant denominations have experienced a similar decline in the number of chaplains provided to the military and other government agencies. This has led to a void that more conservative denominations have been ready and able to fill. This influence has not been benign. Women, gays and lesbians, persons from liberal or non-Christian backgrounds, and others have been negatively affected. And our national interests have also been jeopardized.
Recently there has been renewed interest in chaplaincy by UCC clergy and seminarians. If you or someone you know may be willing to consider a call to chaplaincy, please get in touch with the Minister for Chaplains and Specialized Ministers. For the good of service members and their families and for the good of our country, we need to ensure that our chaplains will continue to be there to serve them.
Witness for Justice (WFJ) is a weekly editorial opinion column for public distribution which identifies timely or urgent justice issues. WFJ is a theologically based perspective founded on historic commitment to justice and peace of the United Church of Christ.