United Church of Christ

July 2020

The Member in Discernment Portfolio

       The path to ordained ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ is distinct for each person. Members in Discernment bring their life experiences, work skills, and theological perspectives when they begin the journey of discernment. Each person will also have areas of growth and discovery. One of the most important roles of the Committee on Ministry, in conjunction with the Member in Discernment, is assessing and tracking the preparation and development of competence in each of the eight categories of the Marks of Faithful and Effective Ministers of the United Church of Christ. The development of the portfolio allows the Member in Discernment, the MID Advisor, and the Committee on Ministry to have a record of the learnings, experiences, and reflections of the Member in Discernment as they progress in the discernment process.
       It is recommended that the portfolio be organized around the Marks. The ministry experiences (preaching, liturgy development and leadership, community engagement, etc.), theological educational coursework, and personal reflections may demonstrate where additional development may be needed in a particular Mark. When used along with a plan of preparation and formation, the portfolio may be an asset in designing specific activities and/or recommendations unique to the Member in Discernment with the aim of achieving competence in the Marks. Therefore, the portfolio is a living set of files, videos, artistic expressions, sermons, letters of support from the local church, and more, that is intended to be updated and revised throughout the discernment period and shared at least annually with the Committee on Ministry and the MID Advisor. The portfolio provides the Member in Discernment the opportunity to share their spiritual biography, the struggles with theological perspectives (their own or others), to articulate how the Marks are integrated in their understandings of ministry, and to give insight to the depth of learning acquired during the discernment period. The final draft of the portfolio will assist the Member in Discernment in writing their ordination paper and preparing for the ecclesiastical council (or other standard practice in their Association), and in drafting their ministerial profile.
       In this age of technology, the portfolio need not be limited to paper documents. Committees on Ministry and Members in Discernment are encouraged to be open to accessing online portfolios through avenues such as Google Docs or Dropbox or other methods. This would be especially valuable in those instances where distance between the Member in Discernment and the Committee on Ministry proves challenging. Having access to online portfolios can support the relationship and communication between the Member in Discernment and the Committee on Ministry.
       Each person is more than what is represented on paper. A well-developed portfolio will help the Committee on Ministry in gleaning a richer, fuller understanding of the potential future minister whose fitness for ministry in the United Church of Christ they are empowered to assess. Committees on Ministry are encouraged to attend to the stressors that are a part of the discernment process, to consider the Member in Discernment’s whole life, and to empathetically and gracefully offer guidance if the demands of preparation and formation appear overwhelming for a Member in Discernment. Regular communication with the Member in Discernment can promote trust and a sense of being cared for that may be reflected in the portfolio and, potentially, future relationships.

Questions for Reflection:

  •  How has your Committee on Ministry used portfolios with MIDs in the past?
  •  What have you learned about one of your MIDs that you might not have without the use of a portfolio?
  •  What assistance do you need to strengthen the use of portfolios for MIDs? 

Other MESA News:
COMma Newsletter
Committee on Ministry members are invited to sign up for this monthly newsletter here: https://www.ucc.org/ministers_committees-on-ministry.

MESA Zoom Trainings Have Returned
Given the continued global pandemic related to COVID-19, the MESA team has returned to offering live Zoom trainings for Committees on Ministry and others. All trainings require advance registration; a confirmation email will then be sent to registrants with additional information. Here are the upcoming offerings, which are also available here:

July 29 at 4:30pm ET
Book Study on Saying No to Say Yes with Rev. Tara Barber and Rev. Stephen Boyd
Recently MESA offered two Zoom sessions on Pastoral Relations Committees. The response from Committees on Ministry and Pastoral Relations Committees (PRC) was significant, which indicated that there is a need for conversation and information about this important committee in the life of our congregations. One takeaway from those presentations was that there was a need for ministers to participate, share their experiences and have input into what a healthy PRC would like.

We would like to start this conversation with a denominational-wide conversation around the book, Saying No to Say Yes (David C. Olson and Nancy G. Devor, authors, available online and from local sellers). After reading the book, we are inviting ministers (limited to 25 at each session) to join us for a discussion. Following those conversations, MESA plans a latter opportunity to reconvene with interested parties to discuss boundaries, parameters and expectations for healthy Pastoral Relations Committees in their ministerial settings.

August 19 at 3:30pm ET
Welcoming Ecumenically Ordained Ministers with the Rev. Elizabeth Dilley
What do the acronyms OMPS and FOA stand for, and what do they mean? What is the difference between Dual Standing and Privilege of Call? Do ministers from other denominations need standing in the UCC in order to serve? What is the role of the COM when a congregation is considering a candidate ordained in another tradition? Join Elizabeth Dilley for conversation and exploration of how the UCC welcomes ecumenically ordained ministers.


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