According to G-2.10 in the Book of Order, “the presbytery may authorize a ruling elder to be commissioned to limited pastoral service as assigned by the presbytery. A ruling elder so designated may be commissioned to serve in a validated ministry of the presbytery. … A ruling elder who seeks to serve under the terms of G-2.1001 shall receive such preparation and instruction as determined by the presbytery to be appropriate to the particular commission. The ruling elder shall be examined by the presbytery as to personal faith, motives for seeking the commission, and the areas of instruction determined by presbytery.” (G-2.1001, 2.1002) Those ruling elders who are commissioned to pastoral service are called “Commissioned Pastors” (CPs) in the Presbytery of WV.
“Authorized Lay Preacher” (ALP) is a term used by this presbytery to designate those who are trained to serve as occasional pulpit supply preachers, having either completed the Authorized Lay Preacher portion of the program (Level Two as described below) OR the Commissioned Pastor preparation (Levels Two and Three) though not currently commissioned to serve a particular church as a pastor. In this presbytery, the Vocations Committee is responsible for preparation, training and oversight of this program. Below is an overview and description of the preparation process which is required of those who would seek to serve as Commissioned Pastors and Authorized Lay Preachers in the Presbytery of West Virginia.
Overview of Program
Level One – Presby Prep
The Authorized Lay Preacher (ALP) and Commissioned Pastor (CP) preparation program in the Presbytery of West Virginia is a three-level program. Level One is Presby Prep which has one-day courses in Biblical Interpretation, Reformed Theology, Church History, Presbyterian Polity, Worship, Christian Education, and Stewardship and Mission. These courses are open to any interested person and will be taught on Zoom. People may register for individual courses on an interest basis, but all of these courses must be completed in order for a person to move to the ALP (Level Two) or CP (Level Three) program.
Presby Prep will be offered on a Thursday evening or Saturday morning on Zoom, from January-May and September-November, beginning in January 2022. Thursday nights runs 6:30-9:30 p.m., and Saturday mornings runs 9 a.m. to noon. Participants are only required to attend the course once and may choose whichever time fits their schedule best each month, moving between the two times as needed. If needed, there will be make-up opportunities provided on Zoom. All courses must be completed by November 30, 2022.
Each course will have a pre-assignment to be completed prior to the day of the course on Zoom. These will include a reading, viewing, and/or written assignment, depending on the course. These assignments will form the basis for discussion and learning. Assignments will be shared with participants at least one month in advance.
To advance to ALP/CP Preparation, successful completion of all Presby Prep courses is a requirement. Exceptions to this requirement are:
– A seminary degree (MDiv, MACE) from a PC(USA) seminary or certification as a Christian Educator within the past 10 years satisfies the Presby Prep completion requirement
– Documented successful completion within the last 10 years of PC(USA) seminary courses or Certified Educator courses on specific topics will satisfy the requirement for those Presby Prep courses.
The registration fee for Presby Prep is $50 for all the courses or $10 for each individual course. In addition, participants will be expected to pay for any books required for courses (approximately $100 total).
Presby Prep brochure
Online Presby Prep registration
Moving to Level Two (Authorized Lay Preacher preparation)
Preparation to be an ALP/CP in the Presbytery of WV is meant to be a growth experience, not only in education, but also in community, accountability, camaraderie and orientation to this Presbytery and its ministries in Appalachia. Because these are important aspects of the program, those who desire to be an ALP or CP must participate in the Presbytery’s program for this preparation beyond Presby Prep/Lay Academy.
Any individual who has completed Presby Prep and wishes to continue in the ALP/CP program shall complete an ALP/CP application. The application deadline is August 31. Following receipt of the completed applications, the committee will meet with all persons who are accepted.
Qualifications of Applicants, which must be met for admission to the ALP and/or CP program:
- High school diploma or GED
- Active membership for at least 2 years in the sponsoring PC(USA) congregation or other congregation in the Presbytery of WV
- Endorsement by the Session and pastor/moderator of the church of membership
- Three additional references from non-relatives
- A satisfactory sexual misconduct disclaimer and background check
Note: While ordination as a ruling elder is not a requirement for completing the ALP/CP Preparation Program, it is a requirement for serving as a commissioned pastor.
Additional expectations of applicants are:
- Faith, as expressed by trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and belief in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve; acceptance of the Old and New Testaments as the authoritative witness to that faith; receiving and adopting the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of the Church
- Maturity as expressed by membership in the PC(USA) and faithful, regular participation in its worship and service; openness to new ideas and learning; reliability; compassion; skills in personal relationships such as well-developed listening skills; ability to relate to various age groups; and leadership skills
- A Christian life deliberately lived with integrity of word and deed; commitment to personal spiritual growth through prayer, Bible reading and devotion
Should one wish to be considered for this program who does not meet all of the qualifications and expectations, the applicant should indicate this on the application form and it will be taken into consideration.
Level Two (Authorized Lay Preacher Process)
Successful completion of Level Two courses will fulfill the educational requirements for being an Authorized Lay Preacher. Areas of study are: preaching; worship leadership, design and music; biblical exegesis; Old Testament; New Testament; ethics; Reformed Theology; ministry in Appalachia and small churches; and Sacraments. These courses will require outside reading and assignments to be completed in advance of the classes.
Level Two courses will be offered January-June and September-November 2023, at sites to be determined according to the geographic location of participants and leaders, with the possibility of moving around the presbytery. Courses will be held in person on a Friday night and all day Saturday once a month. Successful completion of Level Two will be assessed by completion of a comprehensive written exam on course material and assignments and demonstrated preaching capability; the exam will be distributed in June 2023 to be completed and returned no later than August 15, 2023. Exams will be reviewed by members and support staff of the Vocations Committee. At the beginning of Level Two, participants will be assigned a minister of Word and Sacrament to serve as a mentor.
Moving to Level Three
Those who wish to advance to Commissioned Pastor preparation will be required to complete a psychological evaluation by July 31, 2023 and meet with members of the Vocations Committee in the fall to review the results. The cost of the psychological evaluation will be split three ways, with the participant, the church, and the presbytery all paying 1/3 or approximately $300 for each part.
Level Three (Commissioned Pastor Process)
Those who wish to complete Commissioned Pastor preparation must complete additional courses in the areas of preaching; Christian education; Presbyterian Program and Mission; Leadership and Administration; spiritual practices and faith development; and Pastoral Care. In addition to scheduled class time, there will be readings and assignments to be completed for each course.
There are two options for fulling the Level Three course requirements:
Option 1: Courses listed above will be held at sites within the presbytery that will be determined according to the geographic location of participants and leaders. The courses will be offered January – June 2024, on a Friday night and all day Saturday one weekend a month. The final meeting of those in the preparation program will be a meeting with the staff support of the presbytery to review next steps.
Option 2: Courses in Pastoral Care, Christian Education, Church Administration, Preaching, The Christian Life, and Mission and Evangelism through Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Pathways online courses must be successfully completed. These can be taken at any time during the preparation program, including during Presby Prep and Level Two. After completing the preparation program, the final step will be a meeting with the staff support person of the presbytery to review next steps.
Once all course requirements are met, those who wish to become eligible to serve as commissioned pastors must complete a three-month long Practicum under the mentoring of a minister member of the presbytery no later than August 31, 2024.
Successful completion of the educational component of the Authorized Lay Preacher or Commissioned Pastor preparation program will entail active participation and presence at all classes and completion of all assignments in a timely fashion. One missed course may be completed through an Independent Study. Additional courses may be accessed through video conferencing with prior permission. All Commissioned Pastors will be required to participate in the Presbytery’s Sexual Misconduct Awareness Training.
While the primary focus of this program is to prepare persons as worship leaders in churches as occasional pulpit supply and as Commissioned Pastors in churches, successful completion of the educational requirements does not guarantee service as an Authorized Lay Preacher or Commissioned Pastor. In addition to the educational requirements and successful completion of an examination by the Vocations Committee, calls by churches and approval of calls by the Committee on Ministry must take place for persons to serve as Commissioned Pastors.
No one enrolled in the Preparation Program will be approved to serve a pastoral function in a congregation in the presbytery until they have successfully completed the entire preparation program and examination process.
This program is not limited to those who wish to be ALPs or CPs. Past participants have found this program to be valuable in nurturing their faith, helping them to be better leaders and teachers and in strengthening the ministry of Christ’s Church.
Cost of the Program
In addition to the cost of Presby Prep (which is $50 for all courses), the registration cost per participant will be $75 for Level Two and ALP preparation. The cost of Level Three will depend on the option chosen. The cost for Option 1 is $75 for the year; the cost for Option 2 is approximately $135 per course.
Additional costs to participants will include the cost of textbooks, travel, psychological evaluation, meals, and lodging. Churches are expected to assist participants with a portion of the costs of this program, although they are requested not to cover the entire cost. Scholarships are available.
Opportunities for learning continue after successful completion of the educational requirements of the ALP/CP preparation program. Those who serve as Commissioned Pastors and Authorized Lay Preachers are expected to participate in continuing education. Possible offerings include: Festival of Faith; the Educator, Clergy, CP, ALP Retreat; Montreat Conferences; and the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) annual event, among others.
If you have any questions about any of the above information or the application process, please contact Susan Sharp Campbell, Associate for Educational Ministry for the Presbytery. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-645-4568.