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 in several different places within the presbytery in order to facilitate participation. Persons 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 or CP program (Level Two (ALP) and Level Three (CP)).
Presby Prep will be offered on two or three Saturdays a month, at three different sites in the presbytery, from January-May and September-November, beginning in September 2018. This will allow for making up classes in the event of a time conflict.
To advance to ALP/CP Preparation, successful completion of all Presby Prep courses (or all courses in the presbytery’s Lay Academy in 2010) 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.
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 the ALP/CP program should complete an ALP/CP application. The application deadline is March 31, 2019. 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
- Ordination as an elder (ALP or CP) or deacon (ALP only)
- 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
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.
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 September-November 2019 and January-June 2020, 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 on a Friday night and all day Saturday once a month. Successful completion of Level 2 will be assessed by completion of a comprehensive written exam on course material and demonstrated preaching capability; this will be distributed in June 2020 to be completed and returned no later than August 15, 2020. Exams will be reviewed by members and support staff of the Vocations Committee.
Moving to Level Three
Those who wish to advance to Commissioned Pastor preparation will be required to complete a psychological evaluation in June 2020 and meet with members of the Vocations Committee to review the results in August 2020.
Those who wish to complete Commissioned Pastor preparation must complete an additional year of study 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. During the summer of Level 3, a Practicum under the mentoring of an experienced pastor will be required.
Level Three courses will be held September-November 2020 and January-September 2021, including the summer practicum, again at a site(s) to be determined based on participants’ locations. The summer practicum assignments will be due no later than August 15, 2021. The final meeting of participants will be held in September to review next steps.
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 Ministry Committee must take place for persons to serve as Commissioned Pastors.
No one enrolled in Level 2 and/or Level 3 of 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 seven courses), the registration cost per participant will be $75 for Level 2 and ALP preparation and an additional $50 for Level 3 and Commissioned Pastor preparation.
Additional costs to participants will include the cost of textbooks, travel, psychological evaluation (the expectation is individuals will pay 1/3, the church pay 1/3 and presbytery 1/3 of these costs), 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.