The Committee on Ministry (COM) works hard to offer support and accountability for our Authorized Ministers with standing in this Conference. The goal of any COM process is to support the local church and its Authorized Ministers by preparing individuals to serve in ways that build their skills and create ministry that is healthy and wholistic. Sometime that means making difficult decisions. The goal of all our sections of COM is to always offer support and options for healing and growth where necessary. This is not always possible and sometimes difficult decisions have to be made but they are never made lightly.
I thought it might be helpful to share an overview of how I see the work of COM operating in our Conference in hopes that it will address some wonderings you may have about Committee on Ministry.
Member in Discernment Process: All of us in the Church are called to ministry. Some of us are called to Authorized Ministry. When that happens, COM will enter into a process with a Member in Discernment when an individual, in conversation and discernment with their local church, seeks ordination in the United Church of Christ. This process often takes several years and during this time there are annual check-ins to see how the MID is being supported, where their journey is taking them and for COM, the Church and the MID to discern continued call to Authorized Ministry. At the appropriate time COM will invite that person to prepare for an ordination interview which is one of the last steps towards ordination in and on behalf of the entire United Church of Christ.
Ordained Ministers Seeking Standing in the UCC: When ordained ministers from other denominations want to seek connection or standing with the UCC, our COM will walk with them through Dual Standing, Privilege of Call or Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing journeys. All these processes include discernment in partnership with the local churches in which these ministers will serve.
Periodic Support Consultations: Ministers with standing in this Conference are invited to meet with a few members of COM once every 3-5 years. Our COM B scheduler works hard to schedule ministers to meet with COM. This also includes requests from ministers who, because of life circumstances, need extra support at times of important life changes.
Life-Long Learning oversight: NCNC has specific requirements for all Authorized Ministers. These requirements are meant to offer opportunities for ministers to step away from ministry itself and examine their preparedness for responding to their sacred call.
Boundary Training, Racial Justice Training, Mandated Reporter Training, and continuing education are the requirements for standing in NCNC. It is important to COM that our Boundary Training and Racial Justice Training requirements include opportunities for interaction with colleagues and strong facilitation to present the kinds of topics that one may encounter. To this end, NCNC has created a program for Boundary Training and Racial Justice Training that emphasizes participation and interaction among participants.
COM understands that attending an NCNC training is not always possible for everyone. To this end, COM will evaluate an outside program that a minister brings forward, looking at three things: Length of training, curriculum and how the training is conducted. If COM determines a training meets appropriate criteria in those areas, it will approve it and that training will be posted on our website as an alternative option for training. Right now, we have approved trainings available through Faith Trust Institute and in-person trainings of the Northern California Nevada Region of the Disciples of Christ. If a minister finds another training they would like to be approved that includes at least six hours, interactive participation and a curriculum that addresses the main topics related to boundaries, we encourage that minister to submit it to COM B via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. COM will evaluate it and determine if it meets the criteria and can be approved.
Exempt Standing: Most of us who serve in ministry reach a point when it is time for us to step away from public ministry and truly retire. Asking for Exempt Standing is a way to continue to serve as a member of a local church who also is a retired minister. A minister requesting exempt standing will fill out a form on our website. That form includes a space for the minister to enter a description of the ministry they and their local church pastor have decided, together, they may partake in within their church of membership. This can also include agreements about personal family ministry such as family weddings and funerals. Exempt Standing means a minister is no longer obligated to complete any life-long learning requirements because they will no longer be engaging in public ministry.
Situational Support Consultations: There are times in the life of a congregation where there is a need for support in addressing a conflict between ministers and congregants or between colleagues in ministry. COM is available to be a neutral party to help facilitate the conversations that need to happen in these situations.
Fitness Review Process: When a complaint is raised related to a minister’s fitness for ministry, COM has a process that is followed to support the church and the authorized minister. Some people have told me that if a complaint is made, COM will either determine the complaint is not legitimate or that their standing will be terminated—there is no room in the middle for anything else. That is not true. The Fitness Review process is always seeking, whenever possible, healing and health of the Authorized Minister and the Church. It is aimed at supporting the Church and Minister in bringing health to the system and to the individuals in the system. COM meets a church and their minister in the most tender of times and has been trained to listen and discern the best way forward for all involved. It is hard and sometimes the results are painful. And all decisions are entered into with prayer and discernment and trust in God to be present in the process.