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The School for Ministry

Initiated in 2019, the School for Ministry is a new venture for CCIW (Disciples of Christ) and the Illinois Conference of the UCC. Built on a foundation of God’s life-changing love, the School serves as a continuing education training ground for Commissioned Ministers (DoC) and Lay Ministers (UCC).

In these days of rapid change, the Christian church has new needs for ministerial leadership. Hence, the School for Ministry offers to feed God’s sheep and God’s shepherds. We are calling and equipping gifted laity in the congregation to help them to discern their call to ministry in the context of intentional, sacramental community.

Through nurturing and education, faculty, staff, and administration will help aspiring leaders gain the ability to become faithful, well-qualified pastors and ministers. We are confident that the School’s educational ministry will change the lives of leaders and congregations, moving them from surviving to thriving.

We’re creating the next crop of ministers – a new way of education for a new day in ministry.

Watch this space for more updates and the expanding horizons of the School for Ministry.

To apply for the School For Ministry, candidates must complete the ministry application and submit a minimum of one reference.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will the program look like?

The educational experience will take place in groups of students called cohorts. The first experience for each cohort will be a weekend spiritual retreat, which will focus on discerning a call to ministry. There will be a scripture-based study of call –Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, the disciples. There will be opportunities to practice deep listening and to engage in Circles of Trust (ala Parker Palmer), a version of a Quaker clearness committee.

Courses in the first year will likely include Basic Bible –origins, meaning, the Canon, interpretation –Hebrew scriptures in the winter/spring session and New Testament in the fall session. These courses will be offered online through an accredited university. A summer intensive experience will likely include a week-long, in-depth study of a particular book of the Bible such as Ezekiel, the Gospel of John, the Psalms.

We want the intensive courses to be open to everyone –clergy and laity –led by some of the most gifted seminary professors today. During the summer week, there will be additional opportunities for the School’s first cohort to continue deepening their spiritual growth.

The cohort will journey through the three-year process together as they take classes online in the spring and fall, gather for the intensive classes each summer and have the support of a mentor, a spiritual director, and a life coach. Collegiality and community are two of the strong features of the program.

Through these experiences, the School will help congregations in need of leadership development, including rural and small churches as well as those with diverse racial-ethnic make ups. The educational program will emphasize cultivating leaders from within our congregations and recognizing the gifts of the laity.

The School will emphasize pro-reconciling, anti-racist approaches, seeking to understand our place in God’s diverse creation. We have a robust, 20-year history of providing anti-racism training in our Region. That tradition continues.

What outcomes will we expect to see?

We’ll ask our students to tell us a story about transformation in their lives —stories such as those that members of the School for Ministry Board recently shared. This is what they said:

StoryA –I had a career, and during this time I knew I had things I might share through the church. I was uncertain but thought I might have a call to ministry. What to do with it? In my association with others in a similar situation, I became a lot more certain regarding the call. I learned many things I didn’t know and found I could be helpful to others. The relationships are carrying on.

Story B-I retired early. While I was working, I preached in several churches in the community. I came to the Disciples ofChrist church, and they encouraged me to consider pastoring them. They encouraged me to attend The School for Ministry. I was reluctant, but now I appreciate how much there is to learn and I am empowered to learn more as I pastor. Understanding the depth and breadth of scripture and the history in it has been a very rich experience. I learned there is more to pastoring than preaching. I know more about healthy spiritual growth and mission/outreach in the community.

Story C –Is there a call for me? I know seminary is not for me. In the School for Ministry, I can deepen my faith, receive knowledge to become a competent minister. It fits with the time and money I can give. I’m not sure I’ll serve a congregation, but I have developed a great skill set. It helps me to serve more effectively as a layperson.

What is Commissioned Ministry?

Commissioned Ministry

What is Commissioned Ministry?

Commissioned ministers are persons upon whom the church confers authority to minister in specific situations for a specific time, usually one year. These persons shall be called by God and the church shall confirm that these persons have the faith, abilities, qualities,and preparation needed for their specific ministry. Commissioned ministry is of three types:student ministry, congregational ministry, and specialized ministry.

Commissioned Student Minister.

Commissioned student ministers are persons who are enrolled in a seminary degree program and who have a covenantal relationship with a congregation or church agency. Ordinarily these persons are preparing for ordination.

Commissioned Congregational Minister.

Commissioned congregational ministers are persons who have a covenantal relationship with a congregation to provide general ministerial functions. These persons are not ordinarily seeking ordination.Commissioned Specialized Minister. Commissioned specialized ministers are persons who are not seeking ordination but are certified to perform a specialized function of ministry such as music ministry, counseling, and administration. These persons shall demonstrate that they have the proper training and skills to provide for the specialized ministry. These persons shall have a covenantal relationship with a congregation or agency.

Application for Commissioned Ministry.

Persons may apply for commissioned ministry status through their Commissionon Ministry [or Committee on Ministry]. Applicants shall meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry.•Demonstrate a definite and informed decision, in response to God, to serve in the order of ministry.
  • Be a participating member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)or the United Church of Christ.•Provide a written endorsement of his or her candidacy for commissioned ministry.
  • Have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Demonstrate maturity and leadership potential.
  • Adhere to requirements specified by the Commission on Ministry.

General Qualifications.

The following qualifications are expected of persons who seek to serve as commissioned ministries:

  • Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  • Commitment to a life of Christian discipleship, and show potential for leadership in the Christian community.
  • Personal fitness sufficient to the demands of the office, including mental and physical capacities emotional stability and maturity, and sound ethical and moral character.

Educational Requirements.

Persons entering commissioned ministry are expected to engage in educational preparation and participate in continuing education programs to facilitate the integration of the theological awareness and the functions of ministry. Persons seeking a Commission may satisfy the educational requirements, in part, by obtaining the Certificate in Pastoral Ministry offered by the School for Ministry. Educational preparation will normally include the following sixteen Areas of Ministry Practice (AMP) in which a minister needs to have some level of competence.

Areas of Ministerial Practice

  1. Biblical Knowledge
  2. Church Administration and Planning
  3. Communication
  4. Cross Cultural and Anti-Racism Experience
  5. Ecumenism
  6. Education and Leader Development
  7. Ethics
  8. Evangelism
  9. Mission of the Church in the World
  10. Pastoral Care
  11. Proclamation of the Word
  12. Spiritual Development
  13. Stewardship
  14. Theology
  15. Understanding of Heritage
  16. Worship

Source: Christian Church in Indiana (Disciples of Christ), Excerpts from the Commission on Ministry Manual.


What took place at the 2019 Discernment Retreat?

2019 Discernment Retreat Summary

On January 11-12, 17

participants gathered at the Chiara Center in Springfield, ILfor the first weekend discernment retreat. The purpose of the gathering was to help participants discern a call to ministry and learn more about the Certificate program.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The agenda began with introductions of the facilitators and participants. This was followed by exercised designed to establish ground rules and break the ice. Other activities, led by Jim Olson and Teresa, focused on centering, covenant, and community formation.

We broke for dinner at 7 p.m.The dinner hour provided opportunities for the group to interact informally and get to know each other. After dinner, Lorrie introduced the School. This was followed by a Q and A period. Al Keeney led Night Prayers.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Saturday morning session began at 7:15 a.m. with Morning Centering consisting of body movement and silent reflection led by Al Keeney. This activity was optional. Breakfast began at 8:00 a.m.Participants had additional opportunities to get to know each other.

Following breakfast, Al led a guided meditation. After this, Theresa led a poetry writing exercise and facilitated a scripture-based study of call stories –Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, the disciples.After each call story we completed an art project and had additional opportunities to interact informally.

We broke for lunch at noon and reconvened at 1 p.m. By then,snow had started to fall heavily. By a show of hands, members of the group decided that, because the weather was bad outside and the roads were dangerous, we would take part in the planned worship and communion services. Jim Olson led the worship and communion.

Participants left the Center and began to make their way home through the snow.We were all blessed by the experience.

What courses were offered in 2019?

School for Ministry 2019 Course Calendar

Jan. 11-12, 2019
Discernment Retreat Chiara Center near Springfield, IL
The Discernment Retreat is a two-day experience to help participants discern their call to ministry and obtain information about the School for Ministry program and curriculum. Activities include community-formation, guided meditation, worship, and interactive activities. The 2019 activities were led the Rev. Dr. Teresa Dulyea-Parker, the Rev. Canon Albert J. Keeney, the Rev. James Olson, and the Rev. Lorrie Reed.

March 4-April 28
Overview of the Bible Online through Philips (MTP*)
Instructor: Rev. Susanna Southard(
his course is an introduction to the content of the Bible and the methods of study that scholars use to understand it. Students will learn about the history of the periods in which various biblical books were written and about how the individual writings came together into a single book. Students will attempt to discover what the biblical writers were seeking to accomplish through their writings. This course is a prerequisite for the OT and NT courses.

June 24-28
Biblical Story telling Eureka College
Instructor: Dr. Marti Steussy
This week-long, intensive summer course comprises in-depth hearing, probing, and telling of the Bible’s stories in the Bible’s own words.Most of the Bible is story, and its overall shape is that of a story.Not only that;its writers expected that their work would be told aloud, not read silently.How can we better hear the biblical storytellers, catch their tones of voice, interpret their winks and nudges?How does the experience of Bible change when we hear and tell it live, rather than scrutinizing it on a page?The course will explore these questions and more.Other enrichment activities will be included.

August 19-Oct. 13
Intro to OT Online through Philips (MTP*)
Instructor Dr. Lisa Davison(
This course will be a survey of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), with a focus on understanding the nature of the literature, intent of the authors, the place of the books in the canon, and issues for interpretation in the life of the church.

*Ministry Training Program
Revised 1/27/19

Is financial assistance available?

Yes, financial assistance is available. The CCIW and the Illinois Conference are offering generous subsidies for students to reduce the cost of attending the School for Ministry. A new minister can afford to take classes and will not have to travel to make each class.


Pay Tuition

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