Licensing for Specific Ministry

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"This credential is time specific, location specific, or ministry-role specific. It does not usually move toward ordination. This credential is for a person who does not sense a personal call to ordained ministry… The credential continues as long as the person is engaged in a leadership-ministry assignment within the congregation, or another specialized leadership ministry (church planters, chaplains, area-church and national-church staff)."

A Shared Understanding of Ministerial Leadership: Polity Manual for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.
Harrisonburg, Kitchener, MennoMedia, 2014 p. 19.

Credentialing Chaplains, Mission Workers and Others

Why credential persons for ministry in specialized settings? While the majority of the credentialing process has to do with pastors serving our congregations, the church also wishes to support persons in ministry in specialized settings. The church has not always adequately understood nor supported those who served in ministry roles outside of the congregation. However, it is our perspective that in fact we can and should have a thoughtful process by which to credential these persons who represent the church in world mission. Whereas the primary service of pastors is within and to the congregation, those who carry out ministry roles in specialized settings do so as representatives of our congregations beyond our own people. They truly represent the church as its missionary arm. 

Accountability is the second reason why the church needs to work with the credentials of persons in specialized ministry settings. While there may be exceptions, the majority of such ministry persons desire to see their ministry as growing out of their church relationships. Additionally, it is often expected of those who represent particular faith traditions within specialized professional groups, such as the Association of Professional Chaplains, to have the denominational endorsement for their ministry. 

Guidelines for Credentialing Those in Specialized Ministry Settings 

  1. In general the normal procedures should be followed as much as possible. 
  2. The manner in which their local congregation is involved in the process will inevitably be different than when credentialing involves the congregation’s pastor. It may be somewhat more low key, but this does not mean it is to be ignored. The local congregation and particularly the pastor should be strong in supporting this credentialing process. The ministry person is expected to maintain an active affiliation with a Mennonite congregation for the duration of the special ministry assignment and the active ministry credential. 
  3. As with pastors, the person to be credentialed will normally have a specific position of ministry to which they have been appointed or in which they are currently employed. This normally means that the employing agency, whether a mission board, local health care center, or some other group, will also be involved in some appropriate manner in the credentialing process. 
  4. All persons serving in ministry roles in specialized settings are expected to maintain forms of accountability with the church leadership minister of that regional church which holds their credentials. 

Beginning the Process

  1. The licensing process more formally begins when a letter from the candidate's congregation is sent to the church leadership minister requesting the candidate be licensed for specific ministry. This letter must include a statement affirming the gifts, character and calling of the minister.  
  2. If the licensing request is for a ministry position outside of the congregation then a letter of request must come from the congregation, as well as, the organization(s) that employs the minister. 
  3. The Licensing for Specific Ministry checklist helps to outline the LFSM process for candidates and congregational leaders, noting what is expected and who is responsible.  

Preparing for the Interview

Because this is a single credential unrelated to another to precede or follow, it is important for the participating persons to keep in mind that a broad range of concerns will need to be covered. These will include the sense of call, theology, Anabaptist/Mennonite relatedness and ministerial identity. 

  1. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Competencies and Education Narrative and Grid as they will be used in the discernment of one's licensing. 
  2. Once the letter has been received, the leadership administrative assistant will follow up with the candidate about what documents are needed for the interview. All of these documents must be sent to MCEC at least two weeks before the interview date. These include: 
    1. An up-to-date copy of the Ministerial Leadership Information Form (including references); and 
    2. A theological statement reflected in one's responses to Candidate Questionnaire for Interview (licensing)
  3. From there arrangements will be made for an interview date. 
    1. Please note that interviews are 1 hour in length and usually take place during business hours at MCEC (50 Kent Ave Kitchener, ON).  
    2. The candidate is required to bring a congregational representative (and employer representative when necessary) along with them. The congregational representative is usually a church council chair, chair of the pastor/congregation relations committee, or an elder. This person does not have to do a lot of speaking as the majority of the questions will be directed to the candidate. Leadership Council will affirm the candidate's areas of strength, and advise areas of growth. It is helpful for the congregational leader to hear about both, and work with the candidate in growth areas. If this person cannot attend in person, he/she can participate by video conferencing, but the candidate must be present in person.
    3. Interviewing committee members include: Church Leadership Minister, Regional Minister, Two (2) Leadership Council Members, Reference Group Member and Recorder. 
  4. Questions that may be asked in the interview are outlined in The Interview Guide.

Following the Interview

  1. The interviewing committee will put forth a recommendation to MCEC Leadership Council regarding a credential for the candidate. Leadership Council will meet to review the interview notes before approving the recommendation. Once approved, the church leadership minister will follow up with the candidate and send a letter to the candidate, as well as a copy to the congregational representative, outlining the decision made. This letter will also include affirmation for areas of strength and outline areas of growth seen in the candidate. 
    1. The areas of growth are recommendations for the candidate to work at. 
    2. The Growth and Orientation of Licensed Pastors document can also be used in determining next steps for the pastor. 
  2. With the approval of Licensing for Specific Ministry a date will be chosen for public recognition of this credential. Such a time and occasion will be scheduled when mutually agreeable to the ministering person, the church leadership minister and the congregation. 
  3. Once a credential has been received, be sure to annually complete the Accountability Plan for Leaders.

Celebration of Licensing

Licensing recognizes the important covenant of ministry. It is a covenant made in the presences of God between the minister, the congregation, and the regional church. Ceremonies for licensing provide the church with the opportunity to honour these occasions in the life of a minister, but are also important for the congregation and the church at large.  

Licensing ceremonies occur in a worship service and involve planning and participation by the candidate, the congregation, and an regional church representative (church leadership minister, regional minister or member of the leadership council). Others from the wider church community may also be invited to attend or participate. 

The congregation chairperson and candidate shall be in touch with the church leadership minister to arrange the ceremony. This service generally occurs as a special part of the regular worship service in the congregation of the one being licensed. The regional church representative shall lead the licensing ceremony portion of the service. 

It may be especially appropriate to invite the candidate for license to offer that day's sermon. Scripture and hymns lifting up the mission of the church could be used. Inviting a representative of the regional church leadership council, a representative from the ministry for which the person is being licensed, or other persons significant to the candidate will be a meaningful part of this occasion. They may be invited to bring special greetings, read scripture, or have a prayer. 

During the licensing ceremony, the church leadership minister shall ask the candidate particular questions in order to affirm commitment to Christ, devotion to the church, and faithful service in ministry. If a spouse so desires, the candidate's spouse may be invited to stand alongside the candidate during this ceremony as a symbolic gesture of support. A prayer of blessing, a statement of declaration, and a handshake follow the questions. (See Minister’s Manual, pp. 170-174, “Licensing/Commissioning for Specific Ministry.”) 

Traditionally a congregation will find ways to enhance the celebration of the event like hosting a meal or a reception. 

A covenant of ethics will be signed as part of the licensing ceremony. 

Sample litanies are available from MCEC. Contact the leadership administrative assistant to receive a copy. 

Adapted from Ceremonies of licensing, ordination and Licensing/Commissioning for specific ministry - part of the Ministerial Credentialing Series found at CommonWord. 

For more information about this credential refer to A Shared Understanding of Ministerial Leadership (Polity Manual for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA).

Page adapted from Ministerial Credentialing: A Guide to the Process part of the Ministerial Credentialing Series found at CommonWord.

Pastoral Ministry  Evaluations  Transitions  Relationship


Licensing toward Ordination   Ordination   Licensing for Specific Ministry   Commissioning   Transferring Credentials