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Commissioned Pastor

Commissioned pastors in the Reformed Church in America are elders who serve under the jurisdiction and within the boundaries of a particular classis, and who have completed a training and study program approved by the classis.

They are individually commissioned for a specific ministry need, which could be the need for a preacher or pastor in a small congregation, for a church staff member, church planter, or hospice worker, or for any other area of ministry that the classis deems appropriate to the training and gifts of the commissioned pastor.

A person retains the designation “commissioned pastor” only for the period of time that he or she is actively serving in a ministry approved and commissioned by the classis.

The performance of each commissioned pastor is evaluated annually by the classis. The classis will also assign a mentor for the period of training and ministry of each commissioned pastor candidate.

An individual seeking to become a commissioned pastor:

  • must first be recommended by his or her own congregation’s consistory.
  • must have a course of study and training approved and supervised by his or her classis. (In most cases the course of study will take at least two years.)
  • after completing the course of study, will be officially commissioned after he or she has received an invitation to serve in a particular ministry that the classis has authorized and for which the classis has approved the contract.

Criteria for becoming a commissioned pastor

Before being commissioned, commissioned pastor candidates must demonstrate competence in each of these areas. 

Maturity of faith

Demonstrate a mature personal faith in the Triune God.

Personal integrity and call

Demonstrate a life worthy of the gospel, a sense of call to be a commissioned pastor, an understanding of that ministry in the Reformed tradition, and a commitment to its responsibilities.

Understanding of the Old and New Testaments and biblical interpretation

Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the Scripture, commitment to its authority as the Word of God, and insight in its interpretation.

Reformed theology and tradition

Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of and commitment to Reformed doctrine, government, and worship.

Church history

Demonstrate a working knowledge of the history and teachings of the Christian church, including her government and worship.

Knowledge of and adherence to the Constitution of the RCA

Demonstrate a functional understanding and adherence to the government, standards, and liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.

Nature and administration of the sacraments

Demonstrate understanding and skill for the administration of the sacraments that is theologically Reformed and contextually relevant.

Ability to preach

Demonstrate understanding and skill to lead worship and preach the gospel.

Capability to minister within the church

Demonstrate the understanding and skill required to lead the people of God in faithfulness to their mission, including the areas of discipleship, evangelism, and leadership.

Understanding of and adherence to pastoral ethics and practices

Demonstrate understanding, skill, and compassion in caring for people and congregations.

More information

Become a commissioned pastor

If you’re interested in becoming a commissioned pastor, talk to your pastor. Your pastor will be able to connect you with the people in your classis who oversee training for commissioned pastors.

Book of Church Order

Read more about commissioned pastors in the Book of Church Order, (Ch. 1, Pt. II, Art. 17).


Read the Order for Commissioning a Commissioned Pastor