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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.

If you have questions, contact your pastor or the stated clerk for your classis.

Training for Commissioned Pastors

All training should align with the ministry competencies outlined in the Book of Church Order (Chapter 1, Part II, Article 17, Sec. 2b [2023 edition, pp. 60-61]). The most straightforward way to achieve these competencies is through the completion of a certificate program at one of the RCA’s officially related seminaries: New Brunswick Theological Seminary or Western Theological Seminary. Each seminary has a certificate program designed to meet all the ministry competencies for RCA commissioned pastors. WTS’s certificate program is also available in Spanish

To ensure that all RCA commissioned pastor candidates are consistently trained, it is highly recommended that Competencies 4 (Reformed Theology) and 6 (Knowledge of and adherence to the Constitution of the Reformed Church in America) are met through courses at one of the RCA’s officially related seminaries.

RCA’s Pastoral Formation Oversight Board (PFOB) recognizes that these sources of training may not be suitable for all classes and commissioned pastor candidates, and that other carefully resourced ways of meeting some of the ten competencies may be approved by individual classes. Therefore, they have suggested recommended sources of training/assessment for each competency.

Recommended institutions:

Criteria for becoming a commissioned pastor

Maturity of faith

Demonstrate a mature personal faith in the Triune God.

Recommended training/assessment: Classis Evaluation

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.

Recommended training/assessment: Classis Evaluation

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.

Recommended training/assessment: Institution

Reformed theology and tradition

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

Recommended training/assessment: Institution

Church history

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

Recommended training/assessment: Institution

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.

Recommended training/assessment: Institution

Nature and administration of the sacraments

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

Recommended training/assessment: Institution

Ability to preach

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

Recommended Training/Assessment: Classis Evaluation

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.

Recommended Training/Assessment: Classis Evaluation

Understanding of and adherence to pastoral ethics and practices

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

Recommended training/assessment: Institution

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