Becoming an
Ordained Minister
in the RCA

Pastoral ministry is an important calling. In the RCA, ordained pastors are officially called “ministers of Word and sacrament.” To become an ordained minister in the RCA, you will need to follow certain steps. The particular steps depend on whether or not you’re a member of an RCA church, one of the RCA’s partner denominations, or a different denomination. It also depends on whether or not you’re already ordained in another denomination.

In any of these cases, the path to becoming an ordained minister of Word and sacrament in the Reformed Church in America always involves a connection with a local RCA congregation. That connection may be through membership in an RCA church or through a pastoral call to an RCA congregation.

The path to ordination as a minister of Word and sacrament in the RCA

If you’re a member of an RCA church, you should start by discussing your interest with your pastor and elders. They can walk with you, encourage you, and connect you with the classis your church is a member of. A classis is a group of churches, usually regional, and it’s responsible for overseeing theological training and ordination. When you start on the journey toward seminary and ordination, you will “come under care” of your classis.

Seminary education

If you discern a calling to ordained ministry, you should enroll in seminary and work towards obtaining a master of divinity (M.Div.). You may enroll in either of the two RCA-affiliated seminaries—New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, New Jersey, or Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan— or another seminary of your choosing.

If you choose a non-RCA seminary, it’s wise to discuss your enrollment with your classis to ensure they have confidence in the institution’s ability to provide a solid biblical and theological foundation. (Many seminaries, including New Brunswick and Western, offer other theological degrees, but an M.Div. is the degree that most directly leads to ordination. Other tracks will have to be supplemented with additional coursework.)

If you have chosen to pursue an M.Div. from a non-RCA seminary, connect with the Ministerial Formation Certification Agency (MFCA) as they will provide RCA-specific courses on polity and doctrine that will be required before you can complete classis examinations on those topics. You can email the MFCA at mfca@rca.org.

Classis examination and licensing for ordination

Throughout your seminary education, your classis will hold examinations on a variety of subjects to determine whether you’re prepared and a good fit for ordained pastoral ministry.

Once you’ve graduated with your M.Div., received a Certificate of Fitness for Ministry through an RCA seminary or the MFCA, passed your final classis exams, and been declared licensed for ordination by the classis, you may accept a call from an RCA congregation or one of our denominational partners that is declared to be in full communion with the RCA. These include the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC[USA]), the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). 

If you’re unsure about how to search for a pastoral job in the RCA, visit the Office of Ministry Services or contact ministryservices@rca.org. You can stay up to date on open positions in churches throughout the denomination through our employment opportunities page. 

Ordination and installation

Once you’ve accepted a call, you may be ordained as a minister of Word and sacrament in the RCA. The classis that you are currently under care of will oversee your ordination.

Once you’ve been ordained, your ordination will be transferred to the classis where your church of call is located, whether that church is RCA or not. (For instance, if you are ordained in the Chicago Classis but accept a call to an ELCA church in Seattle, you will belong to the Cascades Classis, even though the church you are serving is not an RCA church.) You will be a voting member of that classis, and they will install you as the minister of your new congregation.

You should enroll in seminary and work towards obtaining a master of divinity (M.Div.). You may enroll in either of the two RCA-affiliated seminaries—New Brunswick Theological Seminary (NBTS) in New Brunswick, New Jersey, or Western Theological Seminary (WTS) in Holland, Michigan— or another seminary of your choosing. (Many seminaries, including NBTS and WTS, offer other theological degrees, but an M.Div. is the degree that most directly leads to ordination. Other tracks will have to be supplemented with additional coursework.)

RCA seminary students

If you enroll at WTS or NBTS, they can help you connect with a local RCA congregation. This is important because ordination in the RCA must always involve a connection with a local RCA church. This church may be where you’ll complete your internship requirements, and the church can walk with you to come under care of the classis in its region. A classis is a group of churches, usually regional, and it’s responsible for overseeing theological training and ordination in the RCA. 

That classis will oversee your supervision throughout seminary and provide the necessary classis exams.

Non-RCA seminary students

If you choose to pursue an M.Div. from a seminary outside the RCA, you will need to contact the Ministerial Formation Certification Agency (MFCA) about completing the necessary courses and requirements. You can email the MFCA at mfca@rca.org.

You will also need to connect with a local RCA congregation so that you can come under care of a classis in your region. Ordination in the RCA always involves connection with a local RCA congregation. That congregation connects you with a classis, and that classis will provide necessary examinations for the ordination process.

Classis examination and licensing for ordination

Once you’ve graduated with your M.Div., received a Certificate of Fitness for Ministry through an RCA seminary or the MFCA, passed your final classis exams, and been declared licensed for ordination by the classis, you may accept a call from an RCA congregation or one of our denominational partners that is declared to be in full communion with the RCA. These include the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC[USA]), the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). 

If you’re unsure about how to search for a pastoral job in the RCA, visit the Office of Ministry Services or contact ministryservices@rca.org. You can stay up to date on open positions in churches throughout the denomination through our employment opportunities page. 

Ordination and installation

Once you’ve accepted a call, you may be ordained as a minister of Word and sacrament in the RCA. The classis that you are currently under care of will oversee your ordination.

Once you’ve been ordained, your ordination will be transferred to the classis where your church of call is located, whether that church is RCA or not. (For instance, if you are ordained in the Chicago Classis but accept a call to an ELCA church in Seattle, you will belong to the Cascades Classis, even though the church you are serving is not an RCA church.) You will be a voting member of that classis, and they will install you as the minister of your new congregation.

RCA partner denominations

Applies to ordained ministers within the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC[USA]), the United Church of Christ (UCC), or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Your ordination in a partner denomination allows you to serve in an RCA congregation. You may begin searching for a call to an RCA congregation.

If you’re unsure about how to search for a pastoral job in the RCA, visit the Office of Ministry Services or contact ministryservices@rca.org. You can stay up to date on open positions in churches throughout the denomination through our employment opportunities page. 

Once you receive a call to an RCA congregation, you can determine whether you wish to maintain your ordination in the denomination that currently holds it, or whether you will transfer your ordination. This can be achieved through discussion with the classis as they must approve the calls that take place in RCA churches under their jurisdiction. 

Other denominations

You may begin searching for a call to an RCA congregation. If you’re unsure about how to search for a pastoral job in the RCA, visit the Office of Ministry Services or contact ministryservices@rca.org. You can stay up to date on open positions in churches throughout the denomination through our employment opportunities page. 

Once you receive a call to an RCA congregation, the classis will need to approve your call, and determine the best path forward for you to transfer your ordination to the RCA. Be aware that this may include taking courses through Ministerial Formation Certification Agency (MFCA), and undergoing examination by the classis.

Commissioned pastors

In the RCA, some people serve as commissioned pastors. These commissioned pastors are elders who are appointed to serve in a specific pastoral role in their context. Their training is overseen by the classis that their church is a part of (a classis is a group of churches, usually regional).

Read more about commissioned pastors in the RCA.