Lay Ministers


Lay ministers are those members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA, who have been called by God and who are not seeking recognition or employment as a professional member of the clergy. Rather, they intend to use the gifts God has given them to perform specific acts of ministry and leadership in the local churches where they are members.

This license is granted by the local church. Persons holding this license are not assumed to be pursuing status as a national conference minister or ordained eider.


Candidates for this license must have been members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA, for at least two years and members of the local church to which they apply for at least one year. They must have demonstrated faithfulness to the expectations of members, adherence to the moral and social standards of the church, and conformity to the general expectations of ministers.


The following procedure is established for the licensing of lay ministers:

1. Referral of the Senior Pastor

After consulting with the candidate to determine God’s call and the candidate’s suitability for ministry, the senior pastor shall refer the candidate to an examining committee.

2. Examination

The senior pastor shall arrange for an examining committee composed of the cluster leader (or his appointee), the senior pastor, and one other member of the local church. The candidate shall present the following to the committee:

a. Three Letters of Reference. These letters are to be obtained from acquaintances of the candidate and should give evidence of the candidate’s faithfulness in Christian living.

b. A Written Testimony. This document should outline the candidate’s Christian experience, beliefs, and reason for pursuing the lay minister’s license.

Based on the above documents and any others the committee may require, the candidate shall be examined to determine matters of personal integrity, commitment to the Christian faith, ministerial call, relationships with others, spiritual maturity, and understanding of the doctrinal distinctness, history, and polity of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA.

3. Report to the Local Church

Following the examination, the examining committee shall report its findings to the local church, making any recommendations it deems consistent with its findings. Pending a favorable recommendation from the examining committee, the local church may choose to grant a lay ministers license.

4. Probationary License

Prior to completion of the course of study (outlined below), the lay minister’s license is considered probationary and is subject to annual renewal.

5. Permanent License

When the course of study has been completed, the examining committee shall once again examine the candidate. If the committee so recommends, the local church may grant a permanent lay minister’s license to the candidate.

6. Transferring the License

When lay ministers, both permanent and probationary, transfer their membership from one United Brethren church to another, the license is automatically transferred once the receiving church has confirmed the transfer of membership.

7. Loss of the License

Local churches have the authority to revoke the licenses of lay ministers whose lives and ministries are inconsistent with the expectations detailed in the Discipline. Failure to retain membership in a United Brethren church will also result in loss of license.

8. Unorganized Churches

Candidates who are actively involved in a congregation that is recognized by the national conference but is not yet organized as a full member congregation may obtain a lay minister’s license. The examining committee in such cases shall consist of the senior pastor (if a national conference minister), the cluster leader, and at least one additional elder and one United Brethren layperson. The process for examination shall follow the same procedures as for other candidates.

Following the examination, the committee shall report its finding to the bishop, making any recommendations it deems consistent with its finding. The bishop may then issue a probationary license.

9. Service Outside the Local Congregation

Lay ministers may serve as supply pastors and perform ongoing specific acts of ministry outside of the local congregation of which they are members; however, they must first be approved for service by the Pastoral Ministry Leadership Team. (Note: This is a local church license, and not under the supervision of the PMLT.)

Course of Study

All persons who have been granted a probationary lay minister’s license shall pursue a course of study in which they shall read and be examined on 16 books. These books shall be chosen from a reading list prepared by the Pastoral Ministries Licensing Team.

To be eligible for annual renewal, those holding a probationary license must read and pass an examination on four books. The examination will be administered by the senior pastor.When 16 books have been read and the examinations passed, the candidate shall be eligible for a permanent lay minister’s license.

Expectations of Lay Ministers

In addition to the general expectations of all ministers and members in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA, lay ministers are expected to faithfully fulfill the following:

1. Annual Reporting

All lay ministers, both permanent and probationary, are expected to file an annual report of their activities with the local church to which they belong. If they are serving as a supply pastor, lay ministers will also file an annual report with the bishop and cluster leader.

2. Accountability

Since this license is granted by the local church, lay ministers are accountable to the local church of which they are members.

3. Ministerial Service

Lay ministers shall work under the direction of their senior pastors and bishop. They may be asked to supply pulpits when ministers are ill or on vacation, serve as supply pastors, or do specific acts of ministry as part of the overall ministry of their local church or denomination.

When serving as a supply pastor, lay ministers are authorized to officiate at funerals and administer the ordinances of baptism and communion, and are permitted to conduct weddings. Probationary lay ministers will not be permitted to serve as a supply pastor of any congregation for longer than one year.

The entire Pastoral Ministry Handbook can be downloaded as a PDF file.

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