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Hi gang! In thought I'd enter the brave new network world and check out the network conversations. This Ministry Associate page is one I'm very interested in, and I'm hoping it will help build some bridges and bring some encouragement and even lead toward some improvement in the system.

I know a few of you who have entered comments -- greetings! I currently work as the Director of Candidacy -- after a lot of years as a local pastor I accepted this new position in the CRC, beginning in Jan 2008. My hope and prayer is we can take some good steps together in our ordination processes.

One of these is the working out of Ministry Associate ordination. Synod 2007 committed to "more use, more status and more support" of this office. I hope that is happening, and will happen in the future. You can check the Candidacy Committee report to Synod 2009 (Agenda for Synod 2009, p. 215 ff) to see some of the initial steps that have been taken, including an address to the comment re "insurance and pension". There IS a plan, and in the mind of some Ministers of the Word, the plan available to ministry associates is a better plan than the plan offered to ministers of the word. The problem (potential offense) is that the plan is called "the unordained staff" plan. Maybe an overture to synod or a few letters to the pension committee would help them consider adopting a better name for the plan.

Also, re the issue of "ordination concluding" when the task concludes. Maybe an overture or a conversation with the Candidacy Committee could help address this. Truth is, Ministers of the Word also have their "ordination concluded" if they leave a ministry and do not enter another ministry. Yet for them, they are given a time (1-2 years, and then renewable time) to look and be considered without the ordination status being dropped. Ministry Associates do not currently have this "in between ministries period" -- I wonder how that could be instituted? (Again, a discussion here can help....)

Finally, the issue of "re-examiniation" when moving from one classis to another or from one ministry to another has been mentioned -- it is addressed also in the 2009 report to synod referred to above.

I want to bless each of you who are doing ministry via Ministry Associate ordination. I hope we can find more and more ways to support and encourage you!

Now, I hope I haven't broken any network rules by writing too much....

David Koll


I'll throw in a comment or two here:  In my task at the denominational candidacy committee office I end up giving direction to many regarding the office of Ministry Associate.  This is the office through which you would most likely be ordained to be a chaplain for the motorcycle club. 

In order to be ordained in this office, you church will have to both recognize and have a sense of ownership of this work as "ministry" -- effectively you will be asking them to "send you in the name of Christ and His church" to care for and reach out to the members of this club.

I can tell you of some ministry experience I have had with members who are "chaplains" in clubs:  In one case, the local baseball team booster had a "chaplain" -- the function seemed to be not much more than opening the meetings with prayer.  In another case, the local VFW hall had a chaplain,  and this person also opened meetings in prayer,  He also did a lot of hospital visits, met with families during illness of a member, even helped plan the funerals of  members.  Now, in my personal view, the first person as chaplain was simply a member/officer of a club, and the second person was doing "ordainable ministry" -- that is, the second person was doing an extension of the work a pastor would do, and pastors can't be everywhere....  This later rationale is  the idea of the broader use of "Ministry Associates." 

The truth here is that what I personally think is not so relevant -- it is in the body of a community of faith that recognition of what tasks are "ordainable ministry" is made.  So, it seems to be, one good next step would be to talk to your pastor and/or a couple of the elders to discuss your vision, even your sense of "calling", and see what sort of reaction you get.   You can feel free to refer any of them to me, or you can call me yourself to discuss this further. 

For you information you will find material on ministry associate ordination on a document on line on the candidacy committee web page:  Go to and look for the information dealing with ministry associates.

Blessings to you as you look into this matter and listen to God's prompting!

David Koll

Director of Candidacy for the CRC

[email protected]; ph. 877-279-9994 ext. 2779



Sorry to be late to the party -- this is a conversation I am living into with regularity in my role as coordinator of the ordination processes for the CRC.

Church Order Article 7 has been in the books for decades -- historically it was a way, in emergencies, to allow the church to proceed with an ordination of a person not theologically trained, but gifted --- and exceptional gifts was always a criteria.  In the 1980s--2000's the CRC started using Art 7 with greater regularity (i.e. instead of once every other decade, there were mutiple cases each year, and growing).   This trend fed into the agenda for the "Routes to Ministry" reports, studies done over an 8 year period that resulted in the creation of the denominational Candidacy Committee (initially called the SMCC)

One of the concerns is how the denomination can affirm the ministry (or potential ministry) of a person not theologically trained while still keeping a "high bar" on the value of theological education.  Paul is correct that many other denominations do not have a bar as high as the CRC (though many do have as high a bar -- the MDiv is a standard bar in many denominations in North America).  I am fully supportive of the thought that we need to learn from other denominations, and I seek to do so with eagerness.  I'll observe, though, that is some cases we learn from practices that bless a group and may bless us, and we also learn from practices that don't work so well -- so as to avoid them,...  The CRC is in the midst of deciding how these "lessons" from other denominations  apply in the area of ordination/theological education/sequence....

The change of synod 2007 to go back to the "historical usage" of Article 7 was done in part to protect the value of theological education.  (as Art 7s were happening more and more, students in seminary were naturally asking, "What am I doing suffering through these hard coruses and going into debt....?)  It is important and significant to note, though, that part of the decision re Art 7 was tied to a decision regarding Article 23, which regulates the usage of Evangelists/Ministry Associates.  The mantra that was adopted was "more use, more honor, more support" for this office.  It is functionally, more and more, very similar to Minister of the Word (or at least it can be), and varies (or at least it can vary) in the "particular focus" of the ordination.  A Minister of the Word is ordained for minsitry throughout the denomination; a Ministry Associate is ordained for a particular ministry.  Of course, should the Ministry Associate seek to take a new ministry assignment, the process for transfer from one ministry to another is easier/more smooth than ever before...  And for the record, we're on the continuum of change here, so there are some constrictions on use of Ministry Associate that remain.

One element of our current strategy (more use/more honor/more support) is that it is new and experimental:  we're living into it, and we'll see how it serves us as we practice it.  The barrier of "equal honor" is most strategically carried out at the regional and local level.  In Classis GLA where I served, there has really been a longer history of equality of honor given to Ministry Associates and Ministers of the Word -- they serve together, respect and learn from one another.   I have been seeing, in the 3 years I have been doing this job, that other classes are moving toward living out  this "equality of honor" also.  As I hear complaints from some who say "Ministry Associates are 2nd class", I challenge them to treat and speak of Ministry Associates as  equal class -- it is the way we can help create this new culture.

Practically, the church is certainly enlisting the support of more and more Ministry Associates (doing ministry just like the formerly growing number of Art 7 persons was doing ministry).  In fact, the last statistics I had showed that synod 2010 approved 40 positions of  new Ministry Associates, and that same synod approved reports for classis exams for 40 new candidates for Ministrry of the Word.  As the trend continues, we're not far from having close to half of our ordained pastors serving with minimal theological education -- and rather, serving with the informal education that John is suggesting, and serving with the "post-ordination" educaton Paul has suggested.  It might be that as a system we more and more ordain people earlier (with Ministry Associate ordination) and then when they finish their theological education (doing education on the job, as life long learners) we ordain them into the Minister of the Word office.

Some denominations have done it this way for decades.  We, the CRC, are in the midst of an experiment that could lead to this.  I'm wondering if Paul and John support the experiment, or if they are more traditional (I doubt it, having had interchange with both of them), or if they are desirous of even more experimentation (I am guessing this may be, but I won't speak for them.)   I will say that whatever our perspective on this experiment and change in practice, we need to function as a community, a community of Christ -- which means a lot of respectful conversation as we discern how best to serve the church.

I'm all ears (after I'm now out of breath...)






Posted in: Classis by Video

Good post -- good article!  Very helpful.

You may also want to review the 2019 Agenda for Synod (or 2019 Acts of Synod) where you will find similar advice presented by the Candidacy Committee.  This was prepared in response to a request by Synod 2018 to the candidacy committee,.  The advice as received by synod 2019 will be placed in the "Journey Toward Ordination" document and in the "Commissioned Pastor Handbook."

David Koll

The issue of how to work with a pastor regarding standardizing "office hours" at church is indeed complex. Because of the options provided by cell phones, and because of the nature of ministry frequently and appropriately being done away from the church office, it is indeed possible for a pastor to do honest, productive work while not being in the office at church.

Yet, as you suggest, there is something positive to be gained when "office hours" are posted and observed. Among the benefits is the "drop in ministry opportunities" that may occur, to say nothing of the community perception that someone is at the building, and the congregational experience of seeing their pastor function in a disciplined, accountable manner. 

In our CRC polity a pastor is accountable to the church council, and it is appropriate for the elders and the pastor to speak openly regarding a policy for office hours, and a format for accountability regarding this. Such a conversation can take into account the personal style of a given pastor, and the need or desire for flexibility of scheduling, yet it also can take into account the positive factors that are gained through what we can call "the public accountability demonstrated through a posted schedule".  

A pastor who resists such a conversation and such accountability risks alienation with those with whom he is serving. Elders who resist dealing with this matter risk allowing distrust within a congregation to fester. On the positive side, a ministry and pastor that make themselves physically present on a predictable schedule will open themselves to unknown and significant blessings. 

David Koll on September 28, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks Dave for your quick input.  I'm hoping we can get a good conversation going here.

As you invite my input re "honor" for ministry associates via benefits and pension, the truth is that the denomination does have a pension plan that ministry associates are eligible for (it is a "defined contribution" plan rather than a "defined benefit plan", which in the minid of many is preferable these days)  There is also a health insurance plan they can qualify for.  The reality is that both ministry associates and ministers of the Word need to negotiate these plans with their "employing church" or agency -- it used to be that denominational rules made this automatic, but no longer.  

You, and others "participating"  in this conversation might be interested in looking at the "Ministry Associate Handbook" , which is on the CRCNA web site, the Candidacy Committee page.  Go to   In that booklet a number of these "honoring" issues, and other nuts and bolts issues of the office, are addressed.

The problem is, of course, that the CRC culture has not caught up with the "reality" of  ministry associate regarding issues (or issues for honoring ministers of the Word, for that matter).  Here is where, in my mind, we need to get our heads together.  



You raise an issue worthy of discussion -- and the good news is that discussion is happening.

In part, the area of "training and preparing" Ministry Associates has been and should be associated with the classis, as it is a classis that approves a position for Ministry Associate, and it is a classis that makes the judgement of an individual whether they meet the qualifications for ordination as a Ministry Associate".   The "denominational voice" is given through describing the "standards" for Ministry Associate in broad terms:  see the Church Order 23 supplement description of the "qualifications" in terms of "character/knowledge and skill".

The discussion point, as you raise it, seems to be "What is the denomination's role here?"  The catty answer is "whatever synod tells the denomination, and synod hasn't said much."  The more helpful answer is, "Let's think about this, talk about it, and perhaps some in key positions of leadership can provide leadership..."

Toward that end, our friends at Calvin Seminary are even this summer considering how their courses (and even new, yet to be devloped courses) could be of service to the church for training ministry associates. They are currently developing a "certificate program" for church leaders -- which is a "non-accreddited" addition to the degree programs they currently offer.   On line course delivery is apparently expensive -- but maybe through partnership with others who are offering on line courses, some service to people like yourself can be offered.   And the service of the seminary to the church increases...  One practical question here is, "Would the leaders of the classis training networks welcome this sort of tool, or would they feel threatened by it?"  

I suspect this conversation will continue in the coming weeks and months.  At least I can report that it us underway.  Do you have any thoughts to contribute to the conversation?  And does anyone else? 



Posted in: EM Forum


If you feel like you're talking to the air, take heart -- I'm not the wind speaking, but I'm eager to see your ministry to KM and EM prosper.   As a "Korean wannabee" I'll keep you and this matter in my prayers!     Blessings....


Rod and John, I appreciate your contributions to this discussion.  Allow me to offer a bit of response...  

Rod, in your recent comments you say, "    There have to be low cost delivery systems for continuing education in a denomination that prides itself in having a highly educated clergy but since we don't actually honor ministry associates at the denominational level, I doubt there will be much action on your request there."    You might be interested to know that CTS is currently offering two low cost programs (a certificate program and a diploma program) with non- accredited course work for whomever is interested.  These programs will be offered on line beginning in the fall of 2012 (as will a distance MDiv program).  I hope this encourages you -- and I hope that it challenges you in your statement that "we don't honor ministry associates at a denominational level".  You know, Rod, that I am one who is seeking to actively offer more honor to ministry associates.  I'm hoping we can encourage even good steps in the future.

Both John and Rod seem to touch on this "honor" issue.  One factor in this discussion is that all pastors (ministers of the Word and ministry associates) are facing economic challenges, cultural pressures that question what once was a universally honored profession, etc.   If a given ministry associate doesn't feel very honored, he/she is in the same company as many a minister of the Word.    As far as giving ministry associates opportunity to do ministry, it seems to me that the doors are more open now than they have ever been in the CRC.  John's quiries about "who should be allowed to do what" are answered currently by saying "either a ministry associate or a minister of the Word" .  In fact, the practice of ministry associates serving in solo positions in established churches is on the rise.  Rod's assertion re "a real pastor" being a minister of the Word rather than a ministry associate  is being challenged on a number of fronts -- many are concluding that "pastor" is the designation, and "ministry associate" and "minister of the Word" are church order, practical categories indicating the level of training and the breadth of endorsement the person has received.

I received a letter from somone not long ago that suggested minsitry associates should be called "elders" and not "pastors".  (The CRC Church Order currently overtly states that ministry associates serve as elders in the churches that have called them, but the underlying assumption for ministers of the Word is that they also function as an elder.)  I'm wondering if this is what John was suggesting in his recent comments.  I find this thinking to be a bit out of step with the direction I have just described, and with the direction the CRC is choosing.  What are your thoughts?

Rod and John,

There is something in me that is adverse to this network format:  I don't want to sound argumentative, because indeed I have had many a warm personal discussion on these matters with Rod, and we both deeply appreciate one another.  John, although I'm still eager for the opportunity to meet you personally, I'm confident that when we do we'll recognize a warm smile and a respectful eye in one another.

Yet the topic at hand is ":honor" , in particular for ministry associates.  Rod, I would challenge much of what you have recently said:  it applied to the CRC of a decade ago, but not today.  At two of the recent synods there has been standing  applause given for ministry associates present; Synod now DOES make and present a list of retiring ministry associates; ministry associates CAN be delegated to synod as pastors (if they are serving as solo pastors in an established church). A ministry associate would NOT be encouraged to step aside from his congregation upon becoming an established congregation -- at least not in your classis and in a number of other classes...--synod just this year affirmed the flexibility that the church order gives in this regard. 

Granted, we are not "there" yet, but we've come a long way, baby.  But now back to "honor".  What does it mean to be "there".  John's ideas of honor sound a bit different from Rod's.  All three of us (and is there anyone else in this conversation??)  need to remind ourselves that the church order is not the Bible, but is based on Scriptural teaching and order.  IS there a basis for a difference between elders and pastors?  Most churches through the centuries have said yes.  And, certainly, there is a perpetual tension between pastors using their gifts and pastors taking over...  It would be intersting, John, for you to try out an overture along the lines you suggest.  A cynic would say too many pastors would object for such an overture to pass.  What I wonder is if the elders on their own would, as a whole, really decide to delegate the pastors to the role of an observor.  My experience with elders through the years is that they have been deeply appreciative of my partnership with them  and my service among them, and I'll say it, even my leadership.  Although, very honestly, the same goes for me toward their partnership, service, and leadership.  We DO have different offices, and we DO have mutual honor.  And this is what the CRC church order says should be the case.  

For Rod's longing that ministry associates be "equally honored" with ministers of the word, I have heart agreement, yet I doubt that even Rod would want a world with no seminary trained pastors -- Rod "honors" them.  (at least most of them....)  The tough question is how to structure the church so that we have both, in healthy partnership.  Anyone have more ideas on how we can enhance such a partnership?  Or do some of you believe we've already lost our balance?


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