Section 12 – the order of lay ministries
16.166 The Order of Lay Ministries (hereinafter the OLM or “the Order”) is an Order in the Church that:
(a) celebrates a diversity of forms of service, or ministry, within the Church, including service as:
(i) Lay Preachers,
(ii) Pastoral Visitors and Caregivers,
(iii) Youth Leaders,
(iv) Choir Directors / Worship Leaders,
(v) Pastoral Administrators,
(vi) Association Chairpersons, and
(vii) others that may be added to this list.
(b) prepares and provides documents for lay people offering themselves for these forms of service to apply for admission to the Order;
(c) provides training courses to prepare, train and equip them for their particular forms of service;
(d) recognises as belonging to the Order individuals who:
(i) have been properly interviewed by the Session and, for some ministries, by the Presbytery;
(ii) have undergone the “OLM Foundations Course” (an introductory course in Presbyterian identity, ethos and spirituality) and courses prescribed for the particular areas in which they are to serve;
(iii) have been appropriately appointed in their Congregations; and
(iv) have been accepted into the Order in a Presbytery service of commissioning and blessing;
(e) provides access to ongoing training for people in the Order to improve their skills in the areas they serve;
(f) provides support and opportunities for fellowship for those in the Order;
(g) provides material to assist Congregations in interviewing for part-time or full-time staff appointments, whether paid or unpaid.
It is important that remunerated appointments conform to the requirements of the labour legislation applying in the country in which the Congregation is situated.
16.167 Membership of the Order confers no status, authority or position other than that of the specific appointment in a local Congregation. Belonging to the Order grants no access to any of the councils of the Church and no rights associated with the Ordained Ministry. Any candidates who wish to consider entering the Ordained Ministry are referred to ch.17.
16.168 All who have been members of the former Order of Lay Preachers, are automatically members of the OLM.
16.169 Privileges and responsibilities in the Order are always defined by the specific area of service in which an individual is currently serving. (For example, a Youth Worker in the OLM does not have the privileges or responsibilities of a Lay Preacher.)
16.170 (a) Membership of the Order provides the following for the Member:
(i) a deeper understanding of the nature and ethos of service in the Church;
(ii) a grounding in servant leadership and in understanding the gospel’s call to mission and service;
(iii) a space in which to grow in service and commitment to the Church while being accountable to the Order;
(iv) an opportunity to hone skills through courses and training opportunities; and
(v) credibility in the sense that the Church recognises members of the Order as competent in their areas of service.
(b) Membership of the Order provides the following for Congregations and Presbyteries: a framework providing structure, support, training and recognition for those who serve our Congregations in specialised capacities.
16.171 The Order is administered by a sub-committee of the Mission and Discipleship Committee of General Assembly. The sub-committee’s responsibilities are as follows:
(a) to supervise the work of the OLM Administrator;
(b) to define what the various forms of ministries require;
(c) to create, maintain and administer the OLM Foundations Course;
(d) to collate material to assist Congregations with the legalities and practicalities of appointing staff; and
(e) to maintain a portfolio of affordable short courses to recommend to candidates.
16.172 The Mission and Discipleship Committee in consultation with the Church Office Committee appoints the OLM Administrator, who serves part-time. The Administrator:
(a) provides, on request, details of courses, guidelines of appointment and other material to Congregations and Presbyteries.
(b) provides guidance and advice to the Sessions of those seeking to become members of the Order;
(c) guides each candidate through the prescribed process of admission to the Order;
(d) administers the OLM Foundations Course;
(e) maintains a database of members of the Order;
(f) conducts a review of the database every 24 months by eliciting reports from members of the Order; and
(g) represents the Order at General Assembly and its Executive Commission.
16.173 At Presbytery level an appointed Presbytery Committee is responsible for supervising the Order. The duties of this Committee are to
(a) receive applications to join the Order from individuals via their Sessions;
(b) review applications, and forward them to the OLM Administrator;
(c) undertake any ad hoc work that a candidate is required to fulfil for any specific ministry. (Besides undergoing the courses required, a Lay Preacher, for example, must conduct a trial service and be evaluated by a Presbytery Committee or its representative);
(d) interview the candidates who have completed the requirements; and
(e) arrange services at which the candidates are accepted into the Order and commissioned.
16.174 The prerequisites for applying for admission to the Order are as follows:
(a) The applicant must be a member of a Congregation of the UPCSA.
(b) The applicant must have been a member of the UPCSA for at least a year. Exceptions to this requirement can be made when a person has been sought, interviewed and appointed to a formal position in the Congregation (as often, for example, with Youth Workers).
(c) The applicant should not have undergone discipline in any court of the Church during the preceding five years.
16.175 When a person in a Congregation feels called to serve the Church in a specific form of service and wishes to become a member of the Order, the process is as follows:
(a) The person applies to the Session of the Congregation.
(b) The Session Clerk consults the OLM Administrator and finds out the requirements that apply to the form of service the candidate wishes to perform.
(c) The Session interviews the candidate and
(i) ensures that the applicant is motivated by a desire to serve in humility and with excellence;
(ii) considers the requirements in (b) above and the candidate’s ability to fulfil these.
(iii) considers appointing an Elder as mentor to encourage and support the candidate and
(iv) considers assisting with the costs of courses the candidate may be required to do.
(d) If the Session is satisfied after the interview, it fills in the “Application to Presbytery Form” provided by the OLM Administrator and sends it to the convener of the appointed Presbytery Committee.
(e) The convener of the appointed Presbytery Committee brings the application to a stated Presbytery meeting, where the Presbytery either declines or approves it. Valid grounds for declining are concerns about:
(i) the applicant’s doctrine, character or conduct; and/or
(ii) the applicant’s suitability or capability for the form of service he/she wishes to offer.
(f) If the Presbytery approves the application, it forwards it to the OLM Administrator, who:
(i) writes to the Presbytery, the Session and the applicant outlining the requirements applicable for the role in which the applicant wishes to serve;
(ii) guides the applicant through the OLM Foundations Course; and
(iii) assists the applicant with relevant information with regard to the requirements.
(g) The applicant completes the steps of the process, taking responsibility for the cost of the courses and the procurement of any resources necessary to complete the requirements. If the Presbytery needs to be involved (for example, by providing a trial service for the admission of a Lay Preacher), the convener of the appointed Presbytery Committee arranges this.
(h) On completion of all the requirements, the applicant sends certification thereof to the Session Clerk and the Administrator of the OLM. If both these parties are satisfied that the requirements have been met, the Administrator writes to the convener of the appointed Presbytery Committee recommending the applicant.
(i) On receiving the recommendation, the convener of the appointed Presbytery Committee arranges for a small committee of 3 or 4 presbyters to interview the candidate to reflect on his/her spiritual journey and to report to Presbytery. The Presbytery, if satisfied, arranges a service of admission and blessing at one of its stated meetings. The convener communicates this to the OLM Administrator.
(j) The OLM Administrator places the candidate’s name on the database of OLM Members.
(k) The OLM Administrator encourages the candidate to participate in fellowship and training events in the Order as far as can reasonably be expected within the constraints of time and cost.
16.176 A Member of the Order will be dismissed from it if he/she:
(a) has failed for more than two years to serve in his/her area of service;
(b) is disciplined by a court of the Church; and
(c) has shown no interest in ongoing activities of the Order and fails to respond to a 24-monthly review form sent by the Administrator