Commissioned Lay Ministry
What is a Commissioned Lay Leader?
If you are thinking about pursuing recognition as a Commissioned Lay Minister, congratulations! In addition to making a difference in the world, you are likely to find new meaning and depth in your Unitarian Universalist faith.
The title “Commissioned Lay Minister” refers to those lay ministers who have entered into a special relationship with a congregation, where that community recognizes an individual’s ministry as an extension of the ministry of the congregation. Some Commissioned Lay Ministers serve their congregations directly with parish work, others engage in ministry in the larger community. The UUSCM is proud to support both forms of ministry. While Commissioned Lay Community Ministers can only be commissioned by a congregation, guidance, support and resources are available from UUSCM.
What are the Steps to Pursuing Commissioned Lay Ministry?
First, Identify your ministry. How do you understand your work (whether volunteer or paid) as a form of ministry? What are the links between your mission and the mission of your congregation and of Unitarian Universalism?
Second, discern if you would like some specific training and/or credentialing related to understanding your role as a ministry. The Central East Regional Group of the Unitarian Universalist Association, for example, has a formal educational and ministerial formation program where mentors work with lay ministers in process. You can learn about their program here: https://www.uua.org/central-east/programs/cll This program is the gold standard for credentialled lay leadership, and the UUSCM is working with the UUA on models for how to make this program assessible nationally. Our Unitarian Unversalist affiliated theological schools (Meadville Lombard, Starr King, and the UU House of Studies at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio) as well as our established leadership schools also are accustomed to working with persons wanting a deeper experience of their faith but who are not interested in pursuing regular ministerial fellowship. Your regional UUA staff person is often a good resource for understanding locally available options, and we here at the UUSCM would also be interested to here about your interests and help you find some structured experiences that achieve your formational goals.
Third, with your congregation’s minister(s) and lay leadership, develop a covenant. How will you, the parish minister(s), and other leaders be accountable to one another? What support (tangible and spiritual) will you require to sustain your work as ministry? What actions on your part and on the part of church leaders will help the congregation understand your work and stay in touch with it as an extension of their mission and ministry? You can find a sample covenant from the San Jose church by clicking “Commissioning Templates” in the menu. You can also see: Guidelines for Covenantal Relationships for Lay Community Ministers.
Finally, in conjunction with your congregation’s professional and lay leadership, play your commissioning ceremony. This establishes and celebrates the covenental relationship between your Commissioned Lay Community Ministry and your congregation. There are some examples of what this can look like available from the menu item, “Commissioning Templates.”
Why should I join UUSCM as a Commissioned Lay Leader, even if my work is primarily in the parish? As a Commissioned Lay UU Minister, you enhance your standing with the community you serve by formalizing your relationship with your UU congregation and demonstrate your commitment to professional practice through your UUSCM membership.
GA21 Collaborative Covenant Writing for Community Ministers and Congregations