If you are reading this it is likely that you are beginning to discern a call on your life towards becoming a minister in the Church of the Nazarene.
First of all, it's great that you want to follow God. Obedience to God is always the right thing, you'll never regret listening to, and obeying God.
The first part of the process is to seek godly counsel from your pastor as well as from friends and family members who exhibit Christian discernment and wisdom. You will want to spend time in prayer and perhaps even fasting. It is no small decision to begin this process and not something to be entered into lightly.
The first step to becoming a minister in the Church of the Nazarene is to get a local ministers license. You will need to talk to your pastor about this. If your church is in an interim between pastors you will need to speak to the District Superintendent.
A local minister is still considered a lay person. However, it is your local church recognizing that they consider you a person that God has called to be a minister. It places you under the mentoring of your pastor who is further along in the process than you are, and who has been where you are. A local minister must begin taking classes in the approved course of study, which will be discussed in detail later. Hopefully you will be given opportunities as you take classes to have some chances to try out some different ministry experiences at your church under your pastor’s leadership.
To receive a local license, you will fill out an application (linked below). Your pastor (or the district superintendent if there is no pastor) must nominate you to the church board for the license. You will have a background check done, your name will be sent to the denomination's world headquarters to be checked, and you'll be interviewed by your local board. It is your local church board that will vote on whether or not to grant you a local license. If granted, the license will be good for one year and will be issued by clergy services at the Global Ministries Center.
In some rare cases, a person may pastor a church as a lay pastor under appointment by the District Superintendent with a local ministers license.
Once you've had a local license for a full year, and once you've taken six classes, you can apply for a district ministers license.
Local Ministers License Application
Local Ministers License Renewal Application
Church Board Interview Guidelines
Procedures for Administering a Local License
Credential Verification Form
Church Board Renewal Interview Guidelines
Renewal Procedures for Administering a Local License
Applying for your first time district ministers license is a big step in your ministry journey, and something to be done prayerfully.
When you apply for your first district ministers license (link below), you come before a board of ordained ministers (The Board of Ministry) who will ask you questions about your beliefs and your call to ministry. They will be looking for areas of disagreement with the teaching of the Church of the Nazarene as well as areas where they can help guide you. They recognize that you are not yet done with your studies.
If the board feels that you are ready for a district ministers license you will be recommended to the District Assembly for a district ministers license. If that is granted then you are no longer a lay person, at that point you would be considered a minister of the gospel. A district licensed minister does not have all the privileges of an ordained elder or deacon, specifically in regards to the administration of the sacraments, however they may administer them in their home church if they have an assigned status.
A district license is good for one year, and you will come and interview before the board of ministry every year. They will continue to examine you for fitness for a district ministers license as well as for progress in your studies. The board expects that your understanding of, and ability to articulate the doctrines of the church will increase and improve year over year.
You also must take a minimum of two courses every year that you are district licensed until you have graduated from the approved course of study. If you fail to take the two courses you will be placed on academic probation. Your second time that you fail to take two classes the Board of Ministry generally will recommend that the District Assembly drop you from the roll of ministers. Also, once you get your first district license, you have a clock running, you have 10 years to finish the approved course of study - if you do not finish in 10 years you will be dropped from the roll of ministers.
The only reason you need a district ministers license is if you are taking a ministerial assignment. So, for most people, the best course of action is to do as much course work as you can while you are still on a local license.
Most ministers who have assignments in the Church of the Nazarene will be either ordained or have a district ministers license. Very rarely a person may stay district licensed for life, but generally it is part of the movement towards ordination.
District Ministers License Application
Church Board Recommendation for District License
There are two orders of ordination in the Church of the Nazarene. Elder and deacon. Elders are the preachers, deacons are not. Any minister who will preach at any point in their ministry, even if to children or other special groups, should pursue elders orders. When applying for a district ministers license, you will mark on the application if you are pursuing elders or deacons orders.
Ordination is the full recognition of the church that you have the gifts and graces for ministry, you have the capacity to communicate sound doctrine, and your life is an example of holiness.
After you have completed the full approved course of study, and after you have been in a full time ministry assignment for 3 years or a part-time ministry assignment for at least 4 years then you may be eligible to be considered for ordination. These are the minimum requirement mandated by the manual of the Church of the Nazarene.
After you have completed your minimum requirements for ordination, the Board of Ministry will examine you and your progress through the course of study. The Board will consider many different factors as they look at your record. The board may feel it appropriate at that time to invite you to apply for ordination, or the board may feel that there are additional items of concern that the board would like you to address.
It should be understood that completion of the minimum requirements for ordination is not the same as being ready for, or having “earned” ordination. The Board of Ministry will invite you to apply for ordination when the Board of Ministry feels you are ready for it, until then you will continue to serve under your district ministers license as you had been doing.
If the Board of Ministry invites you to apply for ordination you will fill out an ordination application. You will also interview in front of the full Board of Ministry. If you are married your spouse will need to attend this interview with you. This interview will be wide ranging and will be designed to ensure that you have a firm grasp of the doctrines of the church as well as a solid foundation for ministry and exemplary character.
The board may then recommend you to the District Assembly for ordination. If so you will be interviewed by the General Superintendent that is currently in jurisdiction for the district. If both the General Superintendent approves, and the District Assembly so votes, you will be ordained at that District Assembly.
Ordination is for life as long as your do not engage in any behavior that would require surrendering the credential back to the denomination.
Finally, with a person who has been divorced there is an additional step that will need to be taken before you can be district licensed. A divorcee has what is called a "divorce barrier." These can only be lifted by the Board of General Superintendents.
Those who have been divorced will need to be interviewed by the Board of Ministry to explain the divorce. Everything will be kept in absolute confidence and the board will treat you graciously.
The Board of Ministry does not have any interest in digging up old wounds, but this is something that must be done.
It should be understood, that at any point in the process, if the Board of Ministry discerns that you are not fit for licensed or ordained ministry in the Church of the Nazarene they will bring the process to as graceful an end as possible. This is not designed to harm you, but you help you.
If this happens it might be natural that you may feel like a failure or that you have been treated unfairly, but there is nothing that is further from the truth. It simply means that you are not called to be a licensed or ordained minister. That is fine and normal. You sensing a call is only one part of the equation, that call must also be confirmed by the church.
You can still serve God well in the Church of the Nazarene. Licensed or ordained ministry is not a “higher” or “better” ministry than lay ministry - it is just different. Trying to be in vocational ministry when God has not called you to it will only cause you much difficulty. We started this with the understanding that you want to follow God, so go on and do so in whatever capacity that God may have for you to serve.
If you have any further questions about the all to ministry or licensing and ordination, please talk to your local pastor, or contact our Chair of the Board of Ministry – Timothy Bullington
Timothy Bullington, Ph.D.
Chair of the North Arkansas Board of Ministry
Global Clergy Development
Ministry Course of Study Suggested Sequence
Guide To Ministerial Preparation and Ordination
USA/Canada Sourcebook on Ordination
USA/Canada Region Validated Course of Study Curriculum