Sessions of Candidates
The first step in a man's seeking the gospel ministry is usually the inward call. The Holy Spirit begins to work on his heart a desire and conviction to proclaim the gospel and to minister to Jesus' flock. This may begin at any time in a man's life.
When a man believes that God may be calling him to the gospel ministry, the first formal step he should take is to consult with his session. The inward call must be confirmed by the outward call of Christ's church, and that only after trial has been made of his gifts. This is one of the responsibilities that Jesus Christ has given to the local session.
As a session, you have an important part in the development of men for the gospel ministry. The session's role may be summarized:
a. Know your members
Observe your men, both young and old. You should look for men with leadership abilities, and with a heart for ministry in Christ's church. You should provide opportunities for the development of such men.
Pay special attention to your covenant youth. Ministers for Christ's church should most normally come from the covenant youth. These are young men who have grown up in the church, have an appreciation for it, and can be mentored through their high school and college years.
b. Encourage men to consider the call to gospel ministry
All lawful employments are valuable and worthwhile in the kingdom of God. All work is done in obedience to God and to His glory. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that the gospel ministry is a noble task, and one to which men ought to aspire.
In many congregations, however, the challenge and opportunity of the gospel ministry are not frequently presented. Instead our youth are encouraged toward other professions. The session, and the pastor, should positively model the office of elder at all times, and should provide a personal challenge for young men to consider the gospel ministry.
c. Mentoring the man and testing his gifts
When God leads a man to consider if he is called to the gospel ministry, the session needs to have regular meetings with him. The pastor and other officers have a unique opportunity to mentor him and test his gifts. Provide opportunities for him in areas such as evangelism, hospital visitation, home visitation, rendering diaconal assistance, teaching Sunday school classes.
d. Recommending the man to come Under Care
Usually during his time at seminary, or during his college years, it becomes appropriate that the man's desire for the gospel ministry be make known to the presbytery. Coming "Under Care of Presbytery" is the first step in the formal process of becoming a minister of the gospel. If the church confirms the calling and gifts of the man, this step will be followed by licensure, and ordination.
When the session is ready to recommend that a member come under care, they should first examine the man in accord with the Form of Government, Chapter XXI, Section 2. If the result is positive, then the session formally communicates to the presbytery that the man wishes to come under care of the presbytery.
e. Continued mentoring and testing
Once accepted by the presbytery, the session still has a role. The presbytery will begin to be involved in the man's life and to counsel him with respect to theological education, and the processes of licensure and ordination.
But the session continues to have the responsibility for the testing of gifts, and for mentoring the man in his Christian walk. Elsewhere is an example of one session's policy for addressing men who are under care. The session must often be creative during the man's seminary education, which is often at a great distance from his home congregation.
f. Recommendations for Licensure and Ordination
If God's call is confirmed, the man will undergo trials for licensure and then ordination. The session will have the unique privilege of sharing with the presbytery all of its work with its member. And the session will be asked to provide a written recommendation to the presbytery on behalf of the candidate for the gospel ministry. The session's recommendation carries great weight, and needs to be honest and balanced.
Guidelines for Sessions Regarding Candidates Coming Under Care
Recommendations for Sessions Extending Calls to Licentiates