For just a moment I want to unpack the word “commissioned” as it’s used in the military. The Navy uses the word “commission” when a ship is placed into active service. This is a really big moment in the life of a ship as it means that this ship is now an official “unit of the operating forces of the United States Navy.”
Some of the traditions I’m told around this are—- the ship naming, a keel laying, the christening and then the launching of the ship into the fleet.
It’s a big deal.
I read that the first one happened in 1775 when the “Alfred” joined the Continental Navy in Philadelphia. And a few years later, the word “commissioning” got formally used, and the traditions that related to it began to get written down.
So, as you think about this word, it has a use within our church family — and that’s what the rest of this post is about.
In our church family, lay people who serve in non-pastoral roles can be “Commissioned”. As we go on in this post, we are going to talk specifically about being a “Commissioned Congregational Minister” because that is likely the most applicable for our youth workers.
For me, I got commissioned a few years into serving at the first church that I served at. And I did so because my senior pastor (Bruce Stumbo) encouraged me to consider it. The formal title for this designation is, “Ministers of the Gospel”.
In the rest of this post, I want to share some of the critical details as a Q/A from our “Ministers of the Gospel Handbook”.
Question #1 – Who is eligible to be “commissioned”?
The handbook says “Men and women who serve God by performing public ministry functions.”
Practically, this can include youth workers, children’s ministry, parish nurses and worship leaders.
Question #2 – What are the expectations of someone who applies to be “commissioned”?
The handbook names the following criteria:
- Membership in a local CLBA congregation
- Acceptance of the statement of faith
- Completion of enrollment of prescribed theological requirements
- Participation in the required in-service courses that are offered in the specified time allotment.
The handbook goes on and says that “this person remains on the “Ministers of the Gospel” roster so long as they are in good standing and serving in their called capacity.” As well, the board whom the candidate is called to serve under, is to hold the candidate accountable.
Question #3 – What are some of the practical advantages of being “commissioned”?
The following is listed in the handbook regarding the housing allowance.
Housing Allowance Requirements (This section applies to those serving in the United States. Persons in Canada should consult with their Canadian church office.) Ministers of the Gospel-Commissioned may be eligible to have a portion of their salary designated as housing allowance in accordance with established policies of the Internal Revenue Service. Note: The CLB cannot guarantee this provision since these policies are established by the IRS and are subject to change. For many years the Internal Revenue Service (via provisions in Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code) has allowed clergy the benefit of a housing allowance. This means that a certain portion of the cash salary paid to qualified persons may be designated as housing allowance and that portion is not taxable for income tax purposes. It is, however, included when calculating Social Security earnings and taxes. What about non-ordained persons who are serving in Christian ministry positions? After researching the writings of tax specialists and various IRS rulings, the Church is of the opinion that non-ordained persons who fulfill certain specified criteria may qualify as a Minister of the Gospel for tax purposes and accordingly be able to properly receive a tax-free housing allowance. The following guidelines are intended to inform the Minister of the Gospel-Commissioned about historical IRS rulings and positions regarding qualification as a Minister of the Gospel for tax purposes.
Question #4 – How does one become “commissioned” and who initiates this process?
This process should be initiated by the local church who in conjunction with the candidate, works in coordination with the CLBA. Following acceptance into this designated role, these workers are then publicly commissioned by their churches.
For more info, visit the “Ministers of the Gospel Handbook” at https://clba.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ministers_of_the_Gospel_Handbook.pdf beginning at page 47.
For more information, contact: Matthew Rogness at [email protected]