Period of Discernment

Period of Discernment

Period of Discernment

The Period of Discernment is a process approved by the National Assembly in 1997 to enable the church and individuals together, to discern God’s call on their life for future ministry and where our individual ministry lies.

At the heart of this process is the understanding that discipleship and ministry is a calling on all people who have been baptised. This ministry may be expressed:
within the local congregation, in your workplace or the community. or within one of the specified ministries of the Uniting Church. We believe that no ministry is more important or more holy than any other.

Whilst all people considering offering as a candidate for one of the ordained ministries of the church have to participate in the Period of Discernment, it is not just for such people. There are no pre-determined outcomes – the Period of Discernment provides an opportunity for all members of the church to clarify God’s call on their lives to serve in any number of different areas.

At a number of points during the Period of Discernment process, you will meet with representatives of the church, and together you will seek to discover God’s directions for your life.

A typical process for a Period of Discernment may go something like this:

  1. Download the Period of Discernment Resources
  2. Register for the Period of Discernment – you will need to download the form, get your Minister or Church Council Secretary to fill in their bit and send it to your Presbytery. Your Presbytery then appoints a Mentor for you. (Note: while you may suggest a preferred Mentor, this is entirely at the discretion of the Presbytery, as it is about the Church getting to know you, too! Obviously, if you are uncomfortable with your Mentor for any reason, your Presbytery may change who is appointed.)
  3. Meet with your Mentor and Prepare a ‘Learning Agreement’ – this is what you plan to do during the Period and what you will reflect on and talk about with your Mentor. Your Mentor can help with this and there are Guidelines in the Resources. When you first go to meet your Mentor, you may already have prepared some thoughts on this. Your Mentor may have some extension ideas or offer you some alternatives. (Note: Don’t try to plan to do too much in the Period of Discernment. Keep it manageable. Remember, you don’t have to discern your entire life’s plan… just the next steps as a disciples. This Period may give you opportunities to explore future life plans, but you will also continue to do ths when the formal Period of Discernment is over.)
  4. Try to use the Period to develop good Spiritual Practices: attend Worship; Pray; Read Scripture; Experience and Offer Hospitality; Care for Others; Share Stories and Testimonies; be conscious of Community; etc… For ideas about Faith Practices, please go to
  5. Start developing material for a Portfolio. You can include: samples of work or study or evidence of ministry experience; journal entries or reflections; your notes or reports from Mentoring sessions; pictures and images; poems and stories. It is helpful to include material that demonstrates that you have been addressing the things you named in your Learning Agreement. Eventually, you will have too much material and you will have to edit it and just keep the highlights!

Ensure you come back regularly to some key questions:

  • How do I understand God?
  • How should I respond to God?
  • What opportunities does being part of the Christian Community of Faith have to offer?
  • What do I have to offer the Church? (What gifts and graces can I develop?)
  • What do I have to offer the world in God’s name?
  • What different types of ministries are recognised by the Church? Should I explore any of these further? Who can I talk with?
  • How could the Church support and equip me to blossom as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Optional: during the Period of Discernment, some Presbyteries meet with the Discernee to get to know the person better and find out how it is going.

Some people will want to consider issues around a possible Call to the Ordained Ministry or Lay Specified Ministries during their Period of Discernment. If this is you, you should also consider:

  • What are the Specified Ministries of the Church (Lay and Ordained)?
  • How does the Church understand the Ministry of the whole people of God? What is the relevance of Baptism?
  • What does Ordination mean? and What are the two Ordinations in the Uniting Church?
  • What are the Specified Lay Ministries of Elder; Lay Preacher and Pastor?
  • What Formation and Education does the Church require for the above Ministries?

Review your information and reflect theologically… i.e. reflect on Scripture; the Tradition of the Church; your own Spiritual and Life Experience AND think about what is practical, reasonable and logical!

Talk and pray with others as, together, you discern what God is calling you to do next.

Prepare a Statement about what you have discerned to date and include it in your Portfolio.

Meet with your Presbytery’s Ministry Committee (or appointed group) to discuss your experience. (Note: Send your portfolio in advance and be prepared to talk about the things you included in it.)

Your Presbytery will then sign off that the Period of Discernment is concluded.

Those people who are considering offering themselves as a candidate for one of the specified ministries should read Candidating for Specified Ministry on Pages 32 and 33 of the downloadable POD Information Kit prior to registering for the Period of Discernment.

Resource Downloads

Downloadable resources which are related to Periods of Discernment for possible P.O.D. Candidates, Mentors, Presbytery Committees, etc.

BASIS OF UNION – English (1992 Ed.) (PDF | 7 pages | 104 KB) Download File
English language version.

BASIS OF UNION – Chinese (1992 Ed.) (PDF | 7 pages | 470 KB) Download File
Chinese language version.

BASIS OF UNION – Korean (1992 Ed.) (PDF | 9 pages | 322 KB) Download File
Korean language version.

BASIS OF UNION – Samoan (1992 Ed.) (PDF | 29 pages | 1.54 MB) Download File
Samoan language version.

BASIS OF UNION – Tongan (1992 Ed.) (PDF | 10 pages | 636 KB) Download File
Tongan language version.

Approved by the Assembly Standing Committee, November 2008. Useful for study by those considering some views of Ordination in the Uniting Church.

A one-page study outline for Mentors and Discernees OR Study Groups to help explore the themes in the Statement from the Assembly.

BAPTISM Docbyte (240K) Download File
This ‘Docbyte’ from the Assembly introduces a discussion about how Baptism is understood in the Uniting Church. This is particularly useful for a small group discussion, but will also be useful for a Mentor / Discernee conversation about Baptism in the Uniting Church.

BASIS OF UNION (‘Hitchhikers Trip’) (147K) Download File
This is the ever-famous ‘Hitchhikers’ guide to the Basis of Union’ from the Queensland Synod… a kind-of UCA Guide to itself… an easy way to get into ‘who are we anyway?’

CHURCH GUIDANCE (26K) Download File
This explains how we understand guidance and discernment in the Church on tricky issues. It goes through a process for considering issues.

ORDINATION Docbyte (527K) Download File
This ‘Docbyte’ from the Assembly introduces a conversation about Ordination. It is particularly useful for small groups but will also be handy for a Mentor / Discernee discussion about the Uniting Church’s perspective on Ordination.

POD Full Kit 2013 (PDF, 47 pages) (761K) Download File
Resources explaining the Period of Discernment and how to undertake one.

POD Registration Form 2013 (PDF, 2 pages) (25K) Download File
Complete this form in order to register the start of you Period of Discernment with your presbytery.

PRESBYTERY RESOURCE – Checklist of issues for POD Mentors and PRCs (PDF, 4 pages) (240K) Download File
Update March 2010 – also contains info helpful for Applicants for Ordination.

WHO IS A MEMBER (259K) Download File
What does it mean to be a member of the UCA? This was a 2007 Assembly discussion paper. It contains up-to-date thinking and wondering about who we might think we are as church-people.

Books, Journals, Workbooks

In addition to the resources here, there are several excellent workbooks for use by Discernees and their Mentors – alone or in groups. Some of these can be found at Mediacom’s website OR go the The Upper Room.
We can particularly recommend:

(This book is of particular value to Mentors and Discernees.)

mentor book face‘Mentoring to Develop Disciples & Leaders’
Released 1998, Revised August, 2004, Reprinted 2010
John Mallison was the founding Director of ELM. On his website you will find resources for Mentoring and Discipleship Development.

Mentoring-Cheryl-Lawrie‘Mentoring – A Guide for Ministry’ by Cheryl Lawrie ISBN 0-88177-468-5
(This is a short 47 page practical guide for Mentors and people who are Mentored.)

(This one is particularly recommended for people undertaking a Period of Discernment.)
living_into_the_answersLIVING INTO THE ANSWERS
A Workbook for Personal Spiritual Discernment
By Valerie K Isenhower and Judith A Todd

As much as we might wish for a magic crystal ball to give us answers, discernment is not a trick performed by a toy. There is no secret short-cut to knowing which job to take, house to buy, or relationship to pursue. The good news is that we do not have to make these decisions alone. As people of faith we know that every aspect of our lives is important to the God who created us for a life of purpose. This inspiring and practical workbook, introduces readers to some tools and practices that help us invite God into our decision–making process, help us create prayerfully considered choices, and live with the confidence that God will use our choices to invite us into deeper and more fruitful relationship. The discernment process encourages people to fill the hunger in their lives for a deeper connection with the spiritual through a way of being and living that satisfies the hunger. A practical workbook for putting God at the center of the personal decision-making process.


Published byThe Upper Room
Product codeTUR9944 $22.45

(This one is useful for groups seeking to develop discernment together – e.g. a Church Council or Council of Elders or Planning Group.)
A Workbook for Corporate Spiritual Discernment
ByValerie K Isenhower and JUdith A Todd

Personal discernment is hard enough, but corporate discernment can be truly bewildering! Isenhower and Todd offer a powerful ten-step process that will move you toward understanding God’s call for your church. Listen for God’s Leading includes abundant group exercises for the discernment team, spiritual disciplines for individual and team use, prayers to be used during meetings, biblical references for group lectio, and an appendix on faith-based management that could be a book in its own right. Most valuable is the continually fresh emphasis on keeping God at the heart of the process. Isenhower and Todd know how the process can go awry, so they build in practices to foster accountability and to nurture mind, soul and imagination for team faith building. The result is a vital and inspiring guide for a vital and inspiring work.


Published byThe Upper Room
Product codeTUR9985 $22.45

(This resource package is good for small groups seeking to learn discernment practices together.)

A Small-Group Experience in Spiritual Formation
ByStephen V Doughty, Marjorie J Thompson

We stand before the forest of our own wonderings. Then bit by bit, we become aware of a path through the forest. “What do I do now?” From deep within us there’s a desire to do the right thing, to make wise choices, to live in a fruitful manner. There are simple steps anyone can take that will open understanding. The scriptures repeatedly acknowledge the existence of a sure pathway in life. “Even the most exacting circumstances lies a way that leads to greater understanding of God’s desire and, therefore, of what we are to do,” write the authors. “…We pray for deeper understanding. We wait. We struggle. We search. Then, aha! Understanding comes. Perhaps it flares forth suddenly. Perhaps it emerges with the slow, growing radiance of the morning sun. Either way, we know we have not brought the insight into being ourselves. It comes from beyond us.” So, how do you discover God’s guidance for personal and congregational decisions? Discover the way to greater clarity in The Way of Discernment, a 10-week study for small groups. More of a journey in discernment than a how-to guide, this study gently leads to a prayerful path for a richer, wiser life. Part of the Companions in Christ series, The Way of Discernment offers a biblical, theological and practical framework for understanding the practice of discernment. It provides Principles of personal and group discernment Daily exercises to help you move from information to experience Weekly meeting plans (in Leader’s Guide) designed for group sharing and worship Penetrating questions to aid the process of discernment

and its partner book:
A Small-Group Experience in Spiritual Formation
By Marjorie J Thompson

How do you discover God’s guidance for personal and congregational decisions? Lead others in exploring paths to clarity in this small group study. Supporting resource for the Participant’s Book, this guide provides everything leaders need to prepare and conduct small group studies of The Way of Discernment. It offers clear suggestions for the structure of meetings, leadership ideas and specific centering and guided prayers. Who is this study designed for? People yearning to hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance Individuals looking for direction in vocation or life changes Church leaders seeking clarity about their congregation’s distinctive mission Christians searching for God’s will in matters of belief, ethics and faithful living In response to the desire of many small groups to continue exploring spiritual practices that began with the original 28-week Companions in Christ resource, Upper Room Ministries has developed the Companions in Christ series. The Way of Discernment is the eighth title in the series. It offers a journey (plus a preparatory meeting) of exploring perspectives and practices for personal spiritual discernment, along with several forms of small group discernment. Finally, it points beyond the limitations of this small group process to possibilities for discerning God’s will in congregations and larger bodies of the church. We commend it to leadership groups interested in bringing this important practice into congregational and denominational life.


Published byThe Upper Room
Product codeTUR9959 $19.25