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:
- Download Period of Discernment Resources HERE
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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 http://www.practicingourfaith.org/
- 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.
Call to the Ordained Ministry or Lay Specified Ministries
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?
Discernment is a Journey
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.