Nurturing Leaders. Changing Lives.

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For those who’ve heard God’s call to leadership, we’re here to make the journey with you, connecting you with what you need to flourish as difference-makers. That’s our commitment as the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. GBHEM.

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Order of Elders Resources

“Ordained persons . . . live in covenant of mutual care and accountability with all those who share their ordination, especially in The United Methodist Church, with the ordained who are members of the same annual conference and part of the same Order.”
-The 2012 Book of Discipline

The Order of Elders in an annual conference comprises the elders in full membership. Orders are to gather regularly and provide spiritual and professional development opportunities, assist elders in their retreat and continuing education plans, strengthen the bond of unity among the members, and nurture supportive, trusting, and accountable relationships among members.

Ordained clergy in The United Methodist Church are members of an order, and orders have responsibilities and purposes. These are spelled out in the introductory portions of the ¶300s section of The 2012 Book of Discipline.

Order Membership

All ordained clergy become members of an order upon election to full membership and are to participate in the order.

Organization of an Order

  • The bishop convenes and provides spiritual leadership for the order.
  • The annual conference provides funds for the order through the Board of Ordained Ministry.
  • The Board nominates (and the order elects) from the order membership a chairperson every quadrennium. The chairperson is a voting member of the Board of Ordained Ministry executive committee.

The Functions of the Order

  • Gather regularly for continuing spiritual formation (Bible study, issues facing church and society, theological exploration of vocational identity, and leadership). This could be done in district or covenant groups.
  • Assist in plans for individual study and retreats.
  • Develop a bond of unity and common commitment to UMC mission and ministry.
  • Nurture mutually supportive and trusting relationships among order members.
  • Hold order members accountable to the above purposes.


There are many ways for an order to maintain and strengthen relationships and purpose among members. Here are just a few examples to get your order started on developing its own plan.

  • Meet at least once annually with the area bishop. According to The Book of Discipline, the bishop is to convene the orders and provide spiritual leadership. Plan for spiritual formation time, professional development, or discussing concerns with the bishop.
  • Develop an Order Covenant to fulfill the disciplinary definition of the order as covenant community. Learn more here. [link to Order Covenant resource sub page]
  • Organize a spiritual renewal retreat, or develop a list of suggested retreat locations.
  • Organize a covenant group for mutual support, development, and accountability.
  • Agree to read the same book or use the same devotional resource for three months to a year.
  • Develop a social media site for discussion on shared reading, best-practice sharing, and problem solving. (Try to avoid letting it turn into solely a gripe room; members will start to avoid it. Airing difficulties is good, but encourage constructive responses.)
  • Make plans as an order to lead the conference in a ministry or mission.
  • Exchange ideas for equipping laypeople for ministry.
  • Invite the Order of Deacons to help plan and participate in a workshop on deacon/elder ministry partnerships.
  • Plan and lead a worship service at an annual conference gathering.
  • Establish relationships with certified candidates and provisional members to help them transition into the order.
  • Keep order members informed of Ministerial Education Funds available for their continuing education and spiritual growth.