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Licensing & Course of Study

The Path to Ministry

Course of Study is a required continuing education program for licensed local pastors, those who have been certified for ordained ministry and those who are under appointment in the United Methodist Church. Students will delve into a range of topics including history of the Early Church, how to read and exegete the Bible and current practices in evangelism. Courses are taught by experts in the field, many of whom are practitioners who are actually doing this work day in and day out. Students benefit from engaging content guided by committed instructors, with an emphasis on peer-learning with new and familiar colleagues. The process provides a space where licensed pastors and others can think deeply and critically about theology and the life of the church.

Licensing School

Attending a UM licensing school is the first step toward becoming a licensed local pastor. While the school schedule varies by region, all schools are required to have a minimum of 80 contact hours with students. In this time, licensed local pastor candidates are assessed for basic skills, receive mentors, and receive instruction in pastoral competencies and Methodist tradition.

Course of Study

Course of Study is a required theological and leadership education program for licensed local pastors. Students engage diverse content that includes church history, Bible exegesis, pastoral care, evangelism, UM polity, UM doctrine, and more. The 20 core courses are facilitated in ways that help students apply what they learn to the ministry context they serve. Students benefit from engaging content guided by committed instructors, with an emphasis on peer-learning resulting in a solid foundation of theory and practice.

Advanced Course of Study

After completing the COS, the Advanced Course of Study (ACOS) is a curriculum pathway that enables a licensed local pastor to meet the educational requirements for probationary membership, full conference membership, and ordination in The United Methodist Church. Licensed local pastors who have completed Course of Study and who are at least 40 years of age may be eligible for ordination as an elder in full connection with the completion of a minimum of 32 hours of graduate theological study.

Reading Christians are growing Christians. When Christians cease to read, they cease to grow.

– John Wesley

Find a Course of Study School

Course of Study Online Learning Center

Find a Licensing School

Course of Study Online registration for August 2024 term
Opens March 1, 2024


The GBHEM scholarship application opens in January of each year. You can only submit one application per year where it will be screened for all possible eligible programs. You may indicate on the first page of the scholarship application which of the below listed programs you would most like to be considered for. Award amounts below are a general estimate of awards given. Scholarship programs are divided into three categories:

Course of Study Basic Five-Year Curriculum

Frequently Asked Questions



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Duke University

Seeking ordination? GBHEM can connect you with one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries or other United Methodist-approved theological schools.

Students studying

Interested in training to become a local pastor? Learn more about licensing and the Course of Study process.

Need assistance setting and reaching ministry goals for your congregation? Want some guidance with your own continuing formation? Effective Ministry 360 can help.

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Find out how the Young Clergy Initiative (YCI) works to grow the next generation of clergy in The United Methodist Church.

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