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Licensing & Course of Study

The Course of Study (COS) is a five-year program that trains and educates men and women who are interested in becoming full- or part-time local pastors. If this is the path you’re seeking, GBHEM welcomes you and will walk alongside you in this new faith journey.

How the Course of Study Works

The COS is prescribed by GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Ministry, and it includes licensing school and the Basic Five-Year Course of Study.

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

Following licensing school, the Basic Five-Year Course of Study is a year-round experiential and classroom learning process. This process assumes cooperation between the instructors in the Course of Study Schools and the clergy mentors in the annual conferences. Each Regional Course of Study School offers all 20 courses of the Basic Five-Year COS and seeks to meet the needs of both the full-time and part-time local pastors.

Regional Course of Study Schools are established by the Division of Ordained Ministry at locations central to student populations, taking into consideration such factors as availability of United Methodist theological school faculty, library resources, dormitory space, the density of student populations, etc. Full-time local pastors must attend one of the approved Regional Course of Study Schools.

Some local pastors serve churches on a part-time basis. They may be bi-vocational and unable to attend a Regional Course of Study School. In such cases, where numbers make it sustainable, the Division of Ordained Ministry authorizes a Regional School to have an extension site. These classes are available in a weekend format. Click here to view a list of COS extension schools.

A limited number of the Basic Course of Study classes are available in an online format through the Division of Ordained Ministry. According to the Book of Discipline, no more than one-half of the classes may be taken in this format.

Course of Study Online Learning Center

At the Course of Study Online Learning Center, you can complete many of the Course of Study courses online and access resources and course-work for some regional and extension schools. Register for courses.

Before you begin registration, please note the following:

  • Enrollment is limited to one course per term
  • January term enrollment is Oct. 1 – Nov. 20 every year
  • August term enrollment is June 1 – July 20 every year
  • Late enrollment is not available for 10-week online courses
  • Students must purchase their books prior to the course state date
  • Students must complete COS 121 prior to enrolling in COS 221 and must complete COS 221 prior to enrolling in COS 321
  • GBHEM reserves the right to cancel courses.

Once a course is full, registration for that online class closes. Below is a full listing of the courses offered online each term.

Course of Study

January Term August Term
121: Bible I
123: Formation and Discipleship
124: Transformative Leadership
221: Bible II
222: Theological Heritage II
224: Administration and Polity
121: Bible I
122: Theological Heritage I
123: Formation and Discipleship
124: Transformative Leadership
222: Theological Heritage II
321: Bible III

United Methodist Studies

January Term August Term
UM History
UM Polity
UM Doctrine
UM History in Spanish
UM History
UM Polity
UM Doctrine

Advanced Course of Study

After completing the Basic Course of Study, a local pastor may choose to continue the process toward provisional membership through the Advanced Course of Study. It includes 32 hours of master’s level education in a seminary recognized by the University Senate. It must include studies in United Methodist history, doctrine and polity.

Discover More

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.

Message at podium

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

Effective Ministry 360

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