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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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How to Earn Professional Certification

Professional certification is available to lay, licensed, or ordained leaders who have an undergraduate degree and can take graduate level courses. It is also for those preparing to become deacons and who choose the education route for those 35 and older.

1. Enroll in the Certification Process

  • Determine the area of certification you wish to pursue and apply to a theological school that offers the program.  See "Areas of Certification" on the right. (If you are seeking undergraduate certification, check the Undergraduate Certification page for a list of schools.)
  • Once the school has accepted you, enroll with General Board of Higher Education and Ministry by completing the form PDF icon Enrollment for the Professional Certification Studies in Ministry Careers, HE4064.
  • Once you’ve filled out the form, send copies to your conference Board of Ordained Ministry registrar and to the Certification Coordinator at General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (the address is on the form). Your pastor can provide you contact information for your Board of Ordained Ministry.
  • Once GBHEM receives and approves your enrollment form, you are eligible for financial aid for the courses required for certification.

2. Learn what courses are required for certification and make sure to fit them into your course schedule. You register for courses through your theological school.

  • You may apply for financial aid from GBHEM by completing and submitting TO YOUR SCHOOL the form.
  • Students have 10 years to complete their certification courses.

3. Apply for Certification Approval

You are ready to apply for approval of certification when you:

  • have completed all the certification coursework 
  • have at least two years of paid or volunteer (supervised) work experience in your area of certification specialty (see below)

To apply, PDF icon complete Form 323790, Application for Professional Certification and make three copies.

  • Send a copy to your annual conference Board of Ordained Ministry registrar. (This applies to lay and clergy.)
  • Send a copy of the application, along with a copy of your undergraduate and graduate transcripts, to the Certification Coordinator, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), P. O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007.
  • Keep the third copy for your records.

4. Undergo Board of Ordained Ministry examination.

The Board of Ordained Ministry use these three areas to assess your qualifications for certification:

  • Educational Requirements: Check the curriculum list for your area of certification to make sure you have completed all the necessary courses. General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s certification coordinator will review the transcript you send with your application.
  • Leadership Experience: Your conference Board of Ordained Ministry will confirm whether you have adequate paid or volunteer leadership experience in the United Methodist Church or an ecumenical setting. Experience must entail contractual agreement with supervision, accountability, evaluation, and continuing education. This may be an unpaid volunteer position. It may also entail an appointed, assigned or employed position in which you are responsible to provide leadership for programming in a United Methodist setting or in an ecumenical ministry setting, as long as you are under supervision. Be prepared to provide a written job description and contractual arrangements, in writing, with clear lines of responsibility and accountability.
  • Interview and other evaluation sources: 
  • Favorable references from three people whose contact information you provide.
  •  A psychological assessment and criminal background check
  • Verification of your local church membership, abilities, skills, experience
  • Verification of your employment or leadership position in your chosen field (see Leadership Experience above)
  • Verification from GBHEM that you have completed the education requirements
  • An interview with you 

5. Await Board of Ordained Ministry decision.

The annual conference board will notify you and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of their decision regarding your request for certification. If both your Board of Ordained Ministry and GBHEM approve you for certification, GBHEM will prepare a certificate and send it to your bishop’s office, for presentation at the next annual conference session.

Renewing Certification

  • The continuing validity of certification is dependent upon biennial renewal. Keep your certification up to date and valid. Ask your annual conference Board of Ordained Ministry for the GBHEM certification renewal form (or download from this page and submit it to your Board of Ordained Ministry). All renewals are processed in even-numbered years.
  • Renewal requires demonstration of continued employment in the area of certification, a performance evaluation by your supervisor, and completion of continuing education work, as well as approval by the Board of Ordained Ministry.
  • Participation in a professional association related to your area of certified ministry specialization as well as continuing education is expected.
  • If you are not employed or are not serving in a United Methodist setting, the Board of Ordained Ministry may still consider your request for certification renewal.

Board of Ordained Ministry process:

  • Provide Form HE4004 every other year to each lay or clergyperson certified in a GBHEM ministry certification specialty. Ask them to complete the form and return it to the Board of Ordained Ministry. Find the form on the Certification page
  • Review the forms and recommend to annual conference session names of those who qualify for certification renewal.
  • Report approved renewals to the GBHEM certification office by sending copies of the signed renewal forms.
  • If the Board of Ordained Ministry fails to communicate with those certified during the renewal year, those with certification will not be penalized with lapsed certification.
  • If a minister with certification fails to complete the process as reminded by the Board of Ordained Ministry, that person must meet current standards in force in order to be recertified.

Certification Records Retention

The annual conference Board of Ordained Ministry will keep a record of all those in the conference who are certified in a ministry specialty, including their areas of certification, and publish the list in the annual conference journal. 


When a person with ministry specialty certification transfers from one annual conference to another, that person should write to the Board of Ordained Ministry of the receiving conference. The Board should review the request and the originating conference to send them the requestor’s certification file. The receiving conference shall keep the file as long as the person remains part of the annual conference.

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