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Learn about the Commissioned Lay Ministry Program
Commissioned Lay Ministry Program

The Commissioned Lay Ministry (CLM) Program provides an opportunity for committed Unitarian Universalist leaders to deepen their faith while serving their congregations in more significant ways. Initiated in the Ohio-Meadville District in the 1970s, this program has commissioned dozens of lay ministers over the years, strengthening both larger and smaller congregations in the process. Individuals who satisfactorily complete the requirements and are approved by the Commissioned Lay Ministry Committee, will commissioned by their home congregation and be recognized as a "Commissioned Lay Minister" (CLM).  Learn more about the history of this program

Commissioned Lay Ministry Overview

Strong lay leadership is a hallmark of the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition. The priesthood and prophethood of all believers has been a theological stance since our movement began. While many ordained ministers have been visionary leaders in our faith, we are equally supported by many talented and committed lay members. Not everyone feels the call to the ordained ministry, but the Central East Region offers an alternative path to service other than becoming a professional minister.

The Commissioned Lay Ministry (CLM) program is designed to help lay leaders take their ministry and service to a deeper level.

A good CLM candidate is already an active and committed lay member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation; someone who has a high level of integrity and has earned the respect of fellow congregants. They want a deeper grounding in Unitarian Universalism and want to gain more wisdom about the local and larger UU faith community. Most CLMs have particular gifts to offer and feel drawn to a particular area of ministry where they would like to expand their understanding and improve their skills. Typical areas of focus include, but are not limited to:

  • worship
  • pastoral care
  • adult faith formation
  • membership engagement
  • leadership development
  • leading rites of passage
  • denominational affairs

The program is flexible enough to develop individualized training in many areas of ministry. 

Most CLMs serve in their home congregation, but some serve in related venues (such as a partner congregation or congregational cluster) with the approval of their home commissioning congregation.

Overview of the Process

Interested aspirants should read through the materials (below) and talk to their congregation's governing board and minister(s). If all of the parties agree that the CLM Program looks like a good fit and will serve the congregation's mission, the aspirant can fill out the application materials and request an interview with the CLM Committee.

Those who are accepted into the program are considered to be "CLM Candidates." They are assigned a liaison to the CLM Committee to track their progress, and are also assigned a mentor, who works with the candidate in developing a learning/serving plan. A typical candidate takes 2-4 years to complete the training; others have taken less time. When the mentor and the candidate both feel the candidate has completed the needed training, the candidate completes a learning portfolio and schedules an in-person interview with the CLM Committee. Upon successful completion of the interview, the candidate is issued a Commissioned Lay Minister certificate, which is good for three years, with the possibility of renewal in three year increments. CLM’s are then commissioned in a ceremony in their home congregation.  CLMs who wish to continue to serve three years after the initial commissioning time can apply for a renewal.

Currently, only the Central East Region offers the Commissioned Lay Ministry Program. The CLM Handbook has information about the application process and links to all necessary forms.

For more information or to discuss the program, contact the CLM Committee Chair, Amy Collins, CLM at clmprogram [at] cerguua [dot] org or the Staff Program Manager, Rev. Joan Van Becelaere at jvanbecelaere [at] uua [dot] org.

To find out more about the process of becoming a commissioned lay minister, please visit the procedures and forms page.

Download a pdf of the informational brochure.

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For more information contact cer@uua.org.