Ordination of Pastors

As the official seminary of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), Calvin Theological Seminary is proud to prepare students for ordination within the CRCNA as well as for ordination within other denominations.

What Is Ordination?

Ordination is the official process of becoming a pastor within a certain denomination. Most denominations require some form of certification, licensure, and/or ordination to become a minister. 

To become ordained, you must meet certain requirements with regard to your religious education and ministry experience. These requirements vary based on the denomination. The most common level of education necessary to become an ordained pastor in most denominations is a Master of Divinity degree (MDiv).

Some denominations may also offer different categories of ordination with different requirements. For example, the CRCNA offers denominational ordination as a Minister of the Word and classical ordination as a Commissioned Pastor. The requirements to become a Minister of the Word include graduate study and ministry experience. Those who seek to become a Commissioned Pastor complete a learning plan offered by their local classis (group of CRCNA churches).

How Long Does It Take to Get Ordained?

The length of the ordination process varies depending on the denomination. For example, the ordination process for Master of Divinity students at Calvin happens quickly but follows the MDiv program, which takes anywhere from three to five years. Those who receive their MDiv from a seminary other than Calvin and wish to be ordained in the CRCNA require about two years to complete the Ecclesiastical Program for Ministerial Candidacy (EPMC).

The Ordination Process

Ordination varies between denominations, but it usually consists of the following:


Most denominations require potential pastors to have a certain amount of education in theology, ministry, and the Bible. Many denominations will only accept candidates for ordination who have a Master of Divinity degree or higher.


Many church denominations expect candidates for ordination to have at least some form of significant ministry experience. This could be within the context of a church or some other form of ministry, such as missions work. They may require ordination candidates to receive mentorship from a pastor in their specific denomination.


In addition to receiving a graduate-level degree and working in ministry, many denominations require candidates for ordination to pass denominationally-specific courses or exams in order to become a pastor. They also may require a final interview with a board of elders or other governing body before giving their approval for ordination.

Ordination of Pastors in the CRCNA

Classical ordination is a process that allows people in CRCNA churches to serve their congregations in more ways. However, denominational ordination as a Minister of the Word is required to become a full-time pastor in the CRCNA. The ordination of pastors as Ministers of the Word involves a thorough process that prepares students for full-time ministry.

1. Complete a Master of Divinity Program

The Master of Divinity degree is generally considered a terminal degree for pastors. This means that it is the highest degree required for one to become a pastor. 

At Calvin Theological Seminary, our MDiv degree is designed to meet all necessary requirements to become a Minister of the Word in the CRCNA. It consists of 87 credit hours attained through four different types of education:

  • Vocational Formation: Your vocational formation education consists of in-context learning assignments that will prepare you for ministry. 
  • Cornerstone: Cornerstone courses are focused on our ministry context, how the gospel engages with it, what God is calling us to, and what the person and role of a servant leader is in this context.
  • Core: Core credits cover a variety of necessary topics, from the Old and New Testaments to ancient languages to Christian ethics to pastoral care. 

Electives: Elective courses allow students to engage with topics that are specific to their areas of interest.

2. Enroll in the Ecclesiastical Program for Ministerial Candidacy

The Ecclesiastical Program for Ministerial Candidacy (EPMC) is required for students who:

  • Would like to be ordained in the CRCNA specifically: The EPMC is a special denominational program that prepares students to be ordained in the CRCNA. 
  • Did not get their Master of Divinity from Calvin Theological Seminary: Students who received their MDiv from Calvin Theological Seminary cover this material naturally in their degree and therefore do not need to enroll in the program.

The EPMC consists of at least nine credit hours of coursework and two years of mentorship with a local CRC pastor.

3. Declare Intent to Candidate

Once you have finished your Calvin Theological Seminary MDiv, or you are in the final six months of the EPMC, you can declare your intent to candidate to the Candidacy Director at the CRCNA. You will have to complete a number of steps, including but not limited to:

  • Passing a background check
  • Preaching two sermons (one in each testament)
  • Reflecting on your vocation in an essay
  • Completing Abuse of Power training
  • Requesting and receiving recommendations
  • Interviewing for candidacy in the CRCNA

4. Finalize Ordination

The last steps of your ordination in the CRCNA coincide with your graduation from Calvin Theological Seminary’s MDiv program or EPMC. The Synod approves candidates each June, and you can begin working in a CRCNA church that summer. You will then need to take a classis exam in the classis of your church. If approved by your classis, you will then be ordained as a Minister of the Word in a service at your church!

Women’s Ordination

Calvin Theological Seminary affirms women in ministry and equips women who wish to become ordained pastors in the CRCNA or other denominations. The path to ordination at Calvin is the same for all students, regardless of gender.

Pastor Ordination in Other Denominations

Calvin Seminary also prepares students who belong to other denominations to become ordained pastors. More than half of Calvin Seminary students come from denominations outside of the CRCNA.

Receiving a Master of Divinity degree from CTS will equip students of any denomination with the education and experience they need to serve their church well. From finding contextual learning opportunities within the denomination of your calling to strategizing with an academic advisor on what program and courses would fulfill your denomination's requirements, Calvin Seminary will work closely with you to prepare you for your future ministry.

Learn How to Become a Pastor at Seminary

If you’re hearing the call to vocational ministry, Calvin Theological Seminary can help you on your journey to answer it. Begin by applying today.