Training for ministries

The call to ministry: enquiry process

The Ministries Council runs an enquiry process for those who sense a call to any of the ministries of the Church of Scotland to consider this further in a supportive environment. Through the enquiry process, the council intends to help potential ministries candidates to:

  • have an opportunity to explore and test their sense of call together with the wider Church;
  • find opportunities to evaluate the personal implications of their call to service;
  • examine their personal faith and motivation;
  • expand their experience of congregational life and explore their understanding of the way in which the church is organised;
  • be enabled to make a serious assessment of the gifts needed for the variety of forms of ministry of the Church;
  • obtain a direct response to their questions and concerns in a structure of caring, supportive relationships
  • An overview of the Enquiry Process

Vocations Conference

Applications to participate in the Enquiry and Assessment process will only be accepted after attendance at a Vocations Conference. In 2011, the General Assembly approved the rule whereby applications to participate in the enquiry and assessment process will not normally be accepted from anyone who has not been a member, or adherent member of the Church of Scotland or a church under WCRC for three or more years – the Vocations Conference is open for anyone to attend, regardless of length of membership. Due to demand, the Ministries Council will hold a further Vocations Conference this year, on 1st November – please see below for details.

27 September 2014, Howard Centre, Kilmarnock

A local Vocations Conference will be run by Ayrshire Presbyteries on Saturday 27 September 2014 at the Howard Centre, Kilmarnock. To Register for this Conference and for further details, please contact Rev Mandy Hickman: Tel: 07743760792; Email: Closing Date: Friday 12 September – booking essential.

1 November 2014, Linlithgow: St Michaels

Registration for this conference closes on 10 October 2014 - please note that registrations received after this date cannot be accepted.

To book a place, please complete the registration form below and either email it to, or post (Ministries Council Vocations Conference) 121 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4YN), along with the cheque for the £15 admin fee (This £15 fee is non-refundable). Ministries Council covers the cost of all meals for the duration of the conference. (Please note that this venue has no lift. The venue for the conference on 7th February 2015 will be suitable for those with access requirements).

7 February 2015, The Renfield Centre, Glasgow

Registration for this conference closes on 17 January 2015 - please note that registrations received after this date cannot be accepted.

To book a place, please complete the registration form below and either email it to, or post (Ministries Council Vocations Conference) 121 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4YN), along with the cheque for the £15 admin fee. Please note that this £15 fee is non-refundable. Ministries Council covers the cost of all meals for the duration of the conference.

If you have any questions or require further information please contact

Extended Enquiry

After attending a Vocations Conference, you may wish to think further about your sense of vocation. The next step is to enter a period of Extended Enquiry. This can last for up to six months, but after eight weeks of enquiry you can elect to enter Stage 4, co-ordinated field assessment.

To enter into a period of extended enquiry, please email to request an application pack. Please note that we cannot accept an application from anyone who has not been to a Vocations Conference. On receipt of your completed application form, the Ministries Council will look for a placement for you. Placements usually start sometime between June and September. The period of enquiry does not begin until you are set up in placement.

Applications for participating in Extended Enquiry are taken between 1 February and 31 July each year. Any applications received outwith these dates will be considered the following assessment year.

The focus of Enquiry is on self-appraisal (not assessment) and a Mentor will help you to reflect on your gifts and calling, and to decide whether you should make an application for assessment as a potential candidate in training.

Anytime after the minimum eight weeks, you may make an application for assessment. To do so, you must complete and return the enquiry conclusion and background information forms that will have been sent to you when your placement was first set up.

Both the extended enquiry and co-ordinated field assessment stages are designed to be accessible to those who are in employment and thus require an engagement of no more than a maximum of eight hours per week.

Co-ordinated Field Assessment

After eight weeks of the Extended Enquiry stage you may choose to make an application for assessment as a potential candidate in training for ministry. At this point you will enter a 6 month period of engagement in activities designed to allow open assessment. These activities take place under five broad headings: Worship; Personal/Pastoral Encounter; Reading; Reflection; Special Interests.

You have interviews with a Personal Development Interviewer near the beginning and towards the end of the six month period. Throughout you will engage fortnightly in reflection with your Mentor, regularly maintain a personal Journal, and from time to time meet with a representative from Presbytery.

It is at this stage that returners re-enter the process – the deadline for receipt of applications from returning applicants is 30 September each year.

Local Review

The Assessment period culminates in a Local Review. The Local Review Group comprises your Mentor, a Presbytery Assessor, and a Church Assessor from the national assessment team. The Church Assessor will act as Chair of the Local Review. A departmental Staff Member will act as an administrator to the Review Group, taking notes of the discussion (usually using a laptop), to help the Church Assessor with writing the report. The staff member is not involved in any way in the task of assessment.

The Review group will have met for about half-an-hour before they welcome you. They will also continue to meet after you have gone, during which time they will come to a decision concerning your suitability to proceed to the next stage.

The Review takes the form of a discussion based around the reports, lasting up to 1 hour. It concentrates on:

  • what has been done
  • what went well
  • what was difficult
  • what you have learned about yourself and your vocation during the six months

After the hour is over, the Review Group will formally say goodbye and continue to meet (as indicated above).

This review group makes a decision as to whether:

  • For Full-time Ministry of Word and Sacrament, Ordained Local Ministry and Diaconal Ministry Applicants – you are ready to proceed to the national Assessment Conference at this point in time.

    You will only receive an invitation to attend an Assessment Conference if the Local Review has indicated that you are ready to proceed to the next stage of Assessment.

  • For Readership Applicants – you are ready to proceed as a Candidate in Training for Readership at this point in time.

The process of Enquiry and Assessment finishes at Local Review for Readership Candidates.

Assessment Conference

The Assessment Conference is open to all those who have been recommended to it by the Local Review. Over an intensive 24 hour period, your call continues to be tested. There is a strong focus on group and interpersonal skills, these being tested by a variety of participative group exercises. You are interviewed by Church Assessors and a Psychologist Assessor.

It is the Assessment Conference which reaches a final decision on whether or not you should become a Candidate in Training for Ministry.

Local Assessment Personnel

The following documents are for Local Assessors and Presbytery Representatives:

Education and training

Having successfully completed the enquiry and assessment process, candidates for any of the ministries of the Church of Scotland have to undertake a comprehensive programme of training and formation. This comprises three strands; academic requirements, a conference programme and a series of practical placements. The precise nature and content of these varies according to the particular ministry. This applies to candidates for ministries of word and sacrament, the diaconate and the readership.

Academic requirements

For each ministry there is a core curriculum approved by the council and offered by designated academic providers. The course followed will depend on previous qualifications and the ministry for which the candidate is training.

Conference programme

A series of conferences with a comprehensive programme of seminars dealing with various topics related to ministry is provided as part of the formation programme for each distinctive ministry. Topics covered include worship, leadership, preaching, pastoral care, issues of abuse, church law, and an exploration of different forms of ministry such as chaplaincy and funerals. All candidates undergo speech training and a course in safeguarding (formerly child protection).

Practical placements

Candidates for any ministry within the Church of Scotland have to undertake a series of practical placements during which they are attached to a local congregation under the supervision of a trained and accredited supervisor. These placements vary in length and some are full-time, depending on the course of formation being followed. All supervisors are given full training, including in-service, and are well supported by the staff of the Ministries Council in this most important task.

The review process

Once candidates for the ministries of Word and Sacrament or the Diaconate have been accepted, they are subject to a process of regular review. This is the process by which the council and the nominating presbytery assure themselves that all aspects of training have been completed in a satisfactory fashion. No candidate can proceed to the next stage of training for either of these ministries without the previous year having been commended at the annual review. A final review is conducted and must be completed satisfactorily before candidates can seek a charge or appointment. This review process does not at present apply to candidates for the readership.

For further information on education and training matters, email Marjory McPherson, Education and Support Secretary, at or Jane Denniston, ministries support officer at


If you are a Minister, or a Graduate Candidate, in another denomination of the Christian Church and you wish to make an application to transfer to Ministry in the Church of Scotland, please send your CV in the first instance to

On receipt of your CV, we will contact you to discuss matters further.