Defining psychological fitness

To be successful in ministry, a person must be able to function well on a variety of personal and professional levels at all times. Fitness, competency, readiness and effectiveness are necessary to the high-quality practice of ordained and lay professional ministries.

As part of the vocational discernment process, it is important for the applicant and his or her judicatory to consider “psychological fitness for preparation for ordained or lay ministries.” By psychological fitness, we are referring to the applicant’s potential for developing competencies needed for ministry, to become ready to begin the practice of ministry and to grow into an effective ministry professional.

In other words, fitness is foundational to the other levels of ministry. It is also the locus and focus of our work at CAS through our psychological fitness review process.

In assessing an applicant’s psychological fitness, consideration is given, among other things, to the following criteria:

  • intellectual ability and style
  • vocational perceptions (interests, motivations)
  • personality composition and functioning
  • character traits
  • lifestyle
  • mental and physical health
  • gender identity and sexual maturity
  • self-image
  • role-image (as pastor)
  • relational style
  • boundary setting

Competency for ministry is the turf of seminary and field education, including Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and field supervision, along with coursework in such disciplines as Bible, theology and church history. These and other educational contexts are the primary settings in which competencies are developed.

CAS’ psychological fitness review process is not focused on specific competencies. Rather, the process is concerned with determining an applicant’s potential for developing skills, abilities and other competencies necessary for ministry.

Readiness for ministry is the domain of denominations and ecclesiastical officials. Obtaining a seminary degree, such as the Master of Divinity degree, is usually a necessary, but not always sufficient, condition for placing a person in a congregation or other agency or institutional setting. It is the task of ecclesiastical officials to decide if and when a person is ready for placement.

CAS’ psychological fitness review process is not focused on readiness for ministry. Rather, we are concerned with assessing an applicant’s potential, self-image and maturity as they relate to the applicant’s being psychologically fit and ready to prepare for and/or be placed in a ministry setting.

Effectiveness in ministry can be anticipated after five to seven years of ministry experience. Nevertheless, there is a minimal level of effectiveness that is expected early on when an applicant’s readiness for ministry is being considered – with much higher degrees of effectiveness developing as the clergy career unfolds.

CAS’ psychological fitness review process is not focused on effectiveness. Rather the process considers the applicant’s potential to grow into ministry and become increasingly effective as a lay or ordained minister.