Licensing and Ordination

How to become an ordained pastor or a licensed minister.



Licensing in Minnesota

Licensing is a civil recognition of an individual who serves vocationally in some form of church ministry. This recognition is important for a minister who seeks to perform marriage ceremonies as well as claiming the tax considerations given to clergy

Before a church grants a license, they should develop policies to establish and guide their licensing procedures. A part of this should include who the church will seek to license. This could include:

  • Those preparing for a career as a pastor or missionary and are involved in the ministries of the church while they are in the process of gaining a pastoral degree.
  • Those pastors, directors, and administrators currently involved in the ministry of the church.
  • It should be decided by policy guidelines for necessary education, theological knowledge, or ministry function in the church.
  • Should there be a specific time period for the license depending on the situation? 

The IRS does not concern itself with the question of “who may be licensed?” But they have determined specific criteria of a standard to be met by an individual who is licensed and claims the housing allowance tax consideration given to ministers. The 1997 Income Tax Guide states: “ministers are individuals who are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed by a religious body constituting a church or church denomination. They are given the authority to conduct religious worship, perform sacerdotal functions and administer ordinances or sacraments according to the prescribed tenets of practices of that church or denomination.”

Dr. Richard Hammar is an attorney, CPA, and best-selling author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy. In asking “who is a minister for tax purposes,” he points to a tax court ruling from 1987 that a minister is one who satisfies all five of the following factors:

  1. Administers sacraments
  2. Conducts religious worship
  3. Management responsibility in a local church or religious denomination
  4. Ordained, commissioned, or licensed
  5. Considered to be a religious leader by one’s church or denomination. 

A church should carefully review why it is granting a ministerial license as well as who is being considered in an order to meet the government’s requirements for ministerial tax consideration. With tax laws and codes constantly changing, you are encouraged to consult with such materials put out by Dr. Hammar. These resources can be found at

The procedure for licensing in Minnesota is as follows:

  1. The board should take action and approve the licensing of the individual, this decision then becomes a part of the board minutes. 
  2. An official of the church writes a letter on church letterhead, stating the individual has been approved to be licensed by the church. A church designed certificate can also be presented to the individual.
  3. The individual takes the letter or certificate to be filed with the clerk of the district court in the county in which the church is located. 
  4. There is a small fee for this service payable to the county. 
  5. The county issues a Certificate of Filing for the pastor.

Each county may use different offices or terms for this process. We suggest calling or visiting your county’s webpage to help you navigate this filing process. 

Licensing in Iowa

Licensing buy the government in Iowa is not necessary. It is done through the church and used only for church purposes.


Ordination in Converge North Central

The ordination process begins and ends with a leader called by God to the Gospel ministry. It also involves the recognition of this call by the local church where the leader is serving. But the Converge family of churches and church leaders are also involved in advising the church and in serving the ordination candidate. Thus, the ordination process is detailed below for Converge churches and leaders:

From the Perspective of the Candidate and Church:

  1. A church board takes a vote and then informs the Converge North Central leadership of its desire to ordain a candidate.
  2. The Converge North Central staff refers them to the Steps to Ordination document on the website for the candidate and the ordaining church.
  3.  The candidate works on their papers. Sometime this can take quite a while if they are starting from scratch. When the papers are complete and edited from a theological and grammatical perspective, they are sent to the Converge North Central office.
  4. The Converge North Central office emails a confirmation of the meeting to the candidate.
  5. The candidate is then ready to meet with the Ministerial Guidance Committee. They should offer up seven 2-hour time slots in which they are available to meet with the Committee. At least one month before the meeting, the candidate sends a pdf copy of their ordination papers to the Converge North Central staff. Email is preferred.
  6. The Converge North Central office emails the ordination papers to the current members of the MGC
  7. The MGC meets with the candidate
  8. The MGC then follows up with a letter of endorsement to the ordaining church with a copy to the candidate OR if the MGC’s advice is to postpone convening an ordination council, they give direction for completing the work before giving an endorsement. CNC suggests that the church does not schedule a council until the candidate finishes with the work with the MGC. Only after the MGC gives final approval can it be scheduled. In this case, the MGC chooses one or two people to follow up with the candidate to read their revised papers before the church is advised to move on with the council.
  9. Upon receipt of the letter of endorsement to convene a council, the ordaining church schedules the council and invites delegates from nearby Converge and other evangelical churches.
  10. The council meets and votes to recommend that the church proceed or not proceed with ordination ceremony.

From the Perspective of the Ministerial Guidance Committee:

  1. A church requests help with ordination.
  2. The Converge North Central office leadership responds with the online Steps to Ordination booklet.
  3. The candidate prepares and has editors read and suggest changes then sends ordination papers.
  4. The candidate reserves an interview time.
  5. The Converge North Central office confirms the interview time.
  6. The Converge North Central office distributes ordination papers to the MGC
  7. The MGC reviews, meets, and makes a recommendation.
  8. The church takes the next steps to schedule a council and to ordain the proposed candidate.
  9. The MGC is available for questions concerning the papers or the candidate.

CNC Steps to Ordination

Additional information

For more information on licensing or ordination, please email the Converge North Central office.

Whether striving forward or struggling, every church needs a partner to come in and look ‘under the hood’ of their ministry. Converge helped us be better in every area to effectively bring the good news to all people.

Bill Berg, New Hope Community Church, Cambridge & Isanti, Minnesota