Teaching Parish

Teaching Parish

Master of Divinity students can fulfill their Contextual Education requirement through the Teaching Parish program, which allows eligible United Methodist students to serve as pastors-in-charge in local church communities where they will gain ministerial experience to prepare them for service after ordination.

At the conclusion of the Teaching Parish program, learning outcomes will include:

  • Strengthened understanding and execution of ministry practices.
  • Ability to apply theoretical knowledge in a parish setting.
  • A support network of peers and supervision by an experienced United Methodist Elder.
  • Practical skills essential to the role of a pastor.
  • Understanding of your unique gifts for service and leadership in the Church.

If you have additional questions, please contact the Office of Contextual Education, at candlerconed@emory.edu, or 404.727.4178.

  • The local church is the Contextual Education site in Teaching Parish.
  • Student-pastors carry out the responsibilities of clergy in church settings.
  • All student-pastors in a geographic area constitute a Teaching Parish group. Each group meets together (presently on Mondays) throughout the fall and spring semesters.
  • Each group is led by a Teaching Parish supervisor, an elder serving in that area who has been chosen for this responsibility. The elder's job is to lead the Teaching Parish group in its work, to evaluate each student-pastor's performance, and to provide individual counsel to each student-pastor. Teaching Parish activities are suspended during the summer, though there is an orientation for all student-pastors at the end of the summer.
  • In the fall semester of the first year in the Teaching Parish Program, students will be enrolled in a contextualized Introductory Arts of Ministry (IAM) class. In the second year, students will enroll in a Contextualized Education Elective (CEE) and an Introductory Arts of Ministry (IAM) class.
  • Student-pastors earn a salary and may reside in parish housing.

The Teaching Parish program is a cooperative venture between Candler and the Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church. Students may serve a congregation in the North Georgia Conference or within the bounds of their own Annual Conference, when an appointment is available.

  • Students must be certified candidates in the United Methodist Church.
  • Students must be appointed by the bishop and be approved by the Director of Teaching Parish to enroll in the program.

To request a student appointment, please collect the following materials and email them to Dr. Thomas Elliott at thomas.elliott@emory.edu. Be sure to email all materials together in a single email. Do not email separately.

        1.  Teaching Parish Application

        2.  Resume

        3. Brief Summary Letter indicating your plans for seminary, admissions status, ensuing plans for ministry, conference affiliation and standing, UM candidacy status, and projected completion of the MDiv program.

        4. Two Letters of Recommendation:  

              a.  One from your present District Superintendent

              b.  One from a recent employer

        5.  Recent Photograph

Once received, the application will be sent to the conferences requested. Please note, an appointment is a matter between the student and the Conference Cabinet. Neither the Director of Teaching Parish nor anyone at Candler School of Theology makes student appointments. Normally in the spring prior to the new Conference year in June, district superintendents contact prospective student pastors. Appointments are made upon availability. Thus, it is helpful to submit the application early.

After you have received your appointment, please fill out the Teaching Parish Appointment Form, and return it to the Contextual Education Office.

Due to immigration regulations limiting off-campus employment to an eighteen-month term of service, international students will not be considered for a student-pastor appointment in their first year of study. International students may be considered for appointment during their final 18 months of study at Candler. For additional information regarding international students and student-pastor appointments, please contact the Office of Admissions at 404.727.6326.

Curricular Requirements

First Year

  • CE551TPa. Contextual Education Ia Teaching Parish (first semester only; 2 hours)
  • Contextualized Introductory Arts of Ministry Class for Teaching Parish (first semester only; 3 hours)
  • CE551TPb. Contextual Education Ib Teaching Parish (second semester only; 2 hours)

Second Year

  • CE552TPa. Contextual Education IIa Teaching Parish (third semester; 2 hours)
  • CE552TPb. Contextual Education IIb Teaching Parish (fourth semester; 2 hours)
  • Contextual Education Elective (CEE)(taken concurrently with CE552TPa or CE552TPb in either fall or spring semester; 3 hours)
  • Any Introductory Arts of Ministry (IAM) (taken concurrently with CE552a or CE552b, 3 hours)

Third Year

  • CE553TPR. Teaching Parish (every semester after year two; 1 or 2 hours; fulfills MDiv elective credit)

Download the Teaching Parish Manual for complete program requirements.

Completion Requirements 

All site work and reflection group assignments must be completed no later than one week following the last day of classes. Only upon successful completion of the site work and the reflection group will a student receive credit hours for the respective year of Teaching Parish. (Note: Students receive an "In Progress" (IP) grade for the fall semester. Only when both semesters have been satisfactorily completed will a satisfactory (S) grade be awarded for each semester.)

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"Serving as a student pastor has allowed me to integrate my theological, intellectual, and spiritual formation with the practical work of ministry as I preach, celebrate the sacraments, and attend to the spiritual needs of my congregants. It has been an invaluable component of my spiritual development, my vocational discernment and the formation of my personal theology and my priestly and prophetic identity."
-Vivian Brown-Toussaint, MDiv `17