Teaching Parish

Teaching Parish

Master of Divinity students can fulfill their Contextual Education requirement through the Teaching Parish program, which allows students to serve as pastors-in-charge in local church communities or as assistant pastors to gain ministerial experience. The program is open to United Methodist students appointed to student pastorates as well as students serving pastorates in other denominations and in non-denominational churches.

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

  • The ability to exercise reflective practices of leadership and ministry
  • An informed understanding of vocation as a practitioner, leader, and public theologian
  • A greater understanding of personal, religious identity and ongoing spiritual growth
  • A support network of peers and supervision by an experienced pastor
  • Understanding of unique gifts for service and leadership in the Church
  • The development of practical skills essential to the role of a pastor

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

The program is a cooperative venture between Candler and UMC Conferences, other denominations and non-denominational churches. For United Methodist students, normally only those students who are certified candidates for ordained United Methodist ministry are considered for appointment. For other denominational and non-denominational churches, students will need to already have a negotiated church position/placement and the appropriate approval and support from their judicatories or boards for enrollment requirements.

  • The local church or a campus ministry is the Contextual Education site in Teaching Parish.
  • Student-pastors carry out the responsibilities of clergy in these 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, a pastor serving in that area who serve as Candler adjunct faculty. The supervisor’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 Teaching Parish student. Teaching Parish Reflection Groups 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 and other denominational and non-denominational churches.

Students who are interested in the Teaching Parish program should contact Dr. Thomas Elliott at thomas.elliott@emory.edu. ALL students applying for the Teaching Parish are required to fill out an application which includes the following:

  1. Teaching Parish Application Form
  2. Resume (upload to application)
  3. Brief Summary Statement. Write a brief summary statement indicating: your sense of calling, plans for seminary, admission status, church background, general interest and/or hobbies, your major strengths in ministry, ensuing plans for ministry, and projected completion of the Master of Divinity degree program.
  4. Two Letters of Recommendation (upload to application):
    1. One from your present District Superintendent (United Methodist) or Head of Judicatory or Board (Other denomination or Non-denomination)
    2. One from a recent employer
  5. Recent Photograph (upload to application)

Once received, the application will be processed through the Office of Contextual Education. For United Methodist students, your 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. Once you have received your appointment, please fill out the Teaching Parish Placement 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

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

Second Year

  • Contextual Education IIa Teaching Parish (third semester; 3 hours)
  • Contextual Education IIb Teaching Parish (fourth semester; 3 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

  • 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.)

Since Fall 2021, Candler School of Theology has offered an online Teaching Parish option for fulfulling the Contextual Education requirements of the Master of Divinity degree prorgam. This remote option allows out-of-state students the ability to work on their MDiv at Candler and gain valuable, practical ministry experience without having to relocate to Atlanta.

Typically, a remote Teaching Parish site is a local church or campus ministry. During the fall and spring semesters, students meet together biweekly in an online cohort which is conducted by a supervising pastor who serves as an adjunct professor at Candler. In addition, students take required and elective courses towards their MDiv degree. 

More information about the first remote cohort can be found in this article: https://candler.emory.edu/news/releases/2022/01/remote-teaching-parish.html

For further information, including application, contact Thomas Elliott Jr., Director, at 404.727.4178 or thomas.elliott@emory.edu.

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"What Teaching Parish has taught me is that the most important thing a pastor can learn is how to love their people. You can have all the biblical literacy and theological wisdom in the world, but none of it is fruitful and sustaining if you do not love your people exactly as they are."
-Lauren Cowan, MDiv '23