GUIDELINES FOR VOLUNTEER
LAY PASTORS (VLP)
Introduction—In order to fulfill the North American Division
(NAD) goal of planting new churches, additional personnel is
needed and that can be partially met by using volunteers to assist
regular pastoral teams. Additionally, due to the trend of assigning
more churches to conference-employed pastors, volunteer lay
pastors can perform a valuable service to the churches in the NAD.
A volunteer lay pastor is an individual who has not been
professionally trained for ministry, has not worked as a licensed or
ordained/commissioned minister, and is not a ministerial retiree.
These guidelines are provided so that the church in the NAD
recognizes the valuable service of VLPs and, at the same time,
follow denominational policies, laws, and regulations.
Role and Function of a VLP —1. Purpose:The purpose of
the VLP program is to provide pastoral assistance to a church or
company under the oversight of a designated supervising pastor.
2.Focus: The specific function of a VLP depends on the needs
of the congregation or group where the VLP serves. In consultation
with the supervising pastor, the VLP needs to focus on areas such
as preaching, conducting the Lord’s Supper, visitation, evangelism,
planning, and overseeing other church meetings and programs.
3.Teachings and practices: The VLP needs to know and follow
the teachings and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
This includes, but is not limited to, believing in and supporting the
Fundamental Beliefs and following Seventh-day Adventist
practices, such as faithful stewardship.
4.Reports to supervising pastor: The VLP reports to the
supervising pastor. The supervising pastor will give leadership to
the VLP by adhering to these guidelines, conference policies, and
input from the conference ministerial secretary who is the
conference coordinator of VLPs. Since the VLP is under the
direction of the supervising pastor, the function and contact
information for the supervising pastor needs to be communicated
in bulletins, web listings, etc.
5.Ordained elder: The VLP must be an elected elder of the
congregation (if it is a company or group, then of the sponsoring
church). It is recommended that the VLP not serve as the head
6.Relationship to head elder and other elders: The VLP
functions under the direction of the supervising pastor and is an
extension of the supervising pastor’s ministry. In view of that
relationship, the VLP needs to follow the policies and guidelines
defining the relationship between pastor and elders. These policies
and guidelines are stated in the Church Manual and amplified in
theMinister’s Handbook and Elder’s Handbook.
7.Limitations of role: The VLP is not authorized to organize or
disband churches, officiate (though may participate) in the
ordination of elders, deacons, or deaconesses, or conduct
counseling therapy. The VLP may participate in weddings, only as
permitted by conference policy and applicable laws and
8.Baptizing: The VLP, who is also an ordained elder, may
baptize as recommended by the supervising pastor and approved
by the conference president, as stipulated in the Church Manual.
9.Church Board: As an elder, the VLP is a member of the
Church Board. The pastor, according to the Church Manual, is the
chair of the Board. The pastor has the authority to appoint an elder
to serve as the chair and thus the supervising pastor may designate
the VLP (who is an elder) to be board chair. The chairing of the
Board by the VLP is at the sole discretion of the supervising
10.Tithe, offerings, and reports: The VLP will follow the
denominational policies regarding the receiving of tithe and
forwarding tithe and non-local offerings to the conference. The
VLP will also work with the congregation to make certain reports,
such as clerk and baptismal reports, are submitted to the
11.Not a Path to Ministry: The VLP is a volunteer and
recognizes that the VLP program is not a path to ministry. The
path to ministry is outlined in NAD Working Policy and those
wishing to enter full-time ministry need to follow it.
12.No remuneration: The VLP is not a conference employee
and will not receive any compensation from the conference,
congregation, or individuals for pastoral functions. The conference
may arrange to reimburse the volunteer for travel and other
approved expenses. Any such arrangements must be stated in the
Condition of Volunteering form that will be signed by the
conference and the VLP.
13.Denominational policies: The VLP needs to know
appropriate policies and procedures (such as the Church Manual,
Minister’s Handbook, Elder’s Handbook, and conference policies)
and follow them.
Qualifications and Ethical conduct of a VLP—1. Theological:
The VLP, under the leadership of the supervising pastor,
will exercise great care to use resources that are in harmony with
denominational teachings. This includes, but is not limited to,
resources for sermons.
2.Background check: The VLP will undergo a background
check as stipulated in the NAD Working Policy.
3.Financial integrity: The VLP will neither solicit nor accept
financial gifts from members or visitors.
The Conference and the VLP—1. Administrator of the plan:
The conference is the administrator of VLPs. It is the responsibility
of the conference coordinator to explain the VLP program to the
volunteer, the supervising pastor, and the congregation.
2.Conference coordinator: The ministerial secretary, or
designee, is the conference coordinator for VLPs.
3.Training and evaluation: It is the responsibility of the
conference coordinator of VLPs to provide training and resources
to the VLPs and supervising pastors. Initially the VLP shall receive
a minimum of 20 hours training and thereafter at least 20 hours of
training each year. Additionally, the conference coordinator, in
consultation with the supervising pastor and congregation, shall
conduct an annual evaluation of the VLP. If needed, the evaluation
may be conducted more frequently.
4.Length of appointment: The conference executive committee
appoints a VLP for a period of one year. With input from the
supervising pastor and conference ministerial secretary, the
appointment may be renewed. Either party may terminate the
agreement with notice to the other.
5.Communicate with the congregation: It is the responsibility
of the conference, along with the supervising pastor, to explain the
role of the VLP and make certain that the VLP is properly
introduced to the congregation.
6.Identification card: The conference will provide a completed
identification card for each VLP (template provided by NAD).
7.Business card: The conference will provide a business card
The Division and the VLP—1. Provide guidelines: The North
American Division will provide and update, as needed, guidelines
for the VLP program.
2.Advisory Committee: The Division will appoint a VLP
advisory committee. The committee chair will be the division
ministerial secretary; the secretary will be the division associate
ministerial secretary who coordinates the VLP program.
3.Resources: The Division ministerial association will provide
training resources, Condition of Volunteering form to be
completed by the conference and the VLP, identification cards
template for the conference to complete, and business card