Course of Study

The Basic Five-year Course of Study (COS) is a year-round experiential and classroom learning process. This process assumes cooperation between the instructors in the Course of Study Schools and the clergy mentors in the annual conferences. Each Regional Course of Study school shall offer all 20 courses of the Basic Five-year COS and shall seek to meet the needs of both the full-time and part-time local pastors. Normally courses are to be taken in the sequence prescribed by the curriculum. Students are expected to take "121 Bible I: Introduction" and "122 Theological Heritage I: Introduction" prior to completing other courses. 500 level courses are capstone courses and should be completed after all course of study classes.

The Book of Discipline, 2016, states that local pastor should make adequate annual progress towards completion of their educational requirements. The Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry has set the following definition for “adequate progress.”

  • For local pastors who are completing an undergraduate or seminary education, adequate progress means completing a sufficient number of courses each year to graduate within the time frame set by the school (usually eight years).
  • For local pastors who are completing the Course of Study, adequate process is contingent on the percentage of the appointment.
    • ¼ time local pastor – one class per year
    • ½ time local pastor – two classes per year
    • ¾ time local pastor – three classes per year
    • Full-time local pastor – four classes per year
  • Four classes is the maximum number of Course of Study classes that can be completed in an academic year. An exception of one additional class in a year may be requested by a student. Such a request may be granted by the COS school on a case by case basis, only after approval of the request by the district superintendent, conference registrar, director of the COS school, and the Division of Ordained Ministry (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry).
  • Local pastors who reach mandatory retirement age who (1) are still appointed and (2) have not yet completed the Basic Course of Study may continue with Course of Study classes, but will no longer be required to participate in Course of Study.

Visit GBHEM's Licensing and Course of Study page.

5 Year Plan (PDF)
COS Course goals (PDF)

Course of Study Schools/Options

Regional Course of Study Schools

Regional Course of Study schools are established by the Division of Ordained Ministry at locations central to the student populations, taking into consideration such factors as availability of United Methodist theological school faculty, library resources, dormitory space, the density of student populations, etc. Full-time local pastors shall attend one of the approved regional Course of Study schools. Two options are available for a Spanish Language Course of Study program. Saint Paul School of Theology offers a COS program in our conference. Find information about Saint Paul's program, along with other regional schools, below.

Saint Paul School of Theology
Regional School (PDF)
Spanish Language COS(PDF)

Extension Schools for Part-time Local Pastors

Some local pastors serve churches on a part-time basis. Some of them are bi-vocational and are unable to attend a Regional Course of Study school. In such cases, where numbers make it sustainable, The Division of Ordained Ministry authorizes a regional school to have an extension site. These classes are available in a week end format.

Extension School (PDF)

Online Classes

Most of the basic Course of Study classes are available in online formats through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and through some course of study programs. By Discipline, no more than one-half of the classes may be taken in this format. ¶322.1(3) Courses completed online during COVID-19 will be treated as in-person or hybrid and will be exempt from the online maximum of 10 classes.

Advanced Course of Study

After completing the basic Course of Study, a local pastor may choose to continue the process toward Provisional membership through the Advanced Course of Study. It includes 32 hours of Masters level education in a seminary recognized by the University Senate. It must include United Methodist History, United Methodist Doctrine and United Methodist Polity (¶324.6d).

United Methodist Studies Online

The Division of Ordained Ministry offers the United Methodist studies online

Great Plains policy provides that the United Methodist Studies (History, Doctrine and Polity) are required to be completed within the first two years of appointment for persons who are credentialed through a non-Methodist denomination/Christian fellowship but who are approved for appointment in the Great Plains Conference.

While the 32 hours of graduate level theological education may be completed at any seminary approved by the University Senate, several of the United Methodist seminaries have developed a specific, non-degree Advanced Course of Study program. More information about these programs may be found on the individual seminary websites. Please note that this information and these links are accurate as of Feb. 22, 2016. Please check with an individual school for more information.