Clerk-of-Session Checklist

The following list is intended to help a new clerk in a new overseeing session make a good start in his responsibilities. The list is not intended to be a complete catalogue of all that a clerk of session might do.

  1. The clerk of session is responsible for keeping the minutes of the session meetings. Each presbytery has a list of rules for keeping sessional minutes. Request a copy from the Stated Clerk of your presbytery. In Addendum 1 you will find the list from the Bylaws of the Presbytery of New Jersey.
  2. The clerk is responsible for seeing that a docket is prepared for the session meetings. This should be done in consultation with the pastor and moderator (if other than the pastor). In Addendum 2 you will find a suggested docket for a session meeting from the Bylaws of the Presbytery of New Jersey.
  3. The session is to maintain or cause to be maintained an up-to-date list of communicant members and their addresses and a list of non-communicant members (baptized children of communicant members) with parents’ names, birth and baptism dates indicated. Usually this is maintained by the clerk of session.
          See Form of Government Chapter II, Section 2, and Chapter XIII, Section 8; Book of Discipline Chapter I, Section 4; Directory for Worship Chapter IV, Subchapter B, Section 2).
          Such a list should be kept current. The category of how someone was received should be indicated. For communicants the categories are: profession of faith, reaffirmation of faith, or transfer (the congregation from which the person has come should be given), for non-communicants: baptism, with parents. If someone has left the congregation, the date and reason should be indicated. For communicants the categories are: death, transfer, dismissal, erasure, ordination as a teaching elder, or excommunication; for non-communicants: profession of faith, death, transfer, dismissal, discipline, or erasure.
  4. The clerk should maintain or cause to be maintained a file of communications to the session, reports to the session, and any other documents important to the business of the session and congregation.
  5. The clerk of session serves as the clerk at congregational meetings. See Form of Government XVI:5. Note the following: (1) “Minutes of the congregational meeting shall be approved by the congregation before the close of the meeting” and (2) “the record of all the business transacted is to be preserved with the minutes of the session.”

Addendum 1—Rules for Keeping Session Minutes

The following are the rules of the Presbytery of New Jersey for the keeping of sessional minutes.

  1. Record the date, time, and place of each meeting; the names of the moderator and the elders present and the names of absentees.
  2. Record the opening and closing of each meeting with prayer.
  3. Record the reading and approval of the minutes of the last meeting.
  4. Record only that which is vital to the transactions of the meeting. Details of discussions, plans not adopted, suggestions not resulting in actions taken and motions that have been lost should never be recorded except by special order of the session, of which order the minutes should take note.
  5. When a previous action of the session is referred to, the page or pages on which it is recorded should be designated.
  6. Avoid erasures, interlineations, and footnotes.
  7. Do not insert in the minutes written or printed matter on separate sheets of paper.
  8. Record the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the baptism of any adults or infants, the public reception of members, and the ordination or installation of elders or deacons at the next regular meeting succeeding.
  9. Record in the minutes the names of the parents and the birth dates of infants baptized and the full names of applicants for communicant church membership; in the case of married women, the maiden name and “wife of” or “widow of”; in the case of minors, “son [or daughter] of.”
  10. Record the name and address of the church to which a certificate of dismission is sent, and the full name of the person dismissed, with the date of dismissal. Record also the full name and date of death of any member who dies.
  11. Should any members be dropped from the roll without full disciplinary process, such action and reasons must be recorded in the minutes [Book of Discipline, Chapter V, Section 2.a., Subsections (2) and (3)].
  12. When the session finds it necessary to exercise discipline, the Form of Government and Book of Discipline should be carefully studied and if discipline is administered, the sessional minutes must contain such a record of the procedure as will enable the Presbytery to know who were disciplined and how and why.
  13. Record the name of the elder appointed as a commissioner to Presbytery and the exact period for which he is appointed.
  14. The record of each meeting is to be duly attested by the clerk or moderator.
  15. Once each year (the official year ends December 31) and at the conclusion of the minutes of the meeting of said year, there should be included in full the annual tabular statement which the session of the church has made to Presbytery. Also, changes in the ruling eldership by death or otherwise; in outline, the important actions taken at the congregational meetings held during the year, and the salary and other material benefits to be given to the minister during the coming fiscal year.
  16. When reports and proceedings of church organizations are presented for review of the session the minutes of the session should include a statement of such review and record any exception and/or actions relating thereto taken by the session. Reports from church organizations shall not be recorded in the minutes without specific order by the session. (Cf. Form of Government, Chapter XI, Section 5, and Chapter XXX, Section 3.)
  17. It is fitting and proper that matters of historical interest concerning the church or congregation be inserted in the sessional records in an appropriate manner.
  18. The minutes of the session are to be sent to the Presbytery for their review at the time determined by the Presbytery for their submission.

(From the Bylaws of the Presbytery of New Jersey, 11-26-00 edition [slightly corrected])

Addendum 2—Suggested Docket for Sessional Business

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Calling of roll
  3. Reading and approval of minutes
  4. Report of treasurer
  5. Reports of permanent committees
  6. Reports of special committees
  7. Report of pastor
  8. Report of clerk
  9. Examination of applicants
  10. Dismissal of members
  11. Arrangements for the Lord’s Supper
  12. Reports to and from Presbytery (if any) and to and from General Assembly (if any)
  13. Appointment of commissioner to Presbytery and General Assembly
  14. Unfinished business
  15. Miscellaneous business
  16. Time and place of next meeting
  17. Adjournment
  18. Closing prayer

(From the Bylaws of the Presbytery of New Jersey, 11-26-00 edition)

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