Menu Close

Healthy Boundaries Training

Healthy and vital ministries rely on trust and mutual support to create spaces of welcome and safety for all.

To comply with requirements by the Presbyterian Church (USA), at the 116th stated Presbytery of the James meeting in February 2024, the presbytery approved a Boundaries Training Mandate Policy. The policy ensures that leaders understand the role of power and vulnerability to create and maintain healthy boundaries.

All individuals affected by the policy (see FAQs, below) must complete training by June 1, 2024*.

* Deadline updated April 9, 2024

Training opportunities

In-person course
Boundaries Training

Check back for in-person course announcements

Self-guided online course
Clergy Ethics and Congregational Boundaries
Cost: $29
Can be completed in 2 hours or less

Note: After selecting the registration button, a new screen will open for Safe Gatherings (shown below). Ignore the instructions in the green section at the top of the page. Scroll down until you are able to enter your name. If you do not see this screen, stop and call Safe Gatherings at 1-888-241-8258 for assistance.


Developing POJ's Policy

The Commission on Ministry and presbytery staff worked several months researching, debating, and editing the document before bringing it to the presbytery for action.

The motivation for enacting the policy is an awareness of the various legal and spiritual risks related to boundary violations and the conviction that ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all of presbytery’s members and friends is the faithful thing to do.

The specific timing for this project arises from an amendment to the Book of Order mandating the presbytery and individual sessions enact boundary training for its members:

“All councils shall adopt and implement the following policies: a sexual misconduct policy, a harassment policy, a child and youth protection policy, and an antiracism policy. Each council’s policy shall include requirements for boundary training which includes the topic of sexual misconduct, and child sexual abuse prevention training for its members at least every thirty-six months. A council may delegate aspects of its tasks to such entities as it deems appropriate, provided that those entities remain accountable to the council.”

Excerpt from amended G-3.0106, effective as of July 9, 2023. Emphasis added.



General FAQs

To whom does this policy apply?

The policy mandates that the following complete a presbytery-approved boundary training course every 36 months:

  • All minister members of the presbytery
  • Those under the same expectations as ministers, namely inquirers and candidates for ordination
  • Commissioned ruling elders and candidates for commissioned ruling elder
  • Certified Christian Educators
  • Ruling elders during their terms of elected service to the presbytery

What does boundary training accomplish?

One helpful analogy for the boundary training requirement is the DMV requirement that one has to have a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle. To secure a license one normally engages in some kind of training (think driver’s ed), passes a knowledge and practical test, and then has that license renewed on a regular basis. The objective of the test and license is to ensure that drivers know the rules of the road and (hopefully) will treat other drivers with courtesy, for the safety of all concerned.

So also, the objective of boundary training is to advance a person’s awareness and skill in working and interacting with others. The content of boundary training includes how to keep children safe, how to respectfully relate to others, how to act ethically in church business and decision-making, and so forth. It also incorporates elements of sexual misconduct and child sexual abuse prevention, among other topics.

In other words, boundary training provides some fundamental skills and shared knowledge for safe and productive human interaction and relationships.

How do I get the training?

As Presbytery of the James rolls out this new mandate, there are two ways to acquire your boundary training “driver’s license” or certificate of completion. One is to take the presbytery-approved course entitled Clergy Ethics and Congregational Boundaries offered online by CONGREGATIONU at a cost of $29. The vendor will send a record of completion directly to the presbytery.

The second way to acquire your certificate of completion is to take an in-person course that will be offered periodically by the presbytery. In-person trainings are posted at the top of this page.

Other in-person training events in and out of Richmond, and on the weekend and during the week are currently being scheduled. The presbytery is committed to regularly offering the boundary training now being mandated.

What if I have questions about the mandate or want to comment on it?

The stated clerk welcomes your questions and your comments. Contact

FAQs for Ministers, Candidates, and Inquirers

What does the mandate mean for ministers in installed positions?

Installed ministers need to complete the new training by June 1. Failure to do so will result in your current terms of call not being approved and the session informed why. Noncompliance will be noted on any request to enter the call process or transfer to another presbytery. Continued noncompliance can lead to disciplinary proceedings.

What does the mandate mean for those in covenant pastor, interim pastor, or commissioned pastor positions, including ministers serving in post retirement positions?

You need to complete the new training by June 1. Your covenant will not be renewed without completing the training. If the renewal date is in the more distant future, your current covenant will be subject to early review. The session will be informed. Noncompliance will be noted on any request to enter the call process or transfer to another presbytery. Continued noncompliance can lead to disciplinary proceedings.

What does the mandate mean for a minister serving in a validated position beyond the presbytery?

You must complete the training by June 1 to maintain your validation. If you lose your validation you will be put on the member at large list. (see next entry)

What does the mandate mean for minister members at large (MAL)?

To remain standing as a MAL you must annually demonstrate to the COM that you are continuing to exercise in some fashion your ministerial office, even though you are not serving in a validated position. If you have not completed the training, you may not practice any expression of your ministerial office – hence you cannot demonstrate a rationale for remaining on the MAL list. Procedural or disciplinary process may follow.

The only way I am currently exercising my ministerial office is by supply preaching and the rare funeral or wedding. Do I have to take the training?

Yes, you need to take the training to be on the pulpit supply list or to perform any ministerial functions.

What does the mandate mean for retired ministers not engaged in any form of ministerial service at the congregational or presbytery level?

This is a little tricky. The Book of Order does not distinguish between “active in retirement” and “no longer exercising one’s ministerial office in retirement”. It is hard for most retired ministers to truly “hang up the robe and never put it on again.” BUT, due to age or infirmity or preference, there are those who are ready to truly be a retired person who formerly exercised a ministerial office and choose to not take the training. Without taking the training, those really retired ministers are not in compliance. The procedural sanctions that come to those actively serving but not complying don’t mean much to one who isn’t actively serving. The temporary stated clerk will note such noncompliance.

What does the mandate mean for those in the inquiry or candidacy process?

You need to complete the new training by June 1 or inform the CPM why you cannot comply in a timely manner. You cannot perform any pastoral functions or engage in supervised ministry after June 1 unless you complete the training. You must complete the training to be certified ready to receive a call. Failure to comply with the mandate will compromise your standing as a candidate or inquirer.

FAQs for Certified Christian Educators

What does the mandate mean for Certified Christian Educators?

You need to complete the new training by June 1. If you are currently employed, the session will be informed of your noncompliance.

FAQs for Ruling Elders and Sessions

Do sessions have to do anything about boundary training?

Yes. Every session is mandated by the Book of Order to adopt and implement the policies and training named in G-3.0106.

Does the POJ policy and June 1 deadline apply to session elders?

No, it does not apply to session elders, only to ruling elders serving on presbytery committees, etc. However, session elders are welcome to attend the training opportunities being offered.

Are sessions required to use the training provided by the presbytery?

No, they are not required to use the training provided by the presbytery, but they are welcome to do so.

What does this mean for elders who are elected as commissioners to a presbytery meeting?

The presbytery expects all elders who are elected as commissioners to a presbytery meeting to have had boundary training. Commissioners who attend events sponsored by the Presbytery of the James agree to be governed by the boundaries policy and adhere to it.

Can elders who are elected as commissioners to a presbytery meeting get training from the presbytery?

Yes. Ruling elder commissioners can choose to take the online course or any in-person courses offered by the presbytery.