Ministry in the Church of Scientology begins among its broad church membership. Any member of the church who feels the need to minister to others may become a "Volunteer Minister" and offer basic Scientology services, among them a form of spiritual healing termed "assists." Volunteer Ministers have become well known from their work during various disasters, most notably following the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001. The church has produced a large text, the Volunteer Ministers Handbook (1967), now superseded by the Scientology Handbook (1994).
Local churches may also appoint from among their members field staff members, lay people charged with the task of disseminating Scientology literature in the local community and helping with the church's fund raising. Where no groups or missions are readily available, individual field auditors may be appointed and operate in their neighborhood.
Support for the church's unordained ministry is supplied by the International Hubbard Ecclesiastical League of Pastors (I HELP). The league was originally founded to assist auditors who work outside of local churches and has continued as a support and training organization for field auditors and volunteer ministers. Once a mission is established in an area, ministers are supported through Scientology Missions International, which operates as the mother church for all missions (as the Church of Scientology International is the mother church for all churches).
Above the Volunteer Clergy, leadership in Scientology is provided by an ordained ministry. Ministers emerge from among the church members at local churches, and each local church offers a special ministerial training course that leads to ordination. That course provides an overview of the world's religions, an overview of Scientology's beliefs, practices, and ethical standards, and guidance in leading Scientology ceremonies. Ministers may then serve at several levels. They may be identified by the ministerial cross or medallion they wear (a version of the eight-pointed star).
The most important activity at any Scientology church is auditing, and every church employs full-time professional auditors. All professional auditors must become ordained ministers, and most Scientology ministers serve as auditors. Besides the auditors, each local church has Course Supervisors who oversee students as they move through their training courses. Most students move through their courses at their own pace under the guidance of the Course supervisor, who may be overseeing students at different levels simultaneously.
Operating more like a traditional pastor in Christian churches, each Scientology Church has one or more ministers on staff who are designated chaplains. Chaplains make themselves available to deal with the immediate and practical problems of church members suffering from marital and family-related difficulties, job loss, financial reverses, or illness. The church has developed a spiritual technology for couples wishing to establish a happy and functional home. Scientology assists are designed to handle various injuries and illnesses.
All Scientology churches and facilities also have a minister designated as the Ethics Officer. In the local church, that officer may be approached by members who are working on an ethical issue that is causing any dysfunctionality in their life, especially their progress up the Bridge. In the higher-level church organizations, the Ethics Officer is assigned the task of making sure that unethical behavior does not reduce the efficiency of the church in performing its task.
Those ministers who wish to operate at a more advanced level may attend one of the Saint Hill Organizations. Integral to their curriculum would be the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course, which takes about a year to complete and offers a detailed survey of the development of Scientology. Becoming an auditor to people who are engaged in the Operating Thetan (OT) training presupposes that the auditor has already attained an equal level. The auditors at the OT levels are assumed to be among the most competent auditors in the world and have received the most advanced training available within the movement.
Members of the Sea Organization are not necessarily ministers. Many Sea Org members hold administrative or technical posts that do not require ministerial status, however, the majority of Sea Org members, especially those in sensitive policy-making positions, are ordained clergy. At the same time, the Sea Org operates like the sangha in Theravada Buddhism and the religious orders in Catholicism, and its highly dedicated members provide a variety of specialized services-from translation of texts to the preparation of food to the repair and maintenance of church facilities. Following the crisis of 1979, the Sea Org took charge of the church.