In his blogs on the UMC last week (pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, pt. 4, pt. 5, pt. 6) Craig Groeschel focused his third posting on the ordination process of the United Methodist Church. Here is a piece of what he wrote…
“As I continue to think about the future of the United Methodist Church, I’m hopeful that the UMC (and other mainline denominational churches) will attract and retain more young leaders.
To do so effectively would take many fundamental changes. One might include re-evaluating the ordination process. When I was a UMC pastor, I was an un-ordained “local pastor” for three years, spent four years in seminary (while serving full time at a church) and had two more years before I’d become fully ordained as an elder.”
Groeschel goes on to say that many young leaders want to “get in the game” without the denominational hurdles to clear. I have to admit, I agree with Groeschel 100% on this one. I started my process towards ordination in 2004 when I was 25 (I’ll be 32 later this year). I have been in seminary for 4 years with one more year to go. Hopefully I can be commissioned in 2011 and get ordained by 2013. If that is how it works out, I will have been in this process for 9 years! Does it take 9 years to affirm that someone is gifted, called, and equipped for ministry?
It’s been a struggle of mine to see other churches who have pastors in the early 20’s leading the helm and impementing the vision that God has given them for the church and community. Even if I was reappointed this year- six years would have passed from when I started this journey and I would just begin to be able to try out some of the skills and vision that God has placed in my heart. (As an associate, some of those have to simmer on the back burner for a while!)
I can think of Jon Weece (Southland Christian Church outside Lexington, KY) or Steven Furtick from Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC as examples of pastors who are leading large churches and doing many creative things- yet began their leadership in the church in their late 20’s. No, I’m not aspiring to becoming a mega-church pastor- but to bring out the point that they were placed in a position where they could lead and influence even though they were/are younger. Had they been in the United Methodist Church- they might have left after seeing all the hurdles that must be cleared.
- While I affirm seminary (and have enjoyed it), God does not need well educated people to bring about His Kingdom. Do we need seminary to be a pastor? If the UMC decides we need it- does one really have to graduate before they can become “ordained”?
- Wouldn’t the UMC be better equipped for the future if it cleared the pathway for younger pastors to be put in positions of influence to win over the emerging generations for Christ?
- Does the length of the current process lend itself to creating effective pastors? Or is it more likely to lead to discouragement?
What are you thoughts on the ordination process? Are you in it? What is your experience? If you could change something, what would it be?
I think we have a problem when the youngest an ordained pastor can be in the church is in his or her 30s. Some doctors get through med school and residency quicker than that.
I give you and folks like Brian Neville for sticking with it, but I think it's a rare breed that will put up with such a laborious and drawn out process that in the end guarantees nothing.
This comment has been removed by the author.
I am 33 and have just received my guidebook…yup! I've got a LONG way to go. I don't plan to go to Seminary until my baby is in kindergarten in two years(ok, he's three not exactly a baby anymore)….I'm planning on 5 years of school…and then the provisional status (is it 2 or 3 years now???) THEN ordination. I feel this is the direction God is calling me….however, if I wanted to pastor a church (which I don't, I'm doing the Deacon Track) I would have just done the Local licensed Pastor track rather than ordination at this age. My biggest prayer right now is that the University Senate approves MORE seminaries for on-line programs so I won't have to commute an hour and a half.
Becky, I agree about online courses. I commute 2 hours one way each week for my classes.
Seminary Commute can be a serious drain!! I get to spend upwards of 7 + hours each week trekking back and forth to Palmer. As much as I like driving and that time can be very reflective it can also be quite a burden!!
Now that I am on the other side of the candidacy process, I can honestly say that it is too long, but it also has its advantages. It took exactly 10 years from the time I first felt called to ministry to my approval for ordination. I'll be ordained in June, when I will also turn 30. That just seems a bit too long.
There are far too many “hoops” involved in our process. Too many committees with too many opinions to gain approval from. Too much paperwork. It discourages many people. Both my wife and I had friends in seminary who started the process and then gave up because they got fed up with it. Several of them changed denominations, got ordained, and are serving amazing churches.
I still think the biggest problem the UMC has with attracting young pastors is the kind of appointments they tend to send us to. We come out of seminary, full of life and the Spirit, and we go to places that are dead/dying spiritually, financially, and numerically. We are placed there because they are “safe”–if we grow them, it proves our skills, and if we can't, well, we were fighting a losing battle anyway. So many of my friends from seminary have fought with depression and despondency in these churches. Yet, my friends in other denominations are mostly in large churches with successful ministries. They had to move across the country to find them, but they are so much happier for it.
Until the UMC starts giving young pastors a chance to make a difference, many will skip the candidacy process and take their gifts elsewhere.
Rick- thanks for the comments! This is the area that I am most passionate about because I have also had friends who have left the UMC or have lost their passion because of the length of the process.
There has got to be a better way of appointing young clergy to places where they can either learn from someone who is doing things effectively, or placing them in a position where they can spread their wings and try the things out that God has placed on their hearts rather than manage a dying congregation. It's going to take a change of philosophies for the UMC to do this!