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?