Ordination Process is Too Long!

I thought about sending this into the Circuit West, our newsletter for the cal-pac. But the email kept returning to me with a delivery failure status. Maybe God’s telling me not to turn it in. Though, I don’t think I said anything inappropriate…

Today, I attended a district gathering with the pastors of our district. And there was something that bothered me. I was the only one in my 20’s. The ordination process, I feel, takes too long. I know it has been said before, and I know that may sound like I am complaining but seriously, is it really necessary that the process is as long as it is? As Bishop Will Willimon said, “By the time we have one pastor, we could have made 2 brain surgeons.”

As I am writing this, I am 27 years old. My hope and prayer is that I will be ordained when I am 30. But right now, I am tired of going to Annual Conferences and district meetings and feeling like a rare specimen. Maybe I am the only one who feels this way.

I feel that we really need to reevaluate this ordination process and ask ourselves why it takes so long. Is the 8 RIM course requirement really necessary to be ready for ordination and ministry? I think we all know that nothing can really prepare us for ministry. I could take 16 RIM classes and still inadequately prepared for what arises in ministry. All the classes we take, the workshops that we attend, a lot of times, they are no help and we are forced to rely on the grace of God, more than relying on what we have learned. And don’t most of us learn on the job? 

How different would our denomination be if we had more ordained elders and deacons in their 20s? I personally feel that it would breathe a new life into our churches. Simply because we are young and crazy (or stupid) enough to take risks and do things that older pastors will shy away from or do things in a non-conventional way. Martin Luther King Jr was the ripe age of 26 when he was asked to lead the bus boycott in Alabama. Maybe elders of the community felt they had too much to lose in leading this movement. Dr. King was just young enough and crazy enough to dream the impossible. The Church would benefit from fresh eyes, fresh spirit and fresh point of views. The Church would benefit from young pastors who dream big, instead of scoffing and saying, “That’s never been done.” or “It’s not going to work that way.” We need a balance of wisdom that comes from experience and age and the ability to dare to dream, and to dream big. Right now, in my opinion, we are abundant in the former but lacking in the latter. That is not to say that the older generation does not dream big, but there is some truth in the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

By no means am I saying that we should lower the standards of the ordination process. That would be irresponsible and disastrous. But I feel that it is not quite necessary to take this long for me or my colleagues to be ordained. Quantity (the length of the process) will not always bring out the best quality (the type of pastor we will be).

It has been a frustrating (and long) experience just to get commissioned. I look ahead, and there is still a long road ahead of me. Sometimes, I honestly feel that this whole ordination process is to break me in, to break my spirit, so that I become a safe (and old[er]) Methodist pastor. And being safe (or playing it safe) can be detrimental to our faith. I know that this is not the case. But I cannot help but feel like I’m being groomed and tamed.

9 thoughts on “Ordination Process is Too Long!

  1. “Quantity (the length of the process) will not always bring out the best quality (the type of pastor we will be).”

    SO well said!! The saddest part is when even those I’ve considered great mentors tell me “well, it took me that long, it should be that way for you too.”

    As a whole, the old wineskins are bursting. It’s time for the new.

  2. i just came across your blog while i was browsing around wordpress and i love it. especially this post. i’m 20 years old and i want to be a united methodist pastor. i hate that its going to take me so much time and money. i wish i could skip all the steps and just be there, preaching and serving.
    i think a lot of churches, especially mainline churches, could benefit from having young pastors! anyway, keep up the good work and good luck, i think you’ll make a wonderful pastor.
    God bless,

  3. thank you for your comment.
    good luck on the process.
    I feel exactly how you feel, but also, I am learning the value of waiting. While I appreciate the process of not being a pastor right away, but being prepped for it, i just don’t think i need to prepped for that long.

    thank you again, shay. =)

  4. I know that I am late finding this but I had to comment. I agree with you. A great pastor and mentor once told me that NO ONE can teach you to be a pastor. He called the seminary the cemetery….the place where good preachers go do die. So you might be on to something after all.

    I have been in the ministry a long time and have found that unfortunately a lot of the pastors that have gone through the process are just really lost. Sadly they are threatened by a pastor who comes along who has not been to seminary, do not have a 100 degrees and titles yet they deliver the Word and are effective in Ministry.

    In my experience I follow where God leads me not people because unfortunately too many people in churches are there holding titles and positions.

    I prayed to God that he guide me where he wants me to be and to assist me in doing His will. I offer that same advice to you. May God continue to bless you and guide you in the right direction.

  5. I joined the UMC out of seminary, ordained in another denomination. What I needed to learn was obedience, and it was partially through the cumbersome, bulky procedure that is in place here that I learned it. Or maybe in spite of it. I’m not sure. It’s more than just being obedient to the Discipline or to a bishop… but being obedient to God…

    I was helped by having a longer time to learn obedience… longer because I didn’t finish all of the requirements on time (part of learning obedience). 🙂

  6. In the last six months I have sat with at least 10 pastors who are struggling, mostly because (pick any 2-3) there is no money and staff has to be fired, their building is in terrible repair, the congregation is filled with consumers, worship attendance is down, the conference is demanding, the 70 hour work weeks are taking their toll, etc., etc. Why would you want to take this mess on? I mean really…Run! Run! If God is calling you to be a pastor you could do that with a house church. I know someone who could set you up with that, no papers or ordination required!

  7. Its really great to know that I’m not the only person who feels this way. The UMC loses a ton of talented young clergy because they know that they can be ordained quickly in other denominations. With the trouble that the UMC is having it would be very smart to make some revisions to the process.

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