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.