Yes, You Should Become a Minister

I have decided that I am going to say more and more in life, “Yes, you should become a minister.”

I have friends who are currently going through their Conference Board of Ordained Ministry interviews to see if they will pass and be ordained as Deacons or Elders.  With my head being in the stats I have been looking at (see earlier posts) I have been thinking a lot about the future of the denomination I love.  I have also been thinking about young clergy and how much we as a denomination need youth to hear their calling into ministry and then be guided through the process.  James Howell wrote a terrific post over at Duke Divinity Call & Response‘s blog about people getting through and not getting through the boards as well.  I guess it is simply that time of the year.

There is a lot of negativity when it comes to the ordination process.  It is a long process, ten years if you go strait through schooling and pass the boards the first time through.  It took me eleven years.  But I think being an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church is awesome!  It is great.  It is fun.  It is exciting.  Most of my days in ministry it doesn’t feel like work.  It is simply and out pouring of my gifts and talents to help people know God and feel God in their midst.

I know people who are so tired of the boards and being rejected.  I know others who hate the administrative machine/system that is the United Methodist Church.  I know people who just wish the institution would free them from bondage to that institution.  I feel for these people and it may be that the UMC is not the place for them.  But you know what, it is the place for me.

I love the UMC because:  It is far reaching.  When we give a $1 to our apportionments it goes around the world and back with its impact.  I find joy in knowing there are agencies all across the world that bear the cross and flame logo that are reaching the least and the lost.  I like that churches have to take ownership of their ministries and that it SHOULDn’t be only the pastor doing everything because that pastor won’t be around for ever.  I appreciate that there are levels of accountability and help set up in our institution.  I admire a system that looks at people’s talents and gifts and attempts to move them into churches where they can do the most good for the Kingdom of God.  I like the idea of job security and if I am doing God’s work among God’s people, I can for the rest of my career and be paid for it (no matter what happens at General Conference on this subject).  I feel honored to be invited into the private and intimate moments of people’s lives through deaths, births, marriages, struggles, pains, joys, baptisms, and communion.  There is really no other calling/career that does that.

If you are wondering if you should go into ministry within the UMC I say YES, you should.  We will need you. Change is coming and we are going to need every person who feel God calling him/her into ministry.  We will need people who want to do God’s work among God’s people.  Yes there are times I want to pull my hair out and sometimes I get frustrated with God’s people on both sides of the pulpit, but what job exists where that won’t happen from time to time.

Ministry is fun and painful.  Ministry is challenging and easy.  It is fast passed and slow as a glacier.  It is a place I find great joy and at times sadness.  Ministry is predictable and unpredictable.  It is hooked on the past and always moving forward.  I have smiled, laughed and cried all within five minutes of each other during a sermon.  I have been witness to God moving people and people attempting to move God.  It is ministry and there is no other place I would rather be.

God called me to this place and if you have the slightest feeling you are called to, then come on, you too should be a minister.

Unofficial Guide to Candidates

Ken Carter over at, Bear Witness to the Love of God in this World, wrote down 11 suggestions for those going in front of the Board of Ordination. I found them to be very true and all candidates should take note. I especially liked, #1, #3, and #8. Enjoy

Over the years my wife and I took our girls to Disneyworld two or three times and we benefited from a publication entitled “The Unofficial Guide...”. So, in that spirit, the Unofficial Guide For Candidates Coming Before The Board of Ordained Ministry of the United Methodist Church…

1. If you do not wish to pass a committee, the easiest way to communicate this is to act as if you resent being there. Most communication is non-verbal, so this will come across quite easily.

2. If you do not think you are going to pass a committee, tell someone that you really did not want to come today, but your (wife/mother/sister) insisted that you come anyway. Ed Friedman wisely noted that this is simply code language for personal ambiguity.

3. No one is compelled to come before the Board of Ordained Ministry. It is a free choice made by anyone, and only if that person wishes to become a Deacon or an Elder.

4. If you are in a theology committee, and you mention the words “porch, door and house”, you will bring tears to someone’s eyes! Seriously…

5. Telling a theology committee that reading is not a “big thing” for you does not garner sympathy.

6. In preaching a sermon, following an identifiable biblical passage through the entirety of a sermon will take you a long way.

7. If you have problems with authority, you are likely not going to be happy in the United Methodist Church. For better or worse, there is a lot of authority in our denomination.

8. Being Methodist implies more than not being Baptist.

9. Candidates from prestigious seminaries sometimes know very little theology, and candidates from other seminaries are at times deeply conversant with theology. There really is no rhyme or reason to it.

10. There is grace in the Board of Ordained Ministry process: sometimes that grace is for the candidate, in saying yes, and sometimes that grace is for the candidate and a congregation somewhere in saying no. This is the pain and the burden of the work, and boards are quite aware that they are also under the grace and judgment of God.

(I added one more so that this would not be confused with the Decalogue…)

11. In the parish you will actually receive little constructive feedback. If you can make a virtue out of necessity, and see the Board of Ordained Ministry as your last and best opportunity to get truthful and sometimes painful reflection on your self, your beliefs and your preaching and teaching, you and those you serve will benefit, and the mission of God will be more fruitful.