This week I'm going to be meeting with a group made up of Board of Ordained Ministry members to begin looking at the handbook we provide for those who are seeking ordination. Eventually, we will be considering how people move through the entire process.
I've been a clergy mentor for a couple of ordination candidates. The way they describe the process is much like someone might describe being a contestant on Survivor. It's all about who can make it passed the challenges without getting voted off the island. Ordination interviews are more stressful than any physical challenge. I referred to the "hoops" which are a part of the process at the last BoM meeting. The establishment members didn't like that too much, but I believe it's how most candidates look at the course that leads to ordination. The steps along the way are looked upon not as stepping stones which are means of helping one along, but as stonewalls which must be overcome. If one can survive and outlast all the challenges, one wins the right to be ordained.
Somehow, we need to make becoming ordained a time of discernment. The Church must discern whether or not an individual truly has the calling and gifts for ordained ministry. The individual must discern whether or not he/she has been called and if the UMC is where the place to live out that calling. I'm a firm believer that if someone can do anything else besides be a pastor, he/she should do that. The job of a pastor is too demanding and too important to be done by anyone who isn't completely sold out to their calling.
If we aren't able to do this, we will continue to find it very difficult to recruit young, gifted pastors. For example, we talked at our meeting about one young man who had dropped out of the ordination process because he became involved in a ministry setting and was finding success there. He saw no correlation between spending years in seminary, accumulating thousands of dollars in debt, jumping through the ordination hoops and doing ministry. I think he has some valid concerns.