Not again - Another graduation, another frustration (for those young millennial, spiritual leaders seeking ordination)
Yesterday, I came to work at 7:30 a.m. and left about 6:00 p.m. On the way out of the parking lot, I received a message from a recent graduate. This associate minister is seeking to meet ordination requirements. This person's degree in Christian ministry did not include five courses that would have completed the educational requirements for our denomination as approved by a national and international board of ministry leaders and educators.
But, apparently, this associate minister's district credentials board/board of ministry thinks they know better than everyone else in this process of preparing people for Christian ministry. This associate minister is being asked to complete twice the number of courses than anticipated--about one more year's worth of study in district, pastor-led, multi-week courses, about 20-30 hours of class time in courses, all of which do not count toward another degree or credential. It's just a process to satisfy the whims of a district board that changes as pastors are voted on or off or move to new districts. Some will not be there to observe and celebrate this young minister's ordination.
Personally, I find these nonsensical district imperatives to be greatly offensive. It denigrates the efforts I (and my colleagues) put in every day and over weekends to make students ready for the next step into ministry. I returned to campus last night at 7:30 p.m. for a meeting with students that lasted beyond the 9:00 p.m. conclusion lasting until about 11:00 p.m. Students are hungry for the informal experiences of learning from professors that they also respect as practitioners--people like me that are pushing them on to something greater than a paycheck or career toward a God-called vocation to equip His people for the work of ministry in this world.
What this young, new associate pastor needs is not a registrar checking off a list of courses. The structure of the denomination allows districts to out-source this task to colleges, universities, and a seminary. What this associate pastor needs is not a taskmaster that watches over the shoulder to make sure the younger one is good enough, but not so good as to surpass the overseer. This young person entering ministry needs the readiness necessary for the work they will encounter and not another set of hoops to jump through like some circus poodle. What this associate pastor needs is a mentor to walk him or her into the struggles and summits of ministry. It's time for pastors in positions of district leadership to live up to their callings.
As my denomination wonders why it cannot keep millennials in the pews or find enough pastors and ministers to fill its leadership positions, I think I can see a part of the reason why.
EDIT: typos corrected.
UPDATE: Thanks for the responses to this post as it is reposted on Facebook. One of the responses that looked toward the desire to be united as university and districts in the raising up of the next generation prompted this reply from me:
"Every year I've been here [at MVNU], we've had students on various districts at various times go through this frustration [of being required to do more course work]. Some students will take a course of study that does not include all of the required courses, mainly to include a value added skill like a language or business courses. What happened here and at other times is the courses not taken are not the only ones required by the district. They add courses that are not necessary to complete the competency [required] for ordination. It diminishes the credibility of the board that deems a student not ready when many people [leaders] in their lives from university, local church, internship mentors, and colleagues know they are ready. It also diminishes the credibility of the university as if our intensive and difficult ministry preparation programs are not legitimate or inferior. It's frustrating, man, even sickening, especially receiving messages from students on days that I work myself to exhaustion on their behalf and on behalf of my denominational assignment as an ordained minister."