Friday, April 8, 2011
Yes, I would have liked the affirmation of the church for my ministry, BUT there are reasons why I was never ordained. If we go way back, I can tell you how I felt about ordination when I first received God's call to follow Christ in professional church ministry. I might have become a minister, but women could not be ordained at that time, and most of the women who were local pastors wore black, clubby shoes. Well, I wouldn't be caught dead in black, clubby shoes! That style became popular later! Consequently, I took my training in Christian education, which has been a good fit for me. When The United Methodist Church established Diaconal Ministers, I lived too far from any seminaries to take the training. Indeed, I lived in towns of 2,000 people or less, so a staff position in Christian education was not a possibility. After we moved to Atlanta I began the process several times, while working in staff positions, but one thing or another halted my pogress. I did continue to keep myself abreast of what was happening in the church and Christian education through Christian Educator's Fellowship (www.cefumc.org) and reading and taking courses. One advantage I've seen to my not being ordained is the educated capacity that I've been able to bring to the laity when I've gone as a district delegate to Annual Conferences. The laity need representation from some of us who have a calling and have been educated in that calling. Now I realize that perhaps I have been able to follow my calling better by not being ordained. Some of the churches I served could never have afforded the financial obligation that ordination brings. In recent years I've seen many churches hire persons in children and youth ministry and Christian education in general who have little or no training, because the churches can't afford to pay an ordained person. All too often, those persons become so caught up in the schedule of their jobs that they never get the training. I've come to appreciate even more the schools that offer courses required for certification programs in these areas, many of them on line. There are nine school authorized by UMC that offer this. Check the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (www.gbhem.org) for these schools. The web site, www.eChristianEd.com, also offers these courses on line. Several annual conferences hold week-long training to help these leaders get started. As I reflect on this, I feel we need to stress education for those who choose to remain in the laity positions of children and youth ministry and Christian education. Perhaps ordination is not the calling from God that everyone receives. Lift up these people whom God has called and who struggle, even as they are learning their role in the church!