Saturday, 18 August 2007

Help needed!

Great blogging Ruby - haven't seen you for ages! But look forward to seeing you soon.

Been away for over a week in Oxford at a Conference for Methodist scholars from around the world. It's great to meet colleagues, and it's always challenging to hear how God is working so vitally in so many parts of the world. Makes me feel very inadequate!

Back at home/cliff college now for a few days and my mind is turning to a chapter of a book I am contracted to complete by the end of the coming week! It is nowhere near and I need help!

The book focuses on young adults who are experiencing the call of God in their lives to 'ministry', often full time, often for life, but not always.

There are very few of them offering, and all mainline churches bleat from time to time that not enough younger folk are offering for ministry/ ordination and they would like more. Fair enough.

But why?
So I just throw out some random thoughts in the hope of responses from you which will help me,

a) Are our denominational systems - the processes by which we assess and test God's call - geared to younger adults? Particularly males? Or has the preponderance of older candidates, with experience and often posswessing a different kind of articulation, subtly altered 'what we are looking for' so as to disadvantage younger adults, whether consciously or not? Do we still say 'come back when you are older' to too many younger folk?

b) Do we know how to discern God's call in young adults, say 20 -25 years old? Is their call discerned differently, or is their age irrelevant to the business? If it is different how? And has anyone any ideas about improving the process of discernment and testing?

c) Some younger people I meet are experiencing a deep call from God, but they are petrified that the call will result in entry into Methodist ordained ministries, especially that of presbyter! Why? Well - rightly or wrongly - some of them think they know what that form of ministry consists of, and don't like what they know. They associate it with maintainance, 'keeping the show on the road', whereas they feel a fall to 'change the world', go anywhere, especially among poorer contexts like housing estates, and church planting in pretty unchurched areas. They can't understand why we don't snap their hand off, rather than, as they see it, putting them through a process which de-energises them, and prepares them for a style and kind of ministry they don't find appealing. So they don't offer. In fact they are far more interested in ministry that is missional, engaged and 'bigger' - but they can't easily relate this to ordained ministry as they perceive it. Ironic? Real? Mistaken? Whatever - it appears to be a factor and perpetuates the dearth of young candidates.

d) Some younger ministers who have undergone the process are incredibly frustrated by 'normal' ministry. They feel loved (some of them) but trapped in a world of church that is very difficult to relate to their call and sense of giftedness. Is it because they are different from previous generations in that they will not tolerate what they don't like - i.e. they are just more selfish, or demanding - or are they genuinely 'misplaced' in terms of what they actually do and be - or say they are expected to do and be - and what they feel called to do and be?

e) In my recent book 'Resourcing Renewal' I claimed that the church is training too many ministers for yesterday and not enough for tomorrow. Beginning work on this project is not changing my mind!

What is the way ahead?
Comments quickly please.

24 comments:

geoff cornell said...

I understand peoples' frustrations with presbyteral ministry yet I am uneasy about those who effectively announce the view that I am a Methodist minister but the church as it is prevents me from exercising the ministry I believe God is calling me to, so I want to be released and to be paid for by the church. I think it's the last request that I find tricky. So if a young person is considering a ministry of christian leadership outside of current patterns then why offer as a presbyter? Here in Westminster some of the most effective fresh stuff is being done by lay ministers - whether Methodist or other traditions.

geoff cornell said...

Is one of the reasons you gain so few comments is that it is so hard to post one?
I can understand frustrations of ministers but I am also wary of those who announce that the church is preventing me from exercising my ministry - so please release me and support me financially. If someone feels called to minister but not within the current church then why be a presbyter? Here in Westminster, in Methodist and other churches, the really effective fresh church stuff is being done by lay people.

streetpastor said...

thanks for the post Martyn - it's "d" for me at the mo. Answers may be a bit more tricky... But it is always a good start to identify the problem!

Anonymous said...

As someone who has had the call into the ministry in her early 20's I have put it off until now, (late 30's). I would put that down to not having enough confidence to candidate and being terrified of the process. It would be useful to have more hands on vocational and discernment process within our circuits and districts. However I know of others who are younger who are thinking of candidating (20-25) are wondering if they have enough 'life experience' to offer.

Debbie

Anonymous said...

Hi Martyn, (or is it Mr President now?! :-))

You raise some interesting points and I still like to think that I am young enough to engage with them!

I candidated when I was 24/25and didn't really want to. I would much rather hav been doing some mission focussed work but didn't feel I could walk away from ordained ministry so put it to the test and was accepted to train for presbyteral ministry and ordained 2004. I have to say that I felt my training was geared towards emrging Church rather than the past but since coming into Circuit that formation has been wasted. On the whole Circuits and local churches don't seem able to grasp the need to move beyond yesterday and grasp hold of the new thing that God is doing today. We don't release ministers to new forms of ministry but box them in the traditional role. For my part I often feel like a square peg in a round hole in the Church and it is a struggle.

Part of the problem, to my mind, is that too much is left to the minister. The Methodist Church's website has an article about Methodism being a lay led movement and I would agree with this but there is scant evidence of it at a local level in terms of mission. Not many want to engage in anything beyong Sunday worship. So, my question is do we work with those who want to move forward and leave the others behind or do we strive to convince all of the need to adapt to an ever changing world? I know that's outside the remit of yor book but a valid question nonetheless.

Regarding younger people offering for ministry I do think there is a difference between what they feel God is calling them to and what the Church expects of a Presbyter but I don't think it is within the process of candidating. I think the problem lies with local expectation and needs. If younger people felt that they could be released into missional work I think many more would offer but, as you point out, they don't like what they see in current circuit ministry and nor do I.

I am passionate about Church, as without it I wouldn't be the man I am today but I am more passionate about Christ and the continuation of his gospel of love. If the Church prevents me from engaging in the Missio Dei I would have to consider alternatives, as difficult as that would be given that I feel called for life, albeit not to circuit ministry for life.

As I'm sure you know, Sangster wrote a book titled 'Methodism can be born again'. What I find myself constantly asking is, 'Can Methodism be born again?'

Lee Harrison

Mark said...

I'm now 26 and candidated (successfully) for the presbyteral ministry this year. I was actually encouraged by the number of people around my age at MCSC on the day I was there (though I am a pessimist so that probably doesn't say much in absolute terms).

From my own experience, I think we really need to work on communication. You note that there's not always the clearest understanding of what ministry is (or could be) and what one could hope to do and be as a presbyter, deacon, whatever. Our communication of that isn't great though - since I started looking into the process about 7 years ago, the content available on the Methodist Church's website said:

"Routes to ministry in the Methodist Church include:

* Deacons
* Presbyters
* Evangelism enablers
* Mission Partners
* Lay workers
* Local Preachers"

and invites you to contact Formation in Ministry for more information. I know FiM would be very pleased to provide such information (and I'm making no criticism of their excellent work) but I think it's important that the information is accessible easily, without putting one's head above the parapet - those early days are scary enough. As you note, we are an internet generation in any case!

I think our training structures at the moment seem to be geared towards the needs of older candidates, particularly those with families. I've yet to come to a view on the new training structures post-FT, but something I think is imperative for younger candidates at least is the possibility of meeting up and being alongside others of a similar age who are going through the same things. We need to think more about the place of community in training; I imagine you may have thoughts on this from the perspective of community at Cliff. Also our training does seem to be the same for everyone - could we think about identifying people's gifts earlier on and providing opportunities to focus on areas of ministry to which they are particularly called - be it church planting, mission among the poor, prison chaplaincy, whatever.

There are also a lot of hoops to jump through in the candidating process. If we want young candidates, then we have also to recognise that becoming a fully accredited Local Preacher takes time. I couldn't have candidated any earlier than I did (although I had decided I 'wanted' to) because of that. Maybe that was good time to take in further discernment, I don't know. It can feel very much like God is calling you but the church is erecting high walls in the way.

The financial issues are also not insignificant - particularly in an age of student debt. Some may feel that they cannot afford to enter ministry early because of that. The move to a bursary rather than grant system for full-time training might also create doubts for some.

I think the important things then are:

Communication: What ministries are there and what are they actually about? Also the fact that every new minister changes what ministry is as a result of their entering it. It should be dynamic like the church(!)

Community: Relationship and encounter with other people going through similar things. 20-somethings are rare enough in our churches, let alone 20-somethings exploring vocations to ministry. We need ways to bring people together - both those in formal processes and those who are 'just interested' or wanting to find out more.

Support: Hoop-jumping is probably inevitable to an extent, although some of it could IMO be reduced. I think it is really important to have people along the way who know the system and what's supposed to happen and can provide helpful guidance and support. I think we potentially have some things to learn from the Anglican system of DDOs. Circuit clergy do their best, but in practice most don't have the necessary experience for this (through no fault of their own). I received excellent support from my FT institution, but patterns of support will need to be looked at now we no longer have FT.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martyn, well, I'm already in the ministry, so I don't know how helpful I can be - but as no-one else has replied I thought i'd have a go! I'm now approaching 32 and in my 4th year. I found the canditating process (for P-OT and Foundation) interesting but it does feel like a lot of hurdles. And sometimes you are jumping hurdles with people who maybe could be better qualified. Having a lovely chat with someone seems a strange way to enter training!
I am not put off by the denomination, because I feel strongly Methodist and Methodist values of social action, openness, collective accountability and consultation and the desire to reach out with the Gospel all reveberate with me. But our structures are not easy to communicate, not even to people who have been 'in the pew' for years, and that now causes me struggles when you have to do things 'by the book', or indeed when you want to try something new, but pioneering work is difficult alongside the regular circuit stuff. It is difficult to enter a system that will send you (in theory) anywhere, and difficult to balance that with your spouse's career, even if, as with us, he is very flexible about where we live. But then again, that is very exciting too, and as I face stationing I keep reminding myself of one of the retiring Revs who at synod urged us to 'live in the whole of London'. I guess that echoes MAYC's old aims 'live on a large map' - something that I think Methodism enables, and something that I am keen to push as one of the benefits of being Methodist - the interest and the links of the World Church and the diversity of British Methodism (especially I see this in the London District). I think I've rambled enough - Ruby will know who I am from what I've said, so feel free to be in touch if anything I've put it at all relevant to your writing. With best wishes and prayers for your presidential year.

DaveW said...

Martyn,

I am disappointed if this is the first comment you get as at 42 I am no longer a young (or anything like it) person. That despite my congregations saying what a young minister they have.

Taking your points.

a) Dunno. I don't think enough young people get to the point where the formal systems fail them. That is a failkure in many ways. But they do fail some, eg a younger friend when I was doing LP training was rejected as a candidate because they would make an excellent evangelist but the Methodist Church does not have a place for evangelists.

b) I don't think we do. I think a process which spent more time alongside the "candidate" and where the people doing the assessing had some understanding of the candidates culture and context. When a middle aged person like myself finds that everyone interviewing and assessing you is a lot older it is wrong. I should have had people in their 20's and much younger assessing me, just as a prospective headteacher is now routinely interviewed by students. If this was noticed by me then it would be far more so for someone under 20 or even in their 20's.

c) With these younger candidates, lets send them out. Give them summer school training and ongoing mentoring and training but do not take them out of the context and culture. Yes they absolutely do need plenty of theology, yes they do need to engage deeply with learning and development. But let them do that without first deciding which pigeon hole they will go into.

How about offering them a 6 year mission contract. To serve in the mission field, be housed, be trained. At the end of it have a degree in Theology that has been studied throughout the time in context. At the end of it they can then candidate for ministry as a deacon or presbyter and if accepted be immediately accepted as a probationer but with the option of staying in the mission field.

The selection process could be to go on a weeks assessment mission with annual reviews.

Imagine planting a team of 4 young people like this on an estate or in a small town - fantastic!

d) So set our presbyters free! At the Fresh Expressions evening session at conference there were a number of younger presbyters who are living out that experience of maintenance and seeing their ministry lost and gifts wasted.

At a minimum put in place opportunities to be freed to start or support fresh expressions.

In order to be controversial why not revisit opening up presidency of Holy Communion to Local Preachers to free some of these presbyters to do new things.

Many of these ministers that I speak to do not have the luxury I have of a supportive superintendent or district chair. Find ways to let them know it is safe to take risks and do new things. Get the DDE's to make sure they know who is in this position and demand their time from the circuits for suitable projects.

e) The debate on the Facebook community about local preacher training is indicative of this. One problem is that too many people don't know what is already possible (eg telling people they need to be a LP to do foundation training when they might be called to be a Deacon) and the material is still too locked in the past (eg F&W with H&P and MWB). Support training properly with online resources (AKM Adam is one person who is a long way along the road with this).

Sorry to be so long winded.

Dave Warnock
Presbyter
Nene Valley Circuit

thisisme said...

Some thoughts...
I think that the Church puts younger people off candidating. I look at how badly the Church treats the ordained and I don't want to be treated that way!
There are also issues about hierarchy and styles of leadership which don't fit in the way we function the 'real' world.
Ministers appear to be so isolated and lonely and solo-leaders : I would want decent line management and support if I had to do that job.
I have also heard, only this year,of a woman in her 20's who was nearly refused after her foundation year due to lack of experience... surley this is discrimination?

Anonymous said...

As a new, and not young, presbyter, I'd like to articulate what I have found that is 'not articulated' about the Presbyteral role.

Perhaps this is my unique experience. Pardon me for remaining anonymous in order to avoid any potential hurt within my churches or circuit.

What the members want from the Presbyter is to be a full-time chaplain to the ill and the shut-ins. Obviously, I'll be there every day if someone is dying, but members would really like the Presbyter visiting all the shut-ins once a week or once a fortnight. If you do this there really is not much time for anything else apart from service preparation.

In my experience, at least, pastoral visiting by lay people is generally not all that good - I'm not sure that small churches have enough people who are actually gifted in pastoral visiting. Apart from that, lay pastoral visiting doesn't actually seem to 'count' with members.

I think that congregations want older ministers because they think that they will be better pastoral visitors.

Obviously, balancing evangelism, discipleship and pastoral care is something every Presbyter will have to do. Our system is allegedly built around the idea of lay ministry, but there really isn't a lot of it going on. I can't twist the arms of people who are unwilling or not gifted.

Dave Faulkner said...

As a 47-year-old minister with 15 years of circuit experience behind him, I think the potential younger candidates who feel frustrated by the perceived straitjacket of Methodist presbyteral ministry may - in an inchoate way - be hinting at what Frost and Hirsch so eloquently describe in 'The Shaping Of Things To Come' about church and leadership containing the apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic as well as the pastoral and teaching. While we limit presbyteral ministry (and hence overall church leadership, whatever we say about the 'laity') to the pastor-teachers, of course we'll have a maintenance rather than mission mindset, inward-looking rather than outward-focussed. I know it's more complicated than that, but I think we have to question our limited understanding of ordination. At present those with the apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic gifts end up as mavericks, rather than central to the life and mission of the Church. Rant over, there is plenty more on this from time to time on my blog.

Karen said...

I am 22 and have candidated this year. The experience of candidating was an interesting one-I am not sure whether my experience could put others off! The Church has not said "no, come back when you are older"!

I have felt that the Church has accommodated where I was at for my training. I was already completing a BA in Christian Ministry, the Church kindly agreed to accept this as a basis for my Foundation Training. This was encouraging. I think there could be a problem with what the church expects of candidates in the candidating process.

In my personal experience an issue highlighted was that I hadn't got much experience of working with the marginalised. I accept this, but having spoken with other Presbyters who have been ordained later in life- neither did they when they candidated or have had since they did. I am sad to say that I think there are more judgements and prejudices against young people with regard to experience. I think that assumptions that are made with regard to experience are wrong! If young people are aware of this I think this could put them off candidating. I have been fortunate that Formation in Ministry has created a training package to overcome the issue of inexperience with regard to people on the margins. So I think what certain groups of people are looking for could be a disadvantage for young candidates, perhaps unconciously.

As I have candidated this year, I have had numerous conversations with people about candidating young. When I talk to people I hear again and again the shift over time of people candidating young, to people candidating much older and a shift back to a mixture- but with expectations of people continuing to candidate older.
One of the things I would ask with regard to the Candidating process is that although age and experience was an issue at connexion, I was not asked directly about the issues. If this had have happened I feel I could have answered it! In hindsight perhaps I could have approached it myself to try and alliviate the concerns. I was prepared for those types of questions, yet wasn't asked directly. Perhaps this type of experience would deter others from candidating!

I wonder whether people are discoraged by the comments people make to them about being too young. I have certainly had comments, yet at the time I was fortunate to have in my home circuit, numerous younger student ministers from Wesley HOuse. This was helpful because I could see there were people who were much younger training. However not all circuits have this, and when many circuits lack even young members it could be off putting for people to think that you cannot candidate young!

Sometimes I think a heavy emphasis for Candidating is experience. Yet I ask the question is being a presbyter about, having all experiences and all the answers? I think not and perhaps we need to as a Church overcome the emphasis on experience and look at how we journey together through the questions and various experiences. What skills are needed for this? How can the Church offer them and traing people for them? Perhaps this is an area where the church needs to consider. We cannot actaully compare experiences! I have a totally different experience to others who candidate at an older age, I have lived away from home, gone to university. I have experienced a parent with cancer and so on. Yet others who are older will have a different experience again! We cannot test so heavily on experience. We cannot assume anything, just because someone is older does not mean they will have lots more experience as everybody's experience is varied!
We talk so often in the Church about the "missing generation", younger people have experience of being part of this and surely having younger ministers can be a bridge to people outside the church.

During the last year, as I prepared and candidated I was sometimes afraid of being rejected by the church because of my age. I had a chaplain who was honest and encouraging which helped me in the process. His and others who have experience of the process helped me in my discerning. This was helpful and important- but I think this is no different anybody considering a call. Having people around to encourage and to offer support and honesty!

I think that the internet can be a helpful means of networking people together. Already through facebook and the request of comments for this, I have received a message asking about my experience. Resources such as this could perhaps help others see that they are part of a Church where young people are offering, and being accepted for ministry.

Sam McBratney said...

I was 19 when I started candidating and 20 when I began theological college. That was fifteen years ago and I still find myself one of the younger ministers in our church, something which is, in itself, quite dispiriting.

For me, the biggest problem facing us is not so much cultural clash as cultural chasm. I am sure that any number of more experienced ministers will tell me that there has always been a mismatch between the vision of the presbyter and the expectations of the local congregations. Presbyters have consistently been more liberal in social attitudes and theological outlook than their congregations. And that is how it should be. Presbyters are not there simply to endorse and maintain the status quo.

I may be completely wrong but I get the impression that, in the past, such clashes and mismatches took place between people of roughly the same generation and in a context where what went on in church was not so very different from the prevailing attitudes in wider society. Now we have the situation where any Circuit minister under 40 is working, by and large, with people of their parents' (or even grandparents') generation in a church which is increasingly losing touch with the surrounding culture. Whilst I enjoyed being in Circuit, I found that being close to my congregations often meant distancing myself from people of my own age/background/culture.

Having said all that, part of the attraction for me of the presbyterate is that it is a role and a status, not a 'job'. I was surprised to read Geoff Cornell's comments which seemed to want to pin presbyters down to quite managerial roles. I would want to resist that. Whilst it has been quite a painful process for me coming to terms with my role and fighting for the chance to inhabit it, I still think it was worthwhile. The great names in Methodist ministry for me are people like Donald Soper and Hugh Price Hughes - neither of whom could be said to have had an 'ordinary' experience of Circuit life and who were often released to work on a broader canvas.

I no longer work in Circuit and am thankful for the chance to serve in a University. It is the university that pays me to minister. I know some of the pain too of 'tent-making' ministry, trying to find a full-time salary and a place to live. Part of what I like about where I am is the feeling of proper support and accountability for my ministry. I have a 'secular' line manager who actually cares about my professional development. I have access to all sorts of professional trainng, FREE OF CHARGE. When I go on a course, I am not asked to pay for it myself. I get generous sabbatical leave. And I get a yearly appraisal and administrative support. Most of that I failed to find in Circuit.

If I were to give any advice to the Church (heaven forfend) it would be to review the terms and conditions of ministry: a lot more support and continuing professional development; a much higher salary/stipend; a sense of progression in terms of vocation/career/stationing; and making it much easier to move in and out of Circuit (I think we used to call that 'flexible patterns of ministry'!)

Basically what I am saying is that we need to tie our recognition that Circuit is tough with our care of those in ministry. That means we will not abandon people to their fate and then wonder why they burn out or break down. We will use our pastoral discernment to ensure that our ministers are seen as beloved (and often bewildered) children of God just like everyone else.

I hope that helps!?!?

Sam McBratney
Chaplain, City University, London

Lee said...

Hi again Martyn,

A few further thoughts:

To my mind part of the problem lies within our understanding of ordained ministry. Some years back a book was published entitled, 'What is a Minister?' various authors contributed but, in my humble opinion the question wasn't answered. Not surprising really as 'What is?' questions normally degenerate into definitions and meanings of words, which serve no purpose. Much better to ask, 'How can we deploy our ordained ministers to engage with God in the Missio Dei and equip lay people to do likewise with their particular gifts and graces?'

I don't think it is acceptable to go down the line of accepting people of any age who say they feel called to Presbyteral ministry but then expect the Church to sponsor them while they ignore the nature of the Presyterate and go freelance. If they feel called to a ministry of word and sacrament, pastoral care and working with churches to engage in mission then ordained ministry seems right. But, if they feel called to solely focus on mission then maybe a lay position or the diaconate is more appropriate. More discernment is needed and I only hope the new process facilitates this.

One more point is that I don't think people of my generation and younger are more selfish than our elders but we do tend to react more negatively to authoritarianism and, sometimes, authority. We are generally strong minded and, as you once commented about me, 'enjoy being a bit maverick'. Having said that, it is still within the scope of the nature of Presbyteral ministry. We need the mavericks in order to be creative and move beyond the traditional but we also need those who are a little more conservative as we have a lot of faithful members whoare confused by the rapidity of change in our world.

Let our young people spread their wings but surround them with the wisdom of age to support them if they get their wings burnt or clipped. They may not listen to that wisdom initially but in future years it may be invaluable.

DaveW said...

I have written more at 42: Ministry for younger Methodists

Langley Mackrell-Hey said...

Hi Martin. Hope you are well. Langley here in Lincoln.

I am working in partnership with our mission enabler, Liz Childs to encourage 20-30's in the life of the Church. (This in line with the connexional priority for work with the under 40's). There is a report on the website which amounts to an honest assessment of why the under 40's struggle to find their place in our churches. Bearing this in mind I share the following:

1/ It follows that if proportionally we have less members of this age group involved within Methodism, less will offer for ministry. (I think that this is a tad obvious!)

2/ The process of foundation and candidating assumes that people have been involved in the life of the Church for some time. Significantly, people within the 17-23 year age groups may lose contact with the Methodist Church as they go through further education. Could it be that a good number of young Methodists simply want to experience something else and do not find their way back to Methodism?

3/ My own experience was to come into Methodism as an outsider. Originally, I was a lapsed member of the Church of England. I had a deep spiritual encounter at University which led to a faith commitment. I then spent some time in the Pentecostal Church, and then returned to a freer Anglican Church. Ro and I arrived in Yorkshire after we married, searching for a local Church in which we could be both supported and serve. It was with some reluctance that we attended the local Methodist Church (Ro was a Methodist in her early years and fancied something different), but the local chapel was within walking distance. I arrived, in essence, with a call to preach and hiding a call to the ministry. My initial feeling was one of being comfortable with a tradition that was not entirely different from my own (for example the liturgy for communion was almost identical). I was amazed that I had found a place where there was a hub of younger people (although we were still in a minority) and a Church that already had in place the mechanism to train people for preaching (and now worship leading). Beyond this, I knew that preaching was a stepping stone towards offering for ministry. I think that this emphasis on opportunity and training is a valuable element of our tradition.

4/ I also think God that I managed to retain the faith that new things were possible in the Church, despite the tensions over hymnody and different approaches to worship. Much of this related to peoples ability to embrace change. Perhaps if I had spent more time in the inherited Church, and had become more aware of the inherited expectations and norms around me, I would have felt less inclined to offer for ministry and more cynical about whether I could make a difference. As the Church of today remoulds itself missiologically in response to the connexional priorities and fresh expressions agenda, I am aware of the tension between inherited expectations and the yearning for freedom evident in some leaders within the emerging Church. In other words the drive for a mission based agenda which is evident within the connexion and Districts, which switches many young people on, is not always realised in the local Church. It may be that this discourages people from stepping forward. I believe that one other significant pull towards the Methodist Ministry (in my epxerience) was the influence of Easter People. The opportunity to meet like-minded Methodists and work within a team restored my faith in the Church. In the absence of Easter People and the MAYC weekend, it will be interesting to see whether the fresh expressions movement will similarly serve as a source of encouragement. My concern is that the drive for fresh expressions will lead people to disregard inherited Church even more as they revel in their new found freedom! There is one comment in another blog that suggests that some people who enter presbyteral ministry form a mission based perspective become 'freelancers'. I am not sure whether this is meant to mean that they focus so much on mission that the other aspects of ministry are missing or they take up work in non-circuit posts. Nonetheless, it illustrates how our mission based agenda runs the risk of creating a division within ministry that undermines the very thing that we are trying to encourage. We need those people who have this kind of pioneering spirit to be at work at the heart of the established Church, helping mould it for the future. Since God is a God of mission, we should expect this to be reflected in those called to the ordained ministry.

5/ Perhaps we need to look at how we can appoint people, specifically tasked with inviting people to consider ministry. This may already be the case but my point is that the invitation to consider ordination is not prominent. I note that in the Armed Forces we have recuitment officers, recruitment offices and recruitment events. Within my own context I have watched out for people who may have a calling to ministry. However, we seem to expect candidates for ministry to find their own way, rather than issuing a challenge that is backed up with personal testimony. When I began to explore ministry the Church offered information days but you had to be in the zone before you went to find out more. Is there something to be said for a roadshow, including personal testimony of recently trained ministers. In order to encourage a deeper relationship with circuits and Districts, could the connexion find an itinerant way of being present (other that relying on ministers and paper), providing support and inviting people to think about faith? If BBC local Radio, Sky, and a local double glazing company can tour round with a 'community bus' and park it in different locations every day to attract custom, why can we not do the same thing? This would raise the profile of the Methodist Church generally, forge deeper links with local members, place us outside the walls of the Church and ensure that the national voice of the Church is heard. It may seem a tad radical but there might be something in it. (At the same time I recognise the presidential role in deepening the sense of connexionalism in all that you do!)

No one has told me how long a blog should be, but I hope that this helps!

anon said...

Not sure I can be of much use.

The issue is not just for younger people. I'm in my mid 40s (and just had my teenage son help me with my first ever blog contribution)and I was ordained 5-10 years ago. I do not feel that my training prepared me for the world of today. It prepared me to serve in an idealised Church of yesterday.

I feel that the circuit I serve exists in a different day and age from today. The churches are small (but average for Methodism) without sufficient lay input. I spend a lot of my time being managerial when I would prefer to be working collaboratively. There's never enough time to do things properly, often because I am doing things which previously lay people would have done. I work longer hours than I should, but refuse to do excessive hours for my own sanity. I have little time to be creative and feel that I am being reactive a lot of the time. (In a couple of weeks time my opportunity to join in with blogs such as this will be severely limited for the next 10 months.)

I can quite understand why younger potential ministers don't want to become presbyters. I would hope that the Church could leave people of my age-group and above trying to cope with existing older congregations and allow the gifts and energies of younger generations to be engaged in more culturally relevant Christian expression for younger people.

Anyway, back to the managerial work awaiting me ...........

strattonglaze said...

I am 24, from the US, and think you just described my feelings exactly. I found this blog because I have looked into the emerging church MA at cliff college as well as US seminaries. However, it is hard to justify the debt of seminary or a masters when so many of these questions are unanswered by the "system" that would help pay it off. People like me seem to be left waiting...working normal jobs to pay the rent and trying to be available and connected to the Church but finding it more and more difficult in any traditional, organzined ways.

Anonymous said...

i now find myself as a young minister who is seriously questionng if i have made the right choice in offering for ministry within the methodist church. The only thing giving me hope at the moment is discussions like these.

I feel drained by the constant expectations of my congregations to carry on the work of maintainance within our churches.

i also face a struggle when it come to promoting leadership roles to my youth group. i do not feel that i could recommend that any of them offer for the ministry due to my own experiences. i simply could not suggest that they should follow such a difficult path and fear that should they do that the life and energy may be drained from another vital worker in Gods kingdom

Susan Johnson said...

Hi, Martyn,
Just been reading your book, Resourcing Renewal - inspiring stuff. I think your chapter their on "Renewing ministry" is relevant here and the fact that we need to help more people realise that the church is in a state of transition and things will be messy.
I see that people in their 20's (like my children) have so much more confidence and are open to so many more opportunities that existed in the past. Therefore they are able to say with confidence, "That's not for me" and know that something esle will turn up.
We are all called to be 'ministers' for life, but this will not necessarily mean staying in the same place or doing the same job. In this we join in the rest of the population - most jobs ar ent for life these days and freedom and flexibility if a huge draw for young people.
As a lay person,working for the Methodist Church, I often feel I have far more freedom than a presbyter.
Not sure if this helps ...
Every blessing
Susan Johnson

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's too late to leave any comments now, but I only found out about the blog today after reading about it in The Methodist Recorder, so only read this today.
I'm now 40, am currently On Trial as a Local Preacher and am also exploring what I feel is a call from God to the Presbyterial ministry. I'm not young by any means, but when I first felt the call I was 20 years old. I did not pursue it at the time for the following reasons:
1. I was sure that I was too young (now I fear I may be considered too old) and certain I would be told to go away and get some experience of life.
2. After university I was in a demanding job and felt I couldn't give the time to do Local Preacher training, and of course you cannot candidate for the presbyterial ministry unless you are first a Local Preacher.
3. I married at 24 and my wife was not at all keen on the idea of having to move house every few years (this is no longer an issue for me as she has mellowed on this point). I also had problems with the idea of itinerant ministry myself. One of my heroes of the faith is the late David Watson, partly because of the way God used him to build up the church of St Michael Le Belfry in York. I found myself wondering how an intinerant ministry could support long-term church building of thart kind, something that was vey important to me in terms of ministry.
4. I also had an enormous fear of being rejected by the church, a fear of the pain and hurt I might go through.
It could well be that some of these factors may be preventing younger people offering themselves for ordination today.
I have now changed my mind in several of these areas, though whether this is due to my being more mature I am not sure as I still feel young.
I feel now that if God might be calling me into the ordained ministry then that is something I have to explore, because if it is of God then I must obey Him. i had hoped to keep it for myself for a while but I was challenged by a sermon given by our District Chairman, Stephen Poxon, to go to the front of the church to give a greater public committment to serving Christ. When I did this, I ended up telling both him and our Circuit Superintendant that I felt called to ordination. this has been an enourmous blessing, since it has meant that as well as continuing my preacher's studies I have been able to discuss what I preceive as a call to ordaination too. I suspect that there is often a feeling amongst those of all ages who feel such a call that they do not want to start off the formal candidating process, but would welcome the opportunity to discuss things informally and to explore further informally. Such an opportunity has been provided to me in a way that has made me feel comfortable with it and I'm sure it would help others if they knew they could explore a call to the ordained ministry in such an informal way.
I don't know if any of the above is helpful or not, but I hope it may be of some use, both to yourself, Martyn, and those who are feeling called by God to the ordained ministry.

Richard

Sally said...

.."the church is training too many ministers for yesterday and not enough for tomorrow"... as a minister in training on an ecumenical course I believe that your assesment is right, in my role as lay worker and evangelist I work with many differnet folk and my focus is outward- much of my work being conducted in and amongst the New Age community. My frustration is with the church focus as oposed to the kingdom focus of our training and learning. When I candidated this year I was clear in my emphsis that I saw my role as equipping and enabling the layity to be effective as ministers and ambassadors of the kingdom, and also that I did not want to be squeezed into a traditional ministerial role, whilst I felt that those involved in the selection process were affirming of this, it seems that the many of the training centres/ colleges have not caught up yet!

Anonymous said...

Hope I' hm not too late..
As we need "Fresh Expressions of Church", perhaps we need "Fresh Expressions of Minister" to go with it. We (I speak as a minister) certainly need to be freed up to be "fresh"!
Also as a minister I rejoice in the control I do have over my work. Sometimes such freedoms are very illusory, but I have some responibility to create it, and not just say its because of others' expectations.

Robbie Bowen

margaret (team leader, formation in ministry) said...

I'm more of a listener than a contributor to this blog - thank-you Martyn for starting this topic. It makes fascinating reading, and the thoughts expressed echo the discussions that I'm part of as we work on new patterns of vocational discernment, candidating, training and stationing for presbyters and deacons (yes, all of these are under review, and although it might seem as if nothing's happening I assure you that it is - and in the discernment and candidating areas it already has happened - find out about EDEV if you want to know what I mean). I entirely agree with the people who've pointed out that it's about all of those areas, and above all about what we as Methodists think a 'minister' is. Ministry is about enabling people to be disciples to live and work for God, and we need patterns of ministry that encourage this to happen.

And yes - we know the FiM website is pretty dire, but it's high on the 'to-do' list.