Thanks everyone for all the comments, including a few who sent them directly by email for various good reasons.
Without trying to summarise what is a pretty diverse set of comments and observations, I do think there are certain repeated themes, which I float here.
First, there is a clear distinction between ministry and 'The Ministry' (in the sense of ordination). And we have mixed views on this. Some accept this reality, recognising that their ministry - being evangelistic, outwards or missional - will remain a lay ministry, that they will 'work for a living' rather than receive a stipend, that they are freer than they regard most ordained people to be, and all that is fine. Others clearly feel that the categories of ordained ministry (in function rather than name) need to be broadened to include different sorts of ministry, which are fully stipendiary etc. The 'pastor-teacher' model won't do for everyone, and it shouldn't have to.
Second, is the need for clearer communication about what is possible in terms of ministry/ministries - ordained and lay - in the Church. A greater on-line input would be helpful for some, particularly younger potential candidates. In many cases the need for a knowledgeable accompanist or mentor was a key role and requirement. Perhaps a group of people are needed who know their stuff, and can mix formative and spiritual discerning roles, especially among younger candidates? Would such a group be more potentially important in the future than some other models of regional or district appointed staff?!
Third, our experience of initial training is mixed. This is hardly surprising. What is intriguing is that those who were trained some years ago are generally more critical of that training than those who are in it or have just left it. So are we getting better in our training?
Fourth, even if we are getting better in terms of training for missional ministries today, there is a generally critical view of what awaits you in circuit ministry. This ministry especially tends to frustrate and fatigue those who felt that they were being trained for a different sort of ministry - indeed they feel betrayed. It also seems to constrict those who would try to change it, or lay alongside 'normal' expectations of circuit ministry a further commitment to mission and evangelism etc. The role of stationing, district chairs and superintendents are all key here. Certainly 'circuit ministry' as understood and experienced by our group does not easily facilitate ministry among missing generations. Indeed younger ministers express a chasm between themselves and their congregations in certain cultural and theological ways.
Fifth, the jury is out about age being a barrier to selection for training for ordination. Some feel the structures don't help, others have found no problem. Several contributors feel that there are too many hurdles early on in the process (Local Preacher training for example) which tend to dissuade some from pursuing a potential call. There is a call/need for the interviewing panels to include more young adults.
Sixth, there is some evidence that Methodism as a 'lay movement' is a myth! Several folk commented that either lay people contribute very little other than turning up on Sunday, or what they do is not up to scratch! Fighting talk. But is it true generally? And if so, has our style of ministry - and minister - in recent decades so deskilled or dissuaded laity - especially laity that has been thoroughly 'churched', that is, taught how to be a good laity - from truly taking the part we would now hope of them?
Seventhly is the intriguing suggestion that the Connexion and the Districts particularly, (and some Circuits) are producing and implementing a missional agenda, but that local churches lag behind in this mindset. True? If so, what can be done about it?
Eighth, there are one or two good ideas floating about. The six year contract for young people whereby they do a training course part time, while in situ in a particular mission project seems exciting, and is surely not beyond implementation if the idea passed muster.
My own little theme/scheme, which I am still cogitating and is not novel or new, is what it means to go further and faster down the route of locally ordained people, of different kinds and to several localised ministries. Some recent literature by Roman Catholics I have read suggests some are beginning to take this seriously in their own tradition. In tandem with this would be a rethinking of presbyteral ministry in terms of its historic leadership, itinerant and missional elements rather than (simply) its sacramental and pastoral elements. Diaconal ministry too holds out huge possibilities of truly pastoral ministry in a post-christian society rather than simply existing in a christian enclave.