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How to Become an Ordained United Methodist Minister

Updated July 20, 2017

The path that leads to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church is cut-and-dry for all who are inclined toward this specific clergy profession. United Methodists carry on that tradition established by founder John Wesley, one of a top-down hierarchical, or episcopal, form of Christian church government by which this denomination's rules and polity are meticulously spelt out. You can find this information in the latest edition of the church's "The Book of Discipline." The specific institutional steps for you to achieve ordination in the United Methodist Church are enumerated below. At a glance, the process may appear to be daunting. But, when all is said and done, you likely will find these institutional "hoops" you have to jump through are the easy part. This article assumes that already you have well started the really hard part--the personal soul-searching, indeed, wrestling with God's will, that led you to seriously contemplate such a vocation. Save from what you may read in the Bible and other testimonies about individual calls to ministry, the only "how to" guidance that is available concerning this introspective facet to becoming a minister comes in the context of your own experience of God--particularly your encounter of the divine in fellowship with other United Methodists.

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  1. Tell a United Methodist minister, ideally your pastor, about your desire to seek ordination as a minister. At the least, you'll need someone to guide you through the bureaucratic minutiae of the succeeding steps. Additionally, you should tell significant others (spouse, children) sometime before you seriously take on the candidacy process. Ordained United Methodist ministry is itinerant. In this ministry, you and your family would be subject to appointment in any location in a defined region.

  2. Explore your calling through resources the church provides for this endeavour. The church even offers workshops for young people, especially, who are contemplating ordained ministry.

  3. Begin candidacy for ordained ministry by applying in writing to a district superintendent of the United Methodist Church. A candidacy mentor will guide you through this beginning phase. The church requires you to be a member of the United Methodist Church or "baptized participant" of a United Methodist "ministry setting" for one year before you engage the next step.

  4. Declare your candidacy for ordained ministry. The primary part of this step involves official approval from your home United Methodist Church of your quest to become an ordained minister. This is done at a special annual meeting of your home church under the supervision of a district superintendent.

  5. Fulfil the mandates for certification of your candidacy. This step includes a psychological assessment (a requirement for the past several decades). More recently, the church mandates a criminal background check and credit check in order to be a certified candidate. Your continued participation in the candidacy process will be reviewed annually by a District Board of Ordained Ministry.

  6. Complete the Candidacy for Provisional Membership and Commissioning in the United Methodist Church. This part of the process will pretty much set you on the course toward ordination in some capacity with the United Methodist Church. Candidacy completion mostly involves the educational requirements for ordination. For younger candidates, this generally means residency at a United Methodist school of theology or seminary. The church also approves some seminaries of other Christian denominations.

  7. Decide the capacity in which you will serve as a United Methodist minister. The official titles of ordained ministry are deacon and elder. This part of the process likely involves your appointment as a pastor to a local United Methodist congregation. Conceivably, it could involve some area of ministry beyond the local church. If you've made it to this step, in all likelihood you will be an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church in the next two years. The denomination sets up the candidacy program to weed out unacceptable candidates before matters advance to this extent. By now, you should have a fully formed vision of the type and nature of ordained service you believe you can render in the United Methodist Church.

  8. Tip

    These steps greatly condense phases that are quite complex. Read the sections on ordained ministry in the latest edition (it is revised every four years) of the United Methodist Church's "Book of Discipline" or consult the website below to appreciate more fully what each step involves.

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About the Author

Earl Moreland has written for 35 years. His latest work, in addition to Demand Studio articles on society, culture, outdoors and religion, involved feature stories for Life In Sebastian County (Fort Smith, Ark.). He has a B.A. and M.A. in journalism and an M.Th. in theology.

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