Frequently asked questions

FAQs Exploring Ordained Ministry (Autumn 2020)

Training

  • What qualifications do I need to begin training?

You will be baptised, and a member of a British Methodist church for at least the last three years. If candidating as a Presbyter then you must be a Local Preacher, and if as a Deacon then must be a Worship leader. People candidating to either ministry must be available for stationing and able to offer at least 10 years active ministry.

  • How long does it take to train as a Methodist minister – Presbyter or Deacon?

For both orders – 2 years full time, 3 years part time – but these can be extended in certain circumstances, for example to allow further study. Initial training is followed by a period of probation, normally for two years, in a circuit, before ordination

  • How many hours do you have to do for placement?

Candidating placement is about 30 hours including 10 hours writing up time – see G6 Steps in Candidating and C2 portfolio. Placements during training vary.

  • I am licensed to take funerals would be able to continue with this if accepted for training?

If you were training full time then this would not be advised. If you are training part time and this is part of your ongoing employment, then you could continue. The time of training is a time of formation so you have to consider what you need to set aside in order to become a minister. This may be one of those things.

  • I'm currently running youth groups at our church - is it advisable to undergo training as a lay preacher before considering the ordination pathway?

We encourage everyone to discern God’s calling at any time , so do explore becoming a local preacher www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/local-preachers-and-worship-leaders/local-preachers/

If you candidate, you must have been accredited as a Local Preacher or Worship Leader by February of the year of candidating.

  • I have a strong sense that I should be ordained in the Methodist church, I have a BA Hons in religious education studies and I have experience in church leadership, how much training would I have to do?

Training can be tailored according to prior experience; however, being a student minister is about formation as much as it is about training and theological education.

  • What different training pathways are available if accepted as candidate?

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS INFORMATION IS FOR THE CANDIDATES WHO ENTER TRAINING IN SEPTEMBER 2020.  AN UPDATED VERSION WILL BE SENT TO ALL RECOMMENDED CANDIDATES IN MARCH 2021. UNTIL THEN  PLEASE REGARD THE INFORMATION HERE AS FOR GUIDANCE ONLY. 

The Ministries Committee has approved three learning pathways for ministerial students, all delivered by Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham:

  • Full time pathway is college-style, and is usually for two years, although there may be people who are allocated to a three-year pathway for the opportunities that offers them and for the church.
  • Three‐year, part‐time pathway 
  • Three‐year, Circuit‐Based Learning Pathway (CBLP) –you would begin in the full or part time pathway for the first year and then enter CBLP for the remainder of your training.

What kinds of ministries are available to ordained Ministers?

  • How do you decide a pathway? Deacon or Presbyter

This is for many a key part of the discernment journey which incorporates a sense of being as well as what we do.

Being is about who you are – what is your identity and what is God calling you to? Speak to some deacons and presbyters and see how they inhabit their vocation and how they think of it. Accompany them for a while and get a sense of what it means to ‘be’ in that particular sort of ministry.

Then the doing – what is the focus of ministry you feel called to – is it about worship, presiding at sacraments, offering pastoral care for all aspects of a church’s life, supporting the church in the development of its mission and being responsible for congregations. Or is it more about service, developing new work, being a bridge between church and community, more edgy things perhaps. Sometimes it is the sacrament of communion that helps the decision. How essential is presiding at communion to your call? If it is not all that essential, then perhaps you are being called to diaconal ministry. If it is central, perhaps the call is for presbyteral ministry.

Also, consider the religious order element of being a deacon. Do you feel called to enter a religious order with particular disciplines and support?

www.methodist.org.uk/about-us/the-methodist-church/the-diaconal-order/deacons-tell-their-stories/

www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/ministry/called-to-ordained-ministry/the-call-to-ordained-ministry-my-story/

  • How do you get in to the ‘specialist’ roles? E.g.: Chaplaincy

Some chaplaincy appointments are in the control of the church, such as some Higher Education chaplains, and others are external appointments to which lay and ordained people from any denomination can apply. If a chaplaincy is the former, within the control of the church, then you can apply for that post. For any Minister to take up a role outside of the control of the church there is a process where you are  interviewed by the Stationing Advisory Committee who can grant permission (or not) for you to apply for the role. This sounds complicated but it is all interconnected with the Methodist understanding of the covenant between the church and the ordained.

  • Pioneering Ministry – can you candidate to be a Pioneer Minister?

The Methodist Church is committed to growing the numbers of pioneer ministers, this link shows what characteristics we think pioneers require www.methodist.org.uk/our-work/our-work-in-britain/evangelism-growth/starting-new-places-for-new-people/called-to-pioneer/

Pioneers can be lay or ordained, but there is no think as such as candidating as a pioneer minister.

All presbyteral candidates are trained and formed to take up appointments in circuits.

Some Ministerial appointments have a specific pioneering roles; these people are then invited to join the MPP www.methodist.org.uk/our-work/our-work-in-britain/evangelism-growth/starting-new-places-for-new-people/methodist-pioneering-pathways/ for focused resource and support.

However, for all ministers, there is much freedom in ministry and everyone can develop elements that would be regarded as pioneering. Each person brings to that their own unique gifting, and for some this is a pioneer spirit.

  • Is it still possible to be a sector minister – if that’s what it is called? To be ordained but continue to do your current job as well?

It is possible to be a presbyter under these circumstances – you need to candidate under ‘limited deployability’ which involves completing a form in conjunction with your circuit/district who make a commitment to establish the role for you when you have completed training. This is currently under review.

  • Do you have to be a circuit minister if you are ordained?

No – but most student ministers are expected to take up circuit roles at least for their initial appointment.

  • Are there only the 2 paths – diaconate/presbyteral. Will this change?

Methodism has two orders of ordained ministry, diaconal and Presbyteral, this is unlikely to change. There are also authorised lay ministries, such as Local Preaching, Global Mission Partners and much more www.methodist.org.uk/vocations

  • What about a person who is not able to offer for full time Ministry?

You can offer for part time or limit your deployability. This is currently under review.

  • What areas of Ministry are developing outside the "traditional" roles?

A broad range of ministries, lay and ordained exist within Methodism www.methodist.org.uk/vocations Methodist Conference 2021 is conferring about a report Changing Patterns of Ministry.

  • How much can you do with other Churches e.g.: CofE ? Ecumenism Efforts etc

This varies between appoints and what is happening locally but in most places there are ecumenical colleagues who can be a great source of support and colleagueship. Sometimes these relationships will be formal, particularly if you are appointed to a LEP (Local Ecumenical Partnership) There maybe clergy meetings or local churches together groups. 

Distinctions between lay and ordained leadership

  • How would you describe the difference between serving as an ordained ministry and those of us who currently serve in lay leadership?

Ordained ministers are ‘set aside’ to be free to offer leadership, in work, sacrament, service and church order, and part of this role as ordained people is to encourage and bring out the gifts of the laity.

  • Why is it only Ministers who are able to preside over Communion?

It is presbyters who preside at communion. This is about being a representative person and operating within church order. The church grants authorisations for some lay people to preside at communion in certain circumstances, but these are not lifelong and they are only given where congregations would otherwise be deprived of the sacrament. Deed of Union clause 4 : “All Methodist preachers are examined tested and approved before they are authorised to minister in holy things. For the sake of church order and not because of any priestly virtue inherent in the office the presbyters of the Methodist Church are set apart by ordination to the ministry of the word and sacraments”. It is ordination that gives the authority to preside at services of Holy Communion.

Presbyteral Ministry

  • Where does the word Presbyter come from? What does it mean?

From Greek presbyters meaning ‘elder’ or ‘senior’ as seen in Acts 14:23 . It is a similar sense to ‘priest, although Methodist tradition recognises one Priest in Jesus. In Methodist parlance, with our commitment to the ministry of the whole people of God, it has replaced ‘minister’ because minister has a wider usage incorporating deacons and lay people.

  • What is the retirement age in the Ministry?

There is no retirement age but when you candidate you are asked to declare that you can offer at least 10 years of active service

  • Can you be part time?

You can offer for part time or limit your deployability. This is currently under review.

  • Why don’t Presbyters sign up to a rule of life?

Diaconal ministry is about an order of ministry as well as a religious order, which includes a rule of life. Presbyters are not a religious order in the same way.  All ministers are in a covenantal relationship with the Methodist Church, which means mutual care and responsibility. “They are held accountable by the Church in respect of their ministry and Christian discipleship, and are accounted for by the Church in respect of their deployment and the support they require for their ministry.” (CPD SO 700 and 701) This is expressed in a new document called ‘A Ministerial Covenant’ that is currently in discussion in circuits and districts and will be discussed in the Conference 2021.  In additional ‘A Methodist Way of Life’ is offering the benefits of a similar structure to life as a Methodist (whether ordained or lay)

  • I feel very called to diaconal ministry but I know my preaching ministry is an important part of my ministry now. I know some deacons preach more than others. Are there appointments where deacons wouldn't be able to fulfil a "traditional" preaching ministry?

Deacons are part of a circuit ministry team, even when their appointments may be more focussed in community, project or chaplaincy work.  They are on the Circuit plan and would be expected to offer their gifts in the leading of worship, preaching and proclamation to the Circuit as much or as little as appropriate.

  • Would I be able to limit where I might move to?

The short answer is “No.”  Deacons are under the discipline of direct stationing by the Warden, not only as probationers but throughout their ministry.  While it is recognised that there may be some very particular pastoral circumstances which may arise and need to be born in mind in stationing, deacons are expected to be fully itinerant and to serve where they are sent.

  • Are deacons able to take baptisms, weddings and funerals?
    Often working within communities a deacon will be asked to preside at a rite of passage; also within their circuit, depending upon their appointment and the circuit’s needs.
  • Can deacons be pioneer ministers?
    All diaconal candidates are trained and formed to take up appointments in circuits. Each person brings to that their own unique gifting, and for some this is a pioneer spirit. Diaconal appointments are as diverse and different as the deacons who are sent to serve within them.  Deacons are matched to an appointment given their gifts and the needs of the appointment, and increasingly circuits are seeking deacons to pioneer new ministries within them.

Deacons are also encouraged to access the MPP https://www.methodist.org.uk/our-work/our-work-in-britain/evangelism-growth/starting-new-places-for-new-people/methodist-pioneering-pathways/ for focused resource and support.

www.methodist.org.uk/about-us/the-methodist-church/the-diaconal-order/deacons-tell-their-stories/

www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/ministry/called-to-ordained-ministry/the-call-to-ordained-ministry-my-story/

Access

  • Can gay people be Ministers?

They can be, and they are! Of course, like all churches, the Methodist Church has its differences of view on questions of human sexuality, but Conference has long declared and affirmed its welcome to LGBTQ+ people, and celebrated their presence, ministry and leadership within our life at every level. Conference has also resolved that both lay people and ministers may enter a civil partnership or a marriage with someone of the same gender.

  • How does a Methodist member from another country who transferred their membership to British Methodist recently candidate?

You need to be a member of a British Methodist Church for at least the last three years so that you are known in a local church, you have the support of that place and you have learned the way British Methodist churches operate and work. The candidating process is the same for all.

  • Is there a cut off age for candidating

You and the church have to be confident that you are able to offer 10 years of service from entering probation.

  • I have a health condition; does this prevent me from training as minister or being a minister?

We welcome candidates for both orders of ministry and having a health concern /impairment is not a bar in itself to candidating or being active in ordained ministry. 

Your health needs, be they physical or mental, and your ability to be resilient, as well as what might be required in terms of meeting with requirements of the Disability Act with reference to reasonable adjustment, are part of the candidating process.

When candidating, you will discuss any support needs with your superintendent at the outset.

It is possible to candidate as a presbyter ‘limited deployabilty’ which means you place restrictions on where you can be stationed, for example if you must be near a particular hospital. Deacons are all direct stationed, therefore your needs and the circuits needs can be known in detail.

If accepted for training, Queen’s Foundation follow guidance for Higher Education in ensuring reasonable adjustments are made to enable all students to flourish.

If training is completed and you enter probation and then are ordained and received into full connexion, then you have significant control of your own diary.

There are ministers in the connexion who are in this situation. You might want to speak with a minister in this situation. Your Superintendent can help you to make such a link.

  • Is there help if I don’t feel confident academically?

In the candidating process you will have support from your mentor, Superintendent and the Learning Network https://www.methodist.org.uk/media/17474/g8-candidates-support-4-way-meeting-2020-2021.pdf

If accepted for training, Queen’s Foundation follow guidance for Higher Education in ensuring reasonable adjustments are made to enable all students to flourish.

  • What about a person who is not able to offer for full time Ministry?

You can offer for part time or limit your deployability. This is currently under review.

  • Can you be part time?

You can offer for part time or limit your deployability. This is currently under review.

Candidating process

  • What does the Candidating process involve? Will I need to take time off work?

See G6 Steps in Candidating which explains the process and the time involved. Whether or you not you need to take time off for any of it depends on your work.

  • What is the interview process like?  

There are various stages described in G6. At the district committee it is one day and you give a creative presentation, are interviewed by small groups and the full committee. At Connexional committee, it is a 24 hour process with worship, presentation, group work exercise, small group interviews and a full panel interview. You may also be called to a panel of reference for a further conversation.

  • My Super is moving in the summer and has not yet been replaced and even when they are will probably be a stranger, how does that impact on me and the Candidating process?

Your own presbyter can walk with you through much of it, and can give information as needed to the superintendent. At the initial 4-way meeting, a support plan is worked out for your candidating and if your new super cannot offer that support, a super from a neighbouring circuit may be asked to come alongside you. The important thing is not to worry about it but take support from others – and talk especially to the district candidates’ secretary.

  • Why is it important to know Diaconal or Presbyteral before starting?

Because they are different and you need to feel called to one or the other. (see outline of the orders of ministry above)

  • Do you review a whole book you read or part of it?

There is a set book which you give a full review of, then some smaller reviews of others books – but in all cases you need to reference the whole book.

  • Can you please talk through the experience of psychological testing?

This is now called a ‘resilience assessment’ and is usually an interview by zoom with a psychologist who will ask you questions about your life and background and also how you are thinking about the future. It is a chance to explore things with an expert. You can ask for this to be face to face if you prefer.

  • How often are the Connexional Candidates Committee wrong in their decision?

Hard to know. Human beings make mistakes but we try very hard to limit these by having well trained and diverse panels of people doing the discerning, discerning through a wide range of mechanisms to see different aspects, matching against criteria to ensure parity while also listening hard for God’s calling through prayer and conversation. If someone is not recommended, they can appeal, also they are able to offer again 2 years later. In addition there is support offered to those who are not recommended to start initial ministerial training.

  • The process is quite intensive and one has to satisfy in the end a panel - how can one be supported if say you are weak in 1 or 2 areas but the potential is there.

In the candidating process, you will have support from your mentor, Superintendent and the Learning Network to help you evidence your calling against the criteria https://www.methodist.org.uk/media/17470/g4-selection-criteria-for-ordained-ministry-in-the-methodist-church.pdf

  • What is the percentage of applicants who get a positive outcome?

The percentage of candidates who beginning initial ministerial training varies. However, some who are not recommended to for initial ministerial training see that as a positive outcome. All those who are not recommended for initial training are invited to a retreat to process and reflect on next steps.

Family

  • What if your spouse is also an ordained minister?

People are considered individually though family situation is obviously part of a candidate’s identity and therefore could come into the conversations. When it comes to stationing, the probationer’s stationing takes priority. Once both are ordained and in stationing, the couple have to decide which takes priority in stationing. This does not mean one is more important, but it is a decision that you need to make to enable the matching process.

  • What support and guidance is there for partners particularly those who aren’t Christians or indeed any faith?

It is important that the partner is aware from the outset of what a candidate is offering for – and particularly is supportive of the idea of itinerancy, vocation and discipline to the Conference. Candidates are well advised to help their partners perhaps by inviting other ministers’ partners to meet them and talk things through. District Candidates Secretary might be able to help from previous experience.

Stationing

  • As a probationer presbyter do you have any say in where you are stationed or are you just sent? (I ask because I have children at high school)

It is direct stationing so you are expected to accept the appointment. However you complete a profile which you discuss in detail with your tutor. And in this you can state any issues that you wish to be considered. These are taken into account as far as is possible in stationing you, but the most important thing is that the appointment is the right match for your gifts and graces. There is always an awareness that if the appointment makes it difficult for your family, it is unlikely that you will be able to flourish in that appointment. It is possible to candidate for Presbyteral ministry under ‘limited deployability’. This means that you indicate at the start of the process that you will not be able to be itinerant at least in the first appointment. You state the reasons and the circuit or district you are currently in are required to confirm that they will be able to identify an appointment for you when you have completed training. This application has to be approved as part of the candidating process, but it is not part of the discerning of your vocation. This whole area is being considered as part of the ‘Changing Patterns in Ministry’ report

Stipends, funding, and housing

  • How does tax on a stipend work?

PAYE each month on the stipend. There are other things you need to declare for  tax (e.g. wedding or funeral fees) and other things you can claim against tax (e.g. books, clerical dress, use of the manse for meetings) so you need to keep good records with receipts.

  • If there is a gap between stationing, does the stipend stop?

It depends why there is a gap. If you choose to go without appointment then yes the stipend and manse stop.

  • What happens when you retire? Do you still get a house etc?

The Methodist Ministers’ Housing Society support by providing housing at reduced rent for eligible ministers. This depends on means testing and on length of service, but is generally in the 10-year range. More details can be found  mmhs.org.uk/about-us/

Discernment

  • Is it possible to leave ministry? E.g. if you feel God has used you in your capacity and need to move to something else?

Ordination is for life and the church makes a commitment to you for life. So it is not expected that you would ever chose to leave unless something has gone wrong. If you feel you have done all you can in one appointment, you can leave and move to another – either at the end of the term of the appointment or by curtailing (ending the appointment sooner than initially planned). It might be that you feel called to work in a different environment than circuit ministry e.g. chaplaincy of all sorts, theological education and other roles

Reception in to full connexion and ordination

  • What happens if you get through the ordination process and feel it is no longer for you?

The church discerns with you not only at candidating but also all through training and the 2 or more years of probation to ensure that you are really called and able and ready to be received into full connexion and ordained. It is hoped that the length of that process will give you time to decide if it is not for you and you can choose to withdraw at any point, though that is a very serious process if you are a probationer. However, we hope that no one wishes to withdraw after ordination because by then the church and minister have made lifelong commitments. You can resign from being in full connexion but you cannot be ‘un-ordained’. It isn’t just that someone has made a lifelong commitment but that ordination is to “a permanent lifelong office of ministry” (Methodist Worship Book, p.297).  Someone ordained to the presbyterate or diaconate in the Methodist Church is ordained to the presbyterate or diaconate in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Whilst someone can resign (or be removed) from being in Full Connexion with the Methodist Conference, they can’t not be ordained.

 

Personal life

For these FAQs on personal experience we have asked a few Ministers from around the Connexion to share their personal experiences.

 How does the Church or Minister deal with people management given the diverse issues people find?

Listen.

Remember that most people in the church are giving of their time.

Use the body of Christ and gifts and graces of congregation.

Establish and agree an acceptable standard of behaviour that reflects who we are as disciples of Christ.

Do not be afraid to signpost for help when people present with an issue you have not come across before.

Pray.

  • How do you look after your wellbeing?

“I look after my wellbeing in four ways.

  1. Maintaining a regular prayer life as much as I can. 
  2. Making sure I take my days off, holidays and quarter days - pitting them all in my diary at least 15 months ahead and only moving them if there is somewhere to move them to. 
  3. Managing my diary and ToDo list well, making sure I have space for preparation, looking 5 to 6 weeks ahead to see what needs to be done. Most of all being willing to say no if saying yes will lead to doing too much. It works most of the time but I have to work hard at it. 
  4. Making the best use of supervision and spiritual direction.  

There is always more to do, so do stop. 

There is provision of a counselling service for ministers which is free, I used it once and found it very helpful. 

  • Do you work long hours?

“Sometimes yes! But essentially, you’re in control of your own diary, so you can block time as necessary.”

“I try to remember to let God be God and remind oneself that we can only do so much and it does  not depend on us.” 

“Sometimes! Not all the time and I’m not sure when I do I work any longer hours than my peers who are teachers, accountants, consultants, health care workers. 

I regularly work in the evening but I regularly get to have lunch with my wife during the day or go for a walk in an afternoon knowing I’ll be working in an evening, many of those who come to the evening meetings haven’t been able to do that during the day.”

 What do you do if/when your personal opinion is conflicting/different from views in Circuit?

We’re never called to act against our conscience so it’s important to express your view even if it does contradict others.  The staff meeting should be a place where you can disagree well and respect each other’s contradictory views.  Remember you’re part of a team, that we work together in a way that differing opinions can be expressed but to remember we are a conferring Church. That means coming to a view together and supporting that view even when we all have different opinions.  

As a church, we try to live with contradictory convictions and there are resources to help us and the church with that. 

  • How do you balance your home life with the demands of the Church?

Use the answerphone and auto responses to emails!

Remember the priority should be God, Family, then Church. 

The ordination service says ‘Let no one suffer through your neglect’ also means you and your family.

 


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