Handbook for probation
The Methodist Church's system of a period of probation before ordination stems from John Wesley's practice of requiring of his preachers a period 'on trial' before they were received into Full Connexion. With the establishment of formal college-based training systems (the first being the Wesleyans' Theological Institution founded in 1836) the requirement of probation was still maintained. This reflects a deeply-felt need for all Methodist ministers to be demonstrably effective before they are affirmed as 'worthy to be ordained'.
However, probation is not only a time of testing. As part of the life-long learning of the minister (presbyter or deacon) probation marks a shift in the balance of the learning experience. In initial pre-ordination training greater emphasis was placed on theoretical learning (although always in the context of practice); in probation the emphasis falls on practice, but always with the extension of theoretical knowledge and reflection on it. It is the time when the ability to be a theologically reflective practitioner undergoes its most rapid development. Although ordination marks the formal end of probation, and for deacons permits entry into full membership of the Methodist Diaconal Order, it does not mean the abandonment of the skills and practices acquired as a reflective learner - far from it. The habits of probation should lay the foundation for continuing development for the rest of a person's life in ministry and for deacons, their membership of a religious order.
Probation is a time for the rehearsal of activities and the acquisition of skills by practice under supervision. Once again, acquiring during probation the habit of reflecting on one's practice in a context of supervision should be seen as a support, not as a constraint to be joyfully abandoned after ordination: it should become an integral part of the minister's professional practice, whether through a co-consultancy group, the circuit staff meeting, the early years in ministry group, peer supervision, or other means. Reflective practice is at the heart of Ministerial Development Review.
Most presbyteral probationers are directly stationed by the Conference on the recommendation of the Initial Stationing Sub-Committee and appointed to serve full-time in the circuits after completing pre-ordination training. A few are stationed for 'in-service training' while completing their course. Some probationers serve in part-time circuit appointments, in other appointments 'within the control of the Church' (some chaplaincy appointments, evangelism enablers etc.) or in appointments 'outside the direct control of the Church' (other chaplaincies, employment etc). Diaconal probationers are directly stationed by the Conference on the recommendation of the Warden. All probationer appointments are designed to have the same outcome: ministers who meet the criteria for reception into Full Connexion and ordination. These criteria are to be found in later sections of this Handbook.
The Ministries Team, in conjunction with the Methodist Diaconal Order where appropriate, administers the Church's processes for the oversight of all student ministers, probationers and ordinands. Further information on all aspects of probation can be obtained by contacting:
The Ministerial Coordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries
Methodist Church House
25 Marylebone Road
London NW1 5JR
Enquiries 020 7486 5502
Supervision of probationers:
If a circuit is preparing a profile for a probationer you need to name a supervisor. The supervisor will need to be trained under the interim supervision policy which means training must have happened since September 2017.
For more information about what is required, please visit the Supervision of Probationers page.