Lately, there have been several posts on the Methoblogosphere about horrible experiences with the Board of Ministry. Here is the most recent one I’ve read. Even though I don’t know Will personally, the post seems pretty level headed and a genuine mistake on part of that board. It seems that many folks have chimed in with horror stories about the Board of Ministry.
In fact, I have been hesitant to post my experience becuase for the most part it was positive. The PPRC of my local Church asked all the right questions about my call, and would have been willing to share the hard truth if they believed I didn’t have a call to ministry. My District Committee was encouraging and asked appropriately probing questions. The BOM was rigorous and thorough, but I never got the sense that they were out to get me.
I’m not without complaints. Yes, the process was really, really long. Yes, I did have to know the process better than anyone else (including the board) and work hard to stay in contact with my conference while I was in seminary. It wasn’t an accidental process by any means.
Our BOM retreats provided opportunities for me not only to get to know my fellow commissioned elders, they gave me time to get to know my interview team – several of whom I now consider to be friends. My interview process allowed me to tell my story enough times that I am very comfortable talking about my call to ministry at the drop of a hat. In fact, it’s my opening story as I teach in various Sunday School classes now. The process allowed me to see how ministry shaped my theology following seminary, and I believe I was challenged in some places where I needed challenging and affirmed in some places where I needed affirmation. In fact, I believe an authentic call to ministry is essential in sustaining a ministry during difficult times, and I thank the board for helping me discern God’s call in my life.
This isn’t a commentary on those who have had horrible experiences. I don’t doubt their disappointment or experience. I just want to lift up the fact that this experience isn’t ubiquitous. No one lost any of my information, no one questioned my sincerity, and no one treated me as though I was anything less than a future colleague in ministry.
I want the BOM to continue to ask tough questions. If I’m ever on the board one of the very subjective questions I’ll ask myself is this, “Would I want my son or daughter attending a congregation where this person is an Elder?” If I can’t say yes, then I’ll think long and hard about whether or not to support them. Granted, this should take place at the local church, and early on in consultation with their pastor. But if that step is left out, I won’t be afraid to step in and ask it.
I would start to wonder if my experience might be the exception if I didn’t know that several of my friends (friends with a variety of experiences in early ministry, good and bad) have had similar experiences. Hopefully this gives at least one positive experience to read among all the others.