Before I was ordained in the United Methodist Church as an Elder, I was commissioned as a provisional member of my annual conference (WNC). I’ll explain more about that process later, but one of the advantages of this probationary process was that I was placed in group of my peers who were on the same ordination track as me. This group was dubbed residency in ordained ministry (RIOM), and we met roughly once a month for three years mainly to share each others burdens and learn and grow together.
For me, this was a great time of accountability and growth. Were I not meeting regularly with people who were in the same boat as me, I don’t know if I could have made it. This is a great reminder that God does not intend for us to journey alone! Find some people who you can trust and live life together!
One crucial piece that made this time fruitful was our leader who proved to be a great shepherd. At one of our first meetings, he told us that there were some things we could say and do once we were ordained, and that it would be best if we waited to say and do those things after becoming ordained. In other words, we were to play the hand we were dealt for three years, and then go all in if we so desired. (One of the negative byproducts of our system is that ordination functions much like tenure in other circles. Once you are ordained, you are essentially guaranteed an appointment for life. Which is good for job security, but bad for performance motivation.)
At any rate, our RIOM leader’s suggestion stuck with me during these three years, and now I am beginning to see what he meant. I can preach with a certain authority now that I think I lacked prior to ordination because I know that no one is looking over my shoulder. Similarly, by being ordained, it was as if the annual conference was in some way affirming my call to ordained ministry. Surely someone who wasn’t called by God into ordination wouldn’t spend eight years of their life on this process, right?
All that to say that I hope ordination doesn’t make me lazy. Ultimately it is God who is calling me, and God who is anointing me to do what I do. And if I’m following that calling, I’m going to be faithful to say and do the things that I can now say and do!