Are You Called?
While we recognize the ministry of all believers and cherish the ministry of the laity in all its forms, we know that God calls some people into specific "set apart" leadership roles. Within the United Methodist Church, there are three basic ministerial roles: the ministry of the Local Pastor, the ministry of the Deacon, and the Ministry of the Elder. Each of these roles requires preparation that begins with the Candidacy process.
Local pastors are licensed by the bishop to perform all pastoral duties including the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion while appointed to a particular church. They are clergy members of the annual conference with limited voting rights while under appointment as full-time or part-time local pastors. Licensing is for one year at a time.
The 1996 General Conference created the Order of Deacons. Deacons are ordained to lifetime ministry of Word, Service, and Witness to community and congregation. In the world, they express a ministry of compassion and justice, assisting laypersons as they claim their own ministry. In the congregation, they work with the pastor to teach and form disciples, and to lead worship. They are full members of the annual conference, called to a specialized non-itinerant ministry. Deacons are not authorized to serve the sacraments. Deacons, like Elders, must undergo a rigorous provisional membership process and extensive theological education.
Those who are in the Order of Elders are ordained to a lifetime ministry of Service, Word, Sacrament and Order. Elders are the generalists of the church as compared to the deacons who specialize in particular forms of ministry. They are authorized to preach and teach God’s word, to administer the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, and to order the life of the church for mission and ministry. As members of the Order of Elders, they make themselves available for appointment by the bishop and serve both within the local church and in settings which extend the ministry of the church. Once a seminary education and a rigorous provisional membership process is completed, they become full members of the annual conference.
Think you might be feeling the tug of God's call?
Check out the Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation.
The Fund for Theological Education is an ecumenical nonprofit organization devoted to noticing, naming and nurturing the next generation of talented leaders for the church.