Licensed to word, sacrament and service
A mom who has a love for God’s Word, an engineer who longs to see others know Jesus as deeply as they do, a college student who feels compelled to lead deep and rich worship. These are the kinds of people who you often find in the Texas Annual Conference Local Pastor Licensing School in June and July. They come to get tools for their toolbox so they can answer more fruitfully their call to pastoral ministry.
The United Methodist Church has a number of ways people can answer a call to be a pastor. The most common routes are the ones that end in ordination – as Elders or Deacons. Another option is to become a Licensed Local Pastor – one who has the authority to do all that and Elder does, but only in the context of the church or charge to which they are appointed. It is a limited authority given only for the duration of their appointment.
The Local Pastor has been an essential part of the pastoral ministry of the UMC for much of its existence. Most often Local Pastors are full time or part time serving small rural churches who might not have the resources to support an Elder. Local Pastors allow such churches to continue their ministry on a scale that works for their community, which makes then a vital part of the church. Other Licensed Local Pastors serve on staff at a larger church – youth ministers or even business managers. Often times this is a way to expand their ministry and allow them to offer more in the way of Sacraments and pastoral care to the people of their church. Again, this is a vital role in the life of the church.
While there are a couple of options which would allow a Bishop to license a Local Pastor, the most common way is for them to attend Licensing School. Each Conference manages their own process with the requirement being that students receive 80 hours of instruction in pastoral ministry.
For the Texas Annual Conference that happens through a split session – one in June and the other in July – both held at the Lakeview Methodist Conference Center. During those in-person sessions, and a couple of Zoom sessions, there are volunteer presenters from the Annual Conference who come to help equip these new pastors. The Texas Annual Conference is blessed with knowledgeable and passionate people who bring lessons on doctrine, history, preaching, sacraments, conflict management, and much more.
“The main goal is to give these pastors some tools for their toolbox so that when they begin their pastoral ministry, they can serve their church with integrity and knowledge,” says Rev. Mike Lindstrom, who is a Co-Dean of the school along with Rev. Ingrid Akers. He explains that a side benefit of attending the school is the lifelong connection made with fellow students and the presenters. “This it is the United Methodist ethos at its best, says Lindstrom.
This year’s class will be licensed on July 14th and will assume their full duties in their churches at that point.