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No Illusions for Second Career Pastors

Aug 02 2011

According to the 2008 Book of Discipline, “Full-time and part-time licensed local pastors under appointment are clergy members of the annual conference in which they are appointed. Those who are licensed for pastoral ministry and appointed to the local church shall preach, conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor.” These mainly second career pastors come to Wesley each summer for four weeks and during various weekends during the year to acquire theological grounding for their local ministry.

This past year, Professor Scott Kisker assumed the reins of responsibility for Wesley’s Course of Study program. Dr. Kisker says, “What I love about Course of Study is the zeal of the students for ministry and for knowing Christ.  This is a group of theology students who are both mature and ‘churched.’  They were raised up for leadership organically out of the soil of the local congregations, and drawn into ministry through their experiences of the living God and the people of God.  They are not naïve about the local church, yet they love and want to serve anyway out of a sense of call.”

In fact, these pragmatic, mature leaders aren’t naïve about much. Dave Delaney, who graduated from Wesley’s Course of Study program this July, related an anecdote about serving homeless populations in his home conference in New Jersey. “The places where people need to be reached aren’t places where you can go by yourself after dark,” he said.

Josefina Perez, who started Course of Study this year, felt called to develop Hispanic ministry in The United Methodist Church. In her words, “To push the church past tolerance and move toward genuine love.”

Perez has a keen appreciation of the difficulties of breaking down barriers, however. “I know that we may not see a lot of progress in my generation, but when I look at my daughters and their friends, I see a lot of hope for the future,” Perez said.

Perez welcomes the theological education she received in her first year, “There is a lot to be said for classroom experience. You’re exposed to different cultures and value systems and yet you realize that we’re all one church.”

Both Delaney and Perez appreciate the condensed nature of Course of Study for theological education. Though the pace can be a bit overwhelming at times, four courses in four weeks, neither of them were looking for a “quick and easy” education, as Delaney put it. Perez does appreciate that Course of Study is “life-friendly”, an important consideration for a single mom in full-time ministry.

Between serving as Associate Pastor for a 700-member church, acting as District Youth and Young Adult Coordinator, living out his call to serve the homeless in South Jersey and caring for a family of his own, Delaney also has an appreciation for the condensed schedule. “Most of us [Course of Study students] are second career,” he said. “We have the same concerns of bills and pressures at full-time jobs and yet we’ve heard God’s call to ministry.”

Delaney summed up, saying, “It’s hard to do ministry part-time. There is a perception among some people that licensed local pastors are not ‘real ministers’, but most of my colleagues are part-time ministers with full-time jobs who give more than twice the number of hours to the church that is required.”

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