What Skills Do I Need to Become an Ordained Minister?
Ordained ministers in religious organizations care for the spiritual needs of their congregants, and may look after their psychological and physical welfare as well. The skills you will require to become an ordained minister may vary depending on your career path. Compassion and tact, as well as good communication skills, will help you deal with people from all walks of life and in all situations. You may be required to obtain a theological education and special seminary training in your chosen denomination.
If you care deeply for the well-being of others, that is a good start. Most clergy experience a strong desire for this type of work and refer to as a “calling,” possessing a strong faith in their respective religions. Educational requirements to become an ordained minister generally involve a full-fledged college degree and special instruction before your ordination. Organizations do exist that give an applicant an ordination by mail, which may only require an application and small fee; these are not recognized in all denominations, however.
Ministers and priests should have common sense, and good listening ability. Sharp observation skills will help you spot unspoken difficulties, such as neglect, poverty or illness; often, ministers need to refer congregants to psychologists or social agencies for assistance with these matters. When you become an ordained minister you can preside over marriage ceremonies, baptisms, funerals and other important life rituals; you will also need to interact compassionately with people who are on the verge of death, and their families.
Discretion is an important skill for anyone wishing to become an ordained minister. In many places, the conversation with clergy in confession or counseling is protected by law and may not be disclosed. Members of your congregation must know that their issues will remain private. A non-judgmental attitude assists you in establishing trust.
A minister also needs leadership skills. Any experience in directing a group will be valuable, as will public speaking. Flexibility helps ministers understand people of differing viewpoints; in a global community, you will encounter many religious affiliations and beliefs. A key competency known as embodiment means that ordained ministers, priests and pastors are expected to practice the values they preach, acting as examples and role models.
Depending on denomination, some churches want a candidate wishing to become an ordained minister to have a degree in theology or from a divinity school. Depending on the denomination, you may attend additional classes after your college study is completed; for example, the Catholic Church requires candidates for the priesthood to attend seminary school. There they will focus on leadership training, theology and their own spiritual growth and development. Most churches prefer to hire ministers with some prior experience.
You may become an ordained minister and work in other settings than a church. Many people aspire to become missionaries, who travel extensively to further religious education and humanitarian projects in remote areas around the world. Ministers and pastors are also employed in hospitals, nursing homes, and even prisons, where they bring comfort to those who are interned or facing health-related challenges.
I once considered becoming an ordained minister by answering one of those ads in the back of a magazine, but I didn't want to cheapen the occupation. I knew my own pastor had to go through a lot of training and make a lot of sacrifices to get where he is today. I just wanted to be a a legal wedding officiant as a side job. That's not the same thing, obviously.
I belong to the United Methodist church, and our ordained ministers first have to work towards their ministerial degrees at an approved seminary. Sometimes a young Methodist seminary student may be assigned to a small church while attending college. There is a board of senior ministers who make these kinds of decisions, and the pastors need to go where they are assigned. Once they earn an advanced degree, such as a Masters of Divinity, the pastors can make themselves available for appointments at larger churches.
In order to become an ordained Methodist minister, however, the applicant must be interviewed by a special board and given what we call his or her Deacon's Orders. This is along the lines of a secular employee being taken off probationary status and granted a permanent position or tenure. Once a minister has his or her Deacon's Orders, the Methodist church leaders will decide where to appoint him or her. Sometimes the assignment is based on merit, but other times the appointment is based on greatest need.
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