What I Learned at Licensing School

Last week, I went back to school. I went to learn how to be a pastor.

I attended the Kentucky Annual Conference’s License to Preach School on the campus of Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky. The school is a requirement for those seeking a license to serve as a local pastor. A licensed local pastor has the ability to consecrate the elements in the United Methodist Church.

At first, I didn’t believe I needed to attend the school. Call it cockiness, but I felt that my seminary degree was enough and that I didn’t need to attend. My education, I felt, should have been enough.

Instead, I learned I did need this week of deep study, worship, and engagement on what it means to be a pastor. In fact, I learned a lot about myself and my calling.

Here are a few things I learned during my week of eating potatoes at every meal and spending time with some amazing people.

I am not alone. Ministry is a lonely calling. You spend most of your time alone and finding true community can be difficult. Often in my first year of ministry I felt the pain of loneliness. That is because most of my close friends live in other towns or states. At Lindsey Wilson, I found other pastors who were just like me. I’m not talking about finding other lonely pastors. I am talking about being with other men and women who are seeking to humbly serve God. It is encouraging to find people who want to be in community with one another and support each other in our respective callings. Pastors need that and it was encouraging to find that in Columbia.

I may actually be ordained after all. Licensing school was a week of confirmation for me. It was the first time I truly felt I would become an ordained elder. On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to preach and walk our community through a time of communion. I can’t fully explain it, but something happened in that service to where I truly felt that I was on the right path. It was a God moment that I needed after years of feeling like I was not moving forward in the process. I know that one day I will be ordained, and I can’t wait.

It is possible to disagree and still love one another. General Conference was defined by the inability to respectfully disagree. This was evident during the homosexuality and church organization debates. In the aftermath of General Conference, you could argue that Methodists forgot how to truly “holy conference.” Our group, I believe, showed that there are many Methodists who can love one another and still disagree on issues. We had difficult discussions, but we were never divided. Our discussions made us become more united as a group. We were not trying prove a point, but wanted to learn from one another. It’s amazing what can happen when partisanship is removed from a discussion and we truly seek to engage what it means to follow Christ.

Pastors need to have fun. We all need a good laugh. That includes pastors. I did not believe that this past year. I felt I needed to be “stoic” or the “perfect image” of a pastor. This meant I had to deny part of who I am so that I could be the “pastor” people wanted. I denied part of my fun-loving personality, so that others might “respect” me as a true pastor. It just made me not enjoy some aspects of ministry, because I wasn’t being myself. What I learned is that I can laugh, goof off, and share in some fun and still serve God. It was quite an eye-opening and beautiful moment for me. I’m a goofy guy who enjoys a good laugh, and I am glad that I finally figured out that I can share that with others.

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