Monday, June 8, 2009

Fire in the Belly; Pain in the Heart

No, I'm not trying to come up w/ a list of symptoms for some undiagnosed illness. Rather I've been looking at my own motives for writing this blog.

The pain in my heart is for all those who have been unnecessarily wounded by our current processes for examining for ministry. Let me stress the word "unnecessarily." We need an examining process. There are those who may not be ready for ordained ministry. For those who are ready, a good examining process endorses their efforts and demonstrates support from our Association.

The question I'm raising is whether our current processes for examining for ministry represent best practices in examining and, if not, what are the best ways to modify them.

The MFC has asked the Board of Trustees to charter a comprehensive review of ministerial examining. It's great that we're on the same page regarding this need.

Yet, the fire in my belly and the pain in my heart are fueled by concerns about the damage that may be done while this review is undertaken. On Sunday, I heard another tale of woe about the actions of a Regional Subcommittee on Candidates (RSCC). My interlocutor wanted to know why the RSCC would substitute its judgment for those of individuals such as CPE supervisors and internship supervisors who had much more experience with his performance.

OK, let's presume that this candidate had "stage fright." Several other candidates have reported having same. After all, it feels like one's entire future is being compressed into a one-hour interview. Let's also allow that susceptibility to stage fright isn't a good trait in ministry. The question remains whether we want to use this as an opt-out in our examining process or merely advise candidates how to prepare to overcome it.

WARNING: I may be radically oversimplifying. There may be many reasons over and above stage fright that are causing these candidates to stumble. It just saddens me that so many are receiving what appear to be unnecessary wounds.


  • Let's not wait several years to convene a blue-ribbon panel. Let's start modifying the process now. The MFC and RSCCs can provide additional guidance about their current expectations. This guidance will inform candidates and provide useful information for the panel.
  • Seminaries, academic advisers, internship supervisors, CPE supervisors, and others should be designing and implementing more opportunities for candidates to become test wise. For example, Fred Helio Fred Garcia teaches an outstanding course at Starr King in Media Skills in Public Ministry, which can help candidates prepare for challenging interviews. (As an aside, the film Frost/Nixon is a guide to some of the the perils and challenges of interviewing.)
  • Candidates and aspirants can do more to educate themselves about the process and prepare themselves for the interviews. I am pleased with the buzz for this blog. We may start a new motto: "Mock Interview: Don't leave for your MFC/RSCC interview without one."

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