What if ministry credentialing for The Wesleyan Church (TWC) was built based on what kind of person you’ve become, not just what courses you’ve taken?
Candidates on their way toward licensure or ordination are currently required to take a certain number of pastoral-related courses (like homiletics, church leadership and The Wesleyan Church history), aimed at helping them effectively shepherd their congregations. While these courses are formative (and educational milestones are helpful as benchmarks for preparedness) fitness for ministry is determined more by competency than by education alone. To help local churches better equip and assess candidates for licensure and ordination, Education and Clergy Development (ECD) is building a set of tools that shape ministers’ proficiency in content, character and craft.
“We care about the outcome of ministry education, not just the number of college credits you’ve earned,” said Joel Liechty, associate director of ECD. “So what we’ve done is define the endgame and given you any number of pathways to get there.”
Together with their district leadership, local churches will guide candidates down the pathway that suits their method of service to the church: some toward lay ministry, others toward licensed ministry and still others toward ordained ministry. Every step of this journey will include local churches mentoring and discipling ministers toward whichever form of credential is appropriate for them.
The normal subject of ministry education and formation (e.g. preaching, church leadership, worship, TWC history, etc.) will continue to be part of the training for licensed and ordained ministers. Candidates will have more flexible options in choosing how they want to attain competency in these subjects. Programs like the newly launched Competency-Based Pilot, a pathway that offers local churches an opportunity to take greater stake in the formation of their prospective ministers. Along every step of the way, the local church will help its candidate grow in competency, character and craft, nourishing strengths and identifying areas where growth is needed.
In addition, the competency-based pathway offers more flexible ways for pastors to be equipped. By cultivating ministry training pathways that allow pastors to gain formation in their own context (and by our institutions of higher education offering flexible education options) ministers today have many options for formation; this pathway helps capitalize on the new windows of opportunity while also pairing every candidate with a mentor team who can give them the supportive relationship crucial to sustaining growth.
Competency-based credentialing pushes candidates, churches and prospective ministers to focus on the questions that matter to our churches and communities. Specifically, they invite us to consider what content pastors must focus on to effectively shepherd in today’s culture, what character God would invite us to develop as we serve in our communities and what skills of the craft are most crucial in today’s unique church environment.
As before, there are a number of approved ministry education and formation course-based pathways such as Cross-Training (Oklahoma Wesleyan University) or Kingswood Extended (Kingswood University), in addition to online or traditional undergraduate degrees from the five institutions of higher education associated with The Wesleyan Church.
Ethan Linder serves as pastor of hospitality, collegians and young adults at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana.