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GBHEM: Supporting journeys to professional ministry

Shortly after the birth of his son, Jacob Lynn realized his faith was "not as deep as I wanted it to be with a person who was going to learn from me." Beginning to "dig deeper," he accepted an invitation to attend lay speaking school and later went on The Walk to Emmaus. "It was not until that retreat that I had given my full self to God," he says, "I sensed God wanted all of me, including my time and professional self."

Two days later, he met with his pastor. The Rev. David Jones, then pastor of Piney Grove United Methodist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas, affirmed Lynn's sense of calling. Jones said he had called the district superintendent the day before to tell him he thought Lynn might be considering ordained ministry. Later in 2008, the Piney Grove charge conference affirmed him as a candidate. A door opened, a journey began and a milestone reached in June 2015 when the Rev. Jacob Lynn was ordained elder. He is now in his third year as associate pastor of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

God calls people into ministry and faithful Christians help open the door.

The mission of General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) is to lead and serve The United Methodist Church in the recruitment, preparation, nurture, education and support of Christian leaders — lay and clergy. The agency helps the people God calls become leaders who boldly commit to Jesus Christ, leaders characterized by intellectual excellence, moral and spiritual courage, and holiness of heart and life.

GBHEM also counsels, guides, and assists annual conference boards of ordained ministry.

Describing the Arkansas residency program as "pretty zealous," Lynn says the retreats provided "good community," while regular meetings of a small group allowed participants to watch each other's sermons and share experiences. "It was like a small class meeting," he says. "We lifted each other up, encouraged each other and shared."

GBHEM prescribes a professional ministerial Course of Study for those becoming local pastors. Its loan and scholarship programs assist seminary students as well as students in undergraduate and graduate programs at other colleges and universities.

As tasked by The Book of Discipline, GBHEM develops and maintains standards and procedures for the certification in ministry specialties and for ordination.

Certification in an area of specialized ministry recognizes an individual's call, commitment to serve and fulfillment of requirements academic training, experience and continuing education.

Some criticize the multi-year journey from certified candidacy to ordination or licensing as too long or cumbersome.

For Lynn the process was positive.

"It started from the beginning," he says, "having a pastor who saw something in me and encouraged me and a church that saw something in me and affirmed me and encouraged me to move on was enormous. Having a congregation that accepted that responsibility and embraced it was gigantic.

The Rev. Kathy Armistead, Ph.D., is a Nashville, Tennessee-base writer.

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