Saturday, May 14, 2005

Last-minute placement

Covenant Seminary's graduation was yesterday. As I chatted with many of my friends who graduated, most had found placement, or were on the verge of placing. Two weeks ago, most were decidedly not placed. What gives?

It's hard to say why some graduates have trouble finding placement. Many are winsome, skilled at teaching, preaching, and ministry, and quite capable to do the work of a pastor. Sometimes it almost seems like the guys who seem like the “best” candidates take the longest to find placement. Often at the same time, those fellow students who seem least likely to find a call-- because they are looking for something fairly esoteric, for example-- find it quickly and easily. There is also the mystery of the ones who, in my perception, simply don't fit into ministry, yet receive a great call.

The old joke on campus goes like this: if I inquire about someone's placement search, and they respond less-than-favorably, one of us will inevitably say, “Well, there is always the Th.M. [Master of Theology degree].” Like so many jokes, this one is based on truth; I know a number of classmates that have begun another degree at Covenant, or even gone on to a Ph.D. or other program at another institution, mainly because they were not placed by graduation. Most guys come to seminary out of a deep sense of calling, but I suspect too many men who are great candidates-- and should be in ministry today-- are instead working through a degree for which the primary criterion of “call discernment” is the absence of something else to do.

(Disclaimer: I have great appreciation for advanced degrees, and hope to possibly, and eventually, work through one myself; I am not suggesting that additional study is unhelpful to the pastor.)

The bottom line is, regardless of the inherent high-quality of a candidate, their best efforts in the placement process, or the factors I might arrive at through research, placement is no sure-thing. Often, it is late to the game. But for me, this only confirms the importance of a strong sense of calling and a commitment to what the Lord will do.


Adam Tisdale said...

For me, it was discouraging to have such a strong sense of calling, but then to struggle with finding a placement. I did not doubt my calling, but rather it was more with the disappoint of graduation and going to live with my in-laws for a time (whom I love dearly). It is not how I had envisioned things, but I rarely envision things the way God does. And that is where we should find ourselves even in our disappointment, at throne of God. I was also reminded by a friend that God was much more interested in what He would do in me, than through me. Finally, on the other side of placement for over a year now, I have no doubt that God's will is right. Always easier on the other side to see the light.

Ed said...

Good reminders, Adam. Yes, it is always easier to see this from the other side; learning to see it from the front side, however, seems like part of what ministry leadership should be about-- do you agree?