Hello Rev. Neal,
To make a long story as short as possible, I am a 41 year old man that has felt the call of God. My path is a bit unusual in that I grew up Greek Orthodox, but never felt truly at home. I have always read and studied the bible, and didn't agree with everything in that church. About 3 years ago I met a Baptist preacher, and started attending that church, and agreed with much more of the principles, and have been taking some classes online at Baptist University toward my Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies. However, some time ago, I met a went to a church and have felt a connection with the Pastor and the church that I haven't truly felt ever. I didn't know what a Methodist church was truly like. I believe that is finally the denomination that I feel at home with. My question, what is the best possible path that you see for me educationally. I have the full support of my Pastor,who says that he believes I am gifted and have started meeting him weekly on a one on one basis. He tells me that at some point I will meet the bishop to get his blessing. I feel a little odd that I am feeling this call this late in life, but I do believe it is unmistakable. Thank you for your time.
I'm sorry for the delay in responding to you ... I've been very busy with preparations for a move to a new congregation.
At any rate, from what you describe it sounds as if you are doing the correct thing in working on your undergraduate degree. Regardless of your path into ministry and denomination of choice, you will need to complete a BA before you can move any further toward ordained ministry.
I assume that you're looking at the ministry of an Elder within the United Methodist Church? If so, then you've begun the candidacy process by speaking with your pastor and engage in discernment with him/her regarding the calling to ministry which you have. After you've been a member of that church for a year you can get the approval for Ordained Ministry of the church's SPRC and the Charge Conference. Your pastor should know about these two steps prior to forwarding you to the District Superintendent for a introductory meeting. After that introduction you will appear before the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, which will ask you questions regarding your calling to ministry and approve you for Certification as a Candidate for Ordained Ministry.
During this process you will need to move toward graduation with a BA degree. Then, you'll need to attend either Seminary or your Conference's Course of Study program. Since you're over the age of 40, Course of Study is a real option for you. However, I suggest Seminary, where you'll earn an M.Div degree. This is usually the best route to take, for it is both challenging and life-transforming and it prepares you well for the requirements of ministry in terms of preaching, teaching, worship life, sacramental duties, administration, counseling, etc.
Upon completion of your MDiv degree you will qualify to appear before the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for approval to be commissioned by the Bishop and will become a Provisional Member of the Conference. You'll then be under appointment of the Bishop and in ministry either as an Associate Pastor in a big Church or the Pastor of a smaller one. Following 2 years in the Residency program as a Provisional Member of the Conference, you'll appear a second time before the Board of Ordained Ministry and, assuming you pass their examination, you'll be elected to Full membership and ordained an Elder.
The path into ordained ministry in the UMC is a rather lengthy one. I suggest you talk with your pastor regarding your needs and abilities relative to either Seminary or the Course of Study program. Being 41 years old isn't really very old these days for answering the call to ordained ministry, and Seminary would be a faster track to completing the mandatory educational requirements prior to pastoral ministry, however people over the age of 40 are sometimes advised to go through the Course of Study program because the educational work is spaced out over a longer period of time and, in some ways, is easier to complete.
Regardless of your choice in the pathway to ordained ministry in the UMC, I pray your journey is fulfilling and that your discernment process is rich with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.