This morning I met with a pastor friend whose educational and candidacy process I have observed and cheered for ten years. She is now being appointed as a candidacy mentor for me as I begin my journey toward ordination as a deacon in the United Methodist Church. I was talking to her about why I had made the decision to pursue ordination – in order to counsel under a pastoral license – instead of electing to continue with additional graduate school classes and internships in order to be eligible to obtain a state license as a mental health counselor. My intention from the first moment I considered graduate school was to become a pastoral counselor.
As she and I talked about the educational component of my candidacy program – 24 hours of graduate theological studies to be completed through Asbury Theological Seminary- I suddenly realized that what I am having to get for the pastoral license in semester hours is exactly what I would have had to get in additional semester hours in my counseling masters study had I pursued the licensed mental health counselor route. Then once I am commissioned, I have to complete two years of probationary status, the same time that I would have had to counsel under supervision before I could have gotten licensed in mental health.
It made me laugh to realize that for either route I might have chosen I was looking at essentially the same cost in money, time, and hassle. Somehow it gave me some relief to realize that. Now I don’t feel like I am unnecessarily “wasting” anything. I’ve just chosen a more specialized route to a legitimate counseling goal. It’s what I needed to get my attitude right for the next phase of studies. And I’ve had a little break in the midst of it and gotten a head start on the vocational component in my work with women in recovery.
When I walked in to meet with her this morning I was having a little debate in my head about why I was putting myself through this and questioning whether I was up for 8 more graduate courses. But when I sat down and we began to talk and this dawned on me, I realized God was not going to let me short cut anything. I’ll have the same number of hours and supervised practice that any state licensed counselor would have, it’ll just be with the particular biblical focus that He’d intended for me all along, too! It feels great to finally be settled on this course of action and no longer equivocating. I am ready to begin!