When ECO was conceived, there was hope that what would be created was a reformed body that kept churches connected, but allowed enough autonomy and flexibility that the local church would be able to flourish, thrive, and plant new churches. When a team of us imagined what the ordination process would look like for future ECO pastors, we took that vision and attempted to create a process that would be adaptable and flexible enough to meet the unique needs of each candidate. We also wanted to create a rigorous process of assessment that would have high expectations of candidates who needed to be theologically astute, knowledgeable of scripture, called and supported by their church community, and had already served the church successfully in multiple capacities.
We needed to establish non-negotiable standards, such as adherence to the Essential Tenants and support of women in leadership in all areas of ministry. We also created standards that gave each Pastoral Ministry Ordination Team (PMOT) the flexibility to treat every candidate as an individual, called by God, to serve the church in the capacity of pastor. This meant, PMOTs couldn’t just look at candidates for pastoral ministry as “GIPs” (General Issue Pastors). Instead, we desired to get to know candidates and understand their strengths and weaknesses and to help prepare and equip them for pastoral ministry.
The ECO ordination process has similarities to other reformed bodies, but there are also some major differences.
1. We do not have timelines. A candidate can move quickly or slowly through the ordination process. This provides the candidate with the freedom to adapt the ordination process to their needs.
2. While candidates still take four different ordination exams, these exams are not simply pass/fail tests. Instead, these tests are used to actually assess the candidates. We assess what the candidate failed in the exam and through interviews and written responses we develop a way forward with the candidate to work on the deficiency. This may include taking another class, working with a mentor for several months, or spending more time in church ministry before moving forward in pastoral ordination. The process of working through failed exams is one that the majority of ECO candidates have gone through and it’s another way PMOTs mentors equip candidates for pastoral ministry.
3. Candidates are expected to have a great deal of ministry experience before applying for ordination in ECO. One of the goals of the original team who created the ECO ordination process was to dramatically drop the statistic of pastors leaving the ministry after their first five years. We anticipate ECO’s pastors will feel more supported through smaller presbyteries and the requirement to be in regular relationship through Pastoral Covenant Groups.
As ECO continues to grow, it’s our hope to find those who are clearly called by God to lead God’s people in discipleship and to equip the church to reach out to the lost around them by sharing the Gospel with them. We want different perspectives from these called pastors who will challenge us all to go deeper in our discipleship, to help the church stretch further in its proclamation of Jesus Christ who is the hope of the world, and to make a lasting impact in growing the Kingdom of God.
Pastor Nate Dreesmann serves as Pastor/Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church Jerome, ID and is the moderator of ECO's Presbytery of the West. He is passionate about church revitalization, creating new worshipping communities, mentoring future leaders, and helping to create the ECO ordination process. Over the past three years, Jerome church’s worship attendance has grown substantially and the church has sponsored Will and Kari Ritter through ECO's church planter assessment. As of now, the Ritters are the only fully endorsed church planters in the Presbytery of the West. Nate is married to Cari and they have four beautiful children.