RIOM Goes Digital
(Kari Barlow for the Alabama-West Florida Conference) - A shift toward digital resources in the Alabama-West Florida Conference is making it easier for newly commissioned ministers to navigate the challenging path to ordination.
Conference officials say the decision to make its Residency in Ordained Ministry program accessible through an online portal has resulted in more efficiency and greater connections among the candidates.
“It’s how we live now, and it’s how we’re going to live in the future,” said Rev. June Jernigan, Assistant to Bishop David Graves and Director of Ministerial Services. “The Alabama-West Florida Conference is giving our residents this gift. It’s a gift and an investment in them.”
During RIOM—the required two-year provisional period between commissioning and ordination—candidates are tasked with not only with further discerning their call to ministry but also completing an extensive curriculum unique to their annual conference.
“It’s really the foundation,” Jernigan said. “We’re preparing them for lifelong, fruitful ministry.”
In years past, the new pastors had to delve old-school style into giant binders of information to complete assignments and access study materials. Today they click a few links and log in to a secure website.
“They love it!” Jernigan said. “It’s really a great tool because it allows us to use videos and blogs and TED Talks. … If you can hear one of the best preachers in the country preach, wouldn’t that be grand, instead of reading it?”
The RIOM curriculum is designed to help candidates integrate their call stories—how they were mentored or nurtured in their decision to pursue ministry—theological training and spiritual practices and disciplines. During the first year, candidates meet one day each month to work through the curriculum together. In the second and final year, candidates must also complete and evaluate a ministry project at their current congregation or extension ministry.
With the online portal, candidates can accomplish many of those tasks digitally—whether they’re taking course notes, writing essays, messaging an instructor or taking an assessment, Jernigan said.
“When they have homework, they just send it through the portal to their leaders,” she added. “They don’t even have to touch a piece of paper unless they want to!”
Rev. Angie Long, pastor at Grenville FUMC said, “I have the honor to serve as a current RIOM leader and see first hand how this portal is more efficient for our candidates. Having gone through the ordination process several years ago, I am pleased to see the progress our conference has made in reducing time and paperwork for those seeking to be ordained."
The Conference’s RIOM curriculum is currently being used by two other annual conferences, the North Carolina Conference and the Western North Carolina Conference but is available to any conference that is interested, Jernigan said.
“We definitely believe this could help every Board of Ordained Ministry in the United Methodist Church,” she said. “We’re just offering it to other conferences and hoping they might find it to be of some help.”