Getting ordained can be an incredibly rewarding step to take in one’s life. However, those unfamiliar with the concept of ordination often have questions about it works, such as:
- What is ordination?
- How is ordination carried out?
- What does ordination require?
- How much does it cost to get ordained?
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, there aren’t standard answers to these questions. The reality is that the process can be as simple or complicated as a given religious body wishes it to be.
Generally speaking, ordination is a rite for the commissioning of ministers. This is done through the authority given by the head of a religious organization. Note: for it to carry legal weight in the United States, the organization providing ordination must be duly incorporated as an active church.
What Is Ordination and How Does It Work?
Different ordaining bodies each have their own means of carrying out the ordination process. Some institute a lengthy list of requirements that demand a serious time commitment (we’re talking years, typically). Others, like the Universal Life Church, offer ordination online via a simple application on its website.
Now, it’s not uncommon for someone to think of online ordination as somehow illegitimate because it’s free and easy compared to traditional ordination, though this is not the case. Putting folks through extra rigmarole doesn’t actually add anything to the recognition of an ordination. In the vast majority of areas, a ULC ordination is exactly the same as the ordination of any other church.
If you grew up within a well established faith tradition, you might already be familiar with some of the more traditional methods of ordination. But what exactly does this entail?
For both Catholics and Protestants, would-be ministers typically attend seminary, which is a college that prepares students for leadership positions within the church. Here they study the Bible and theology typically from the perspective of their specific denomination, as different branches within the faith either emphasize different aspects of Christianity or sometimes interpret scriptures in entirely different ways.
Similarly, in Judaism one might be required to attend rabbinical school for a period between 3 and 6 years. In addition to theological study, prospective rabbis are also charged with becoming experts in the historical development of Judaism.
How Much Does Traditional Ordination Cost?
As one might expect, postsecondary religious schools can charge top dollar for tuition. Think typical college tuition prices – somewhere in the neighborhood of tens of thousands of dollars a year. In addition, they will likely require that attendees do the following before receiving ordination:
- adhere to a specific and strict code of ethics regardless of their personal views
- profess belief in alignment with their denomination even if their own interpretations of the faith or texts differ
- pass academic tests that focus on details rather than one’s ability to interact with and lead a congregation
This is obviously a substantial commitment, and one that many people find deeply worthwhile. That said, it ought to be noted that that after years of study and thousands of dollars paid in tuition, these students are granted the exact same legal powers and privileges enjoyed by those who become ordained online – for free – through the Universal Life Church Ministries.
Why Is ULC Ordination Free?
The Universal Life Church Ministries champions a firm stance that anyone called to the ministry for any reason should be allowed to heed that call with as few barriers as possible, and this is manifested in our cost free sign-up.
This means there is no fee to join, no monthly or yearly dues, no expectation of tithing, and ordination never has to be renewed – it is good for life.
The ULC is used to hearing from skeptics who think that is that this is too good to be true, that there must be some catch. And that is an understandable point of view! Many people simply assume that it is an unwritten rule that to become a minister you must go through seminary or rabbinical school, or at the very least pass some sort of background check or theological test.
But that is not the case! Any religious organization is free to set its own standards for what is required to become ordained, and the ULC has opted for a free and open online model.
With that said, the requirements to carry out legal ceremonies as a member of the clergy (such as performing a wedding) vary from state to state. In some places, proof of ordination is required to officiate weddings. The ULC urges its ministers to visit its state-by-state guide for how to perform a wedding to ensure they have everything they’ll need to successfully fulfill their duties.
What Are the Benefits of Ordination?
Just in case it wasn’t already clear: ULC ordination grants all the same authority as ordination provided by traditional religious organizations. Once ordained, you can do things like:
- Officiate weddings
- Perform baptisms, confirmations, consecrations, blessings,and christenings
- Lead specific traditions, such as hand-fasting ceremonies
- Preside over funerals, last rites, and consecrations
- Start a church or ministry
- Carry out any other duties the law affords clergy in your area
There is no limit to how you put your free ordination to use. Some folks have even made a career out of their work as a ULC minister! For example, many people ordained online through the ULC go on to become part-time or full-time wedding officiants.
Although it’s not typical to charge a premium when performing weddings for friends and family, rendering your services to the public can fetch higher rates. If this interests you, read up on how much you should charge as a wedding officiant.
Likewise, numerous ministers have taken up positions as the head pastor of either an existing church or one that they helped create. Perhaps you live in an area that is spiritually underserved, or maybe you just don’t see any local organizations that speak truth to your particular beliefs. A career as head of a congregation can be a challenging yet fulfilling undertaking.
WWhatever your goals might be, getting ordained with the Universal Life Church is the first step on your journey.