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April 19, 2010

Comments

Matt

I'm a part of that under 35 crowd (in fact, I'm not even 30 yet), and I can testify that it can be a difficult process without the knowledgeable assistance of one's pastor and the local church. Discerning and fulfilling a call to ministry is difficult enough, nobody should have to figure it out on their own.

To add on to the first three steps...

4. Get them involved in a variety of ministries on the local level. This will help young people discern the direction of their call. There are a large varities of ministry settings involved in being called to ministry: pastoral ministry, counseling, youth, children's, missions, teaching, etc. Before answering my call to ministry, I felt like I was being called to be a missionary, youth minister, and teacher. Being involved on the local church level helps a person clearly discern his/her call to ministry.

5. Contact the district superintendent, know the process, stay involved in it, and make sure the district superintendent stays involved. When I first started my journey to UM ministry, I contacted my DS and never... NEVER... heard from him. The only time I ever saw him was when I was home from seminary and he happened to be at my home church on that Sunday. I should have been certified as a candidate while in college, and it didn't happen until the year I graduated seminary. The hardest part about being in the process is that nobody seems to know what it looks like.

6. Encourage them every step along the way. It is a long, long journey. I first received my call to ministry as a junior in high school in 1997. I will (hopefully) be in the ordination class of 2011. That's 2 years through high school, 4 years of college, 4 years of seminary, 1 year of working in ministry prior to commissioning (because I wasn't certified as a candidate in time, see #5), and 3 years in the Residents in Ministry program.

David

Does Darrel have a Jewish background? Because it seems to me that they too side with Darrel's points. I believe that Jesus (my opinion) went under the mentor-ship of some elders as he grew into the ministry. I also think that a "ministry mentor" could offer some timely exhortation with life's situations as they arise in some of these young people. I can tell you that, if there had been a mentor-ship program when I excepted Jesus in my life, I believe my life's path would have turned out much differently. Life has pulled me in and out of so many directions, that is taken some time to stabilize and really put serious time into my study again.

Serious daily and hourly study to be completely immersed in God's teachings could be achievable with the help of mentors. Just imagine for moment, what Samuel went through before those first words from God himself. Eli was a great mentor who ate and drank spent many mornings and nights teaching young Samuel.
As a young man I had the determination to learn as much about God as I could. But I was on my own and had nobody to really bring me along. I did rely on the Holy Spirit and I was in a good place in my heart. But I didn't know any better, that there may have been more tools out there like a mentor.

I new how to add and subtract but I couldn't learn some of the Spiritual Geometry by myself with out someone to help me with some of the steps I needed. Imagine giving someone an algebra book and saying "ok, there you go" learn algebra. I needed someone. Someone like you guys.

Mark, I think that this is one of the most important topics that could make an example of. Excellent!

John Battern

I felt the call to ministry in Jr. High but unlike the parents in this story, mine weren't in favor of it. But I still create my pastor during those developing years as a chief influencer upon my life. Unfortunately, since a majority of pastors don't want their children to follow in their footsteps, I'm not sure if it's wise to connect a young person to his/her pastor.

We as United Methodist need to learn from the parachurch organizations and help young people get involved with hands on ministry, and worry less as about the process. If fact, I my opinion the whole ordination process needs to be simplified. Few millenials want to wait 7 years to begin full-time ministry. Unless we understand the here and now mindset of youth, we will continue to lose them to groups that do.

John Beavers

Sensing a call is great. There also needs to be some spiritual growing, training, and maturing. The Bible urges Christians (who are all called to ministry of some sort) to "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Eph. 5:15-20) God wants ministers who are filled with the Holy Spirit, wise, disciplined (so as to make the most of every oppurtunity), humble, thankful, worshipful, and of holy conversation. Mentoring is a good way to train and introduce young people to hands-on ministry. But, if we want ministers who are disciplined, humble, thankful, worshipful, and of holy conversation, there needs to be more than mentoring.

To develop discipline, there must be a time of learning discipline. Samuel was raised in the Tabernacle. His jobs as a youth were not the priestly duties. He probably served the priests and cleaned stuff up, cooked food. Who knows? But his jobs taught him humility and self-discipline. Perhaps our young people called into ministry need to work from the bottom up, in order to gain some humility and self-discipline. Getting them involved in ministry too quickly just reinforces our cultural ideas of instant gratification. God is more concerned with character than with gifting, and we should trust God to produce the character required, and pray hard for the young people to have the required character.

Ministers also need to know how to pray. I don't mean fancy, wow-the-audience prayers. I mean travailing in prayer, holding onto the promises of God in faith. One can only learn how to pray by praying, so there must be some sort of prayer meeting or time with the mentor of extended prayer. During this time, the candidate (for lack of a better word) can be prayed for to be filled with the Holy Spirit, since that is also a requirement.

A minister must also be of holy character--thankful, worshipful, clean speach, displaying the fruit of the Spirit. A revelation of God's character is needed for thankfulness and worshipfulness. Being filled with the Spirit will result in character building. Basically, this stuff takes time alone with God in the spiritual disciplines.

Therefore, with the theory done, let me explain my method of youth candidate training:
1. Start with menial jobs around the church (janitorial duties, preparing communion elements, keeping the grounds, etc). Also, a once-a-month meeting with the Pastor or some other mentor to track the progress of the candidate and other teaching/training.

2. At the same time, have them join the prayer meeting (or start one with the pastor and a few leaders plus the youth).

3. At the same time, assign a regimen of spiritual disciplines (bible reading, prayer, fasting). Have the candidate report things that are happening in these devotional times and what God is revealing to him/her.

4. After some time (4 mos. to a year) have the candidate participate in some ministry oppurtunities appropriate for their level of spirituality.

5. Upon displaying fruit of growth in Christ, the candidate can go on to performing more leadership type of ministry. By this time, the candidate should have a disciplined devotional life, be filled with the Spirit, display fruit of the Spirit, have an active and effective prayer life, and have a strong, fulfilling relationship with Christ. This relationship should reveal the character of God and the character flaws of the candidate, as well as the nature of the world and its need for Christ. With this revelational relationship in place, the candidate should have a strong idea of how God wants to use them in ministry. At this point, they should be ready for ministry training via, either, college or seminary.

This may seem like too long of a process, however, God is patient. We should trust God's timing and His plan of character before ministry. We do not need ministers who have not been transformed by God's Spirit into holy bearers of the Gospel of Christ. We may lose some youth to para-Church ministries, but we need to trust God to provide for the needs of our denomination in His way.

John Beavers - 33
Former Certified Candidate
Pastor's Spouse - Shattuck, OK

Ben McGehee

I agree with Matt's comments. 2 of them were exactly the steps that I was thinking about:

4. Encourage them to get involved in hand-on ministry at the local church. Give them experience in decision-making, planning, preparation, execution, and evalutation.

5. Connect them with the D.S. My DS was very active in my process. While he was notorious bad with the paperwork, he did stay in contact with me throughout college and seminary - and is still a friend.

6. My Conference (Louisiana) has a great program called the "Discerners Academy." I didn't go through it - because it started right after I entered seminary - but those who have gone through it have been really helped. The purpose is to gather together those who feeled called into ministry and help them discern what avenue they need to take: lay ministry, ordained ministry as a deacon or elder, youth pastor, campus minister, etc. I recently encouraged a college student to go to one, and she got a lot out of it. She had felt a call to ministry in high school, but was beginning to back away, because she wasn't sure if there was a place for her gifts and abilities in the Methodist system. After going to the Academy, she has realized taht not only is there a place for her, but that we really need people like her in ministry. She's still not sure exactly what she will do, but she's actively exploring it.

Andrew Conard

Mark - You have set up a great start with the three points that you mention. Others to add to the list include:
* Create a monthly gathering of students considering a call to ministry. This allows conversation with peers about the experience of call and is a real reminder that there are actually others considering full time ministry as a United Methodist pastor. These gatherings could include social time, visits to other faith communities, presentation and conversation with key leaders across ministry areas.
* Create regular opportunity for worship leadership - outside of a once a year "youth Sunday." This could be reading scripture, preaching, musical offerings, call and response liturgy elements. This allows other students to see their peers in leadership and makes it easier to picture doing something similar.
* At least once a year focus the entire worship service on God's call in one's life. Clearly paint the opportunity for impact in God's kingdom and make people considering ministry.
* At a confirmation retreat, Sunday school gathering or other event, create the opportunity for small groups to name someone in their group as potentially being a pastor. This may be the first time that a student has considered the possibility and to have your peers name the possible gift in you is powerful.
* Ben, John and Matt all point out the power in being involved in hands on ministry. Living it out could be a great way of cultivating call in an individual.
Ultimately, this is all about creating a culture of the call throughout the local church in which it makes sense for a young person to recognize and respond to the opportunity to be a full time United Methodist pastor.

Jonathan

I would note that these suggestions require a lot of work/involvement by the pastors & other leaders. Sadly at my church I don't see that kind if sacrifice from the pastors. If you rember it was Jesus who called the apostles to follow; we need that same quality from our elders, drawing the youth up into spiritual maturation & leadership.

Randy Willis

Great topic. I'm looking forward to developing a more intentional strategy myself out of this conversation!

I'd like to see the MENTOR also be a discipler who helps the young person grow strong in character, as well as discern God's call on his or her life.

I like the idea of a PEER GROUP whether in the local church / district / conference. Groups could occasionally meet for worship and discussion, perhaps in a retreat setting.

Offer a SUMMER CAMP for those discerning a call to leadership where youth could have fun and prepare for ministry/leadership (perhaps from several different guest speakers/leaders).

And as others have noted, varied, practical, hands-on experience is crucial to discerning one's call (including cross-cultural experiences/mission trips).

Caution: Whatever process/strategy we develop, let's not overcomplicate it or make it rigid. The focus should be on DISCERNMENT and FORMATION, not jumping through a series of hoops. In other words, it's about the journey, not just the destination.

Patti Harris

Wow – there are some awesome comments that have been contributed by everyone here! Here are my thoughts:

1. Teach them to practice the Spiritual disciplines - because they must have a close relationship to God to make it all the way into ministerial service, and to succeed at it. This is vital!
2. Teach them about their armor: Ephesians 6. They NEED to be able to withstand the attacks of the enemy or they’ll never ‘make it’ as a pastor. Boy, do the spiritual attacks ever increase when you’re serious about serving God. The enemy will try to discourage them, distract them, lead them into sin, and get them to give up and quit.
3. Before they head off to college or seminary I think it would be good to have some sort of introductory class explaining what’s involved—the good, the bad, the ugly—of pasturing.
4. Mentor them.
5. Introduce them to Christian resources on the web that can help build their knowledge base and expand their minds to realize this is a “world wide” work we’re involved in.
6. Advise them on what classes to take and help them find an appropriate school.
7. As they get a little older, work them into various leadership roles, maybe even opportunities to speak in front of their peers.

And, don’t shut the door on young women. All too often it seems like the ministry is an “all boys club.” Even at most of the largest Christian conferences, there is only a “token” woman speaking. Far too often, and by far too many, it is assumed that a woman either won’t want to, shouldn’t, or can’t do the job of stepping up to the pulpit. Women preachers are rarities. I do not believe they should be – I don’t think God ever intended it to be that way. Sure, maybe they should wait until their kids are a little older, but by then they’re often “pigeon holed” into a role that church leadership and other members “expect” of them—and pastoring or preaching is seldom, if ever, an option. Even in a lot of “forward thinking” churches, its tough to break out of the mold the church casts for women. We’re relegated to teaching kids or women’s groups—which is awesome, if that’s where one’s God-given passions and gifts lead them. But it’s a long, uphill battle for a woman who feels led to preach and/or pastor.

Lastly – the para-church organizations I’m familiar with are doing the most amazing & awesome things for God! Don’t forget that if a young person has an intimate relationship with God, that young person will be led by God in the direction God wants them to serve. Don’t shut the door on opportunities that seem “outside” of the church leadership’s established preconceived and accepted “boxes.” Jesus often did things “outside the box” when he walked this earth in human form.

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute my 2-cents worth.

Chad Barden

I am a little delayed in my comments to #3 as #4 was just posted today. Nonetheless, here are my thoughts on recruiting and encouraging young people who have heard a call into ministry:

1. Find those lay people in the church (UMC collectively) who heard a call into ministry and did not listen and follow. There are bound to be some of them. Get them to talk about their decision and regret for not heeding that call. Use their stories and mentoring to help encourage the youth who are feeling that pull toward ministry in their hearts. Make this 'support group' of sorts a resource to all of the churches in the district.

2. Provide a credible skills assessment that works. You feel a call into ministry...great!...where do you fit?....what makes you come alive within the work of the Kingdom?....We do career assessments for all professional career possibilities, but we need to recognize that the call to ministry need not be that generic. We need to help young people find their SPECIFIC place within ministry. Else, the concept can be too vague and not become a battle cry for a young man or woman. Kids need goals....specific goals...that are tailored just for them. In order to help kids identify exactly what their aim in the Kingdom building process should be, we need meaningful assessment tools to help them find their way.

3. Give them apprenticeship opportunities. Let kids experience the role of clergy as an apprentice. Let them see what it is like to shepherd a flock. Let them 'job shadow' as a surgeon lets a young person observe a procedure. If the call is real, the job shadowing should get them even more excited about the prospect of becoming a pastor.

I am sure there are some more, but I think these are the top 3, formalized programs the UMC could establish to cultivate a younger clergy.

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