Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > November 2009 > News - November 2009
Young adults urged to embrace call to ministry

Students attending EXPLORATION 2009 listen as a panel of young
United Methodist clergy talk about the unique challenges faced
by young adults in ministry. A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

Click image to view EXPLORATION 2009 photo slideshow.

By Vicki Brown*
Nov. 17, 2009 | DALLAS (UMNS)

One of her first appointments was to an inner city church in Cleveland in the midst of a school busing crisis. She lived in a parsonage across the street from an X-rated theater and a parking lot where a motorcycle gang hung out.

But she was not alone, Minnesota Area Bishop Sally Dyck told more than 500 young adults contemplating calls to ministry at EXPLORATION 2009.

Minnesota Area Bishop Sally Dyck
preached during a worship service.
A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown.

“No one ever bothered my property or me,” she said. “It gave me religion, I learned to trust in Jesus like I had never trusted in Jesus before.”

At a time when the number of young elders is not keeping pace with clergy entering retirement age, Dyck and several other church leaders encouraged young adults at the Nov. 13-15 event to trust God in considering their own call to service in the church.

And 170 of the 535 high school seniors and young adults in attendance said yes to that call to ordained ministry. They signed commitment cards indicating they are ready to serve the church as ordained elders and deacons. Another 96 said God was calling them to ministry other than ordination.

New voices needed

The event, sponsored by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, comes as a new study shows the number of "young elders"—clergy under age 35—isn't keeping pace with clergy entering retirement age. The fastest growing segment of United Methodist clergy is over age 55, according to the study by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.

The number of young elders dropped slightly from 910 in 2008 to 906 in 2009. The percentage of young elders made up 5.25 percent of active elders in 2009, a slight increase from 5.21 percent in 2008. Young deacons now make up 8.42 percent of deacons, although their numbers remain small—77 out of 915 ordained deacons.

Church leaders repeatedly told young adults at EXPLORATION 2009 that their leadership is needed now in The United Methodist Church.

“God is calling us to bring some freshness, some newness, to be innovative. God is calling you to lead us to that,” the Rev. Tyrone Gordon, pastor of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, said in his sermon during opening worship Friday night. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. And when you hear God’s voice speaking to you, you don’t have to be afraid because God’s not going to leave you alone.”

Listening to one another

Participants said that while the preachers and worship were inspiring, the small group sessions and workshops on such topics as “How Do I Know God Is Calling Me?” were the heart of the event.

“It was great to be in a community with people who are in a similar place, being able to discern my call with people in the same place,” said Kenneth Schoon, a senior at the University of Cincinnati.

(From left) Jessica Branch, Mary
D’Amico and Caitlyn Butler, students
from North Central College, Naperville,
Ill., discuss their faith journey.
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.


Many said the call to ministry can be isolating and that hearing testimony of the preachers, elders and deacons—as well as the discussions in small groups—helped them realize they were not alone.

Amy Beckwith of Arlington, Va., said her small group was all recent graduates who are “trying to figure out what to do next.” A recent graduate of Longwood University in Farmville, Va., she said members of her group are going to try to stay in touch with each other after the event as they all continue the discernment process.

“One of the best things about this event was worshipping with a bunch of young adults. That is really hard to find,” Beckwith said.

Some found a call to lay ministry.

Stuart Jones, a student at Elon University in Elon, N.C., said he had considered religious studies with an eye toward seminary. “I’ve also thought about mission work, and I think this event helped me realize I’m not called to ordained ministry.”

Jones, who is a photographer, said he attended the workshop on non-ordained options for ministry. “I had been thinking about using my photography to promote mission programs, and I found out there is actually someone who does that.”

Open doors

Many of the speakers reminded participants that if they accept God’s call, they will not be alone.

We invite you to join the dialogue. Share your comments.

Post a comment

“The bishops of your church are concerned about you and praying for you, and we want to make sure you know there’s a place for you,” said Bishop Earl Bledsoe, episcopal leader of the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference. “Our doors will always be open if you want to talk.”

The Rev. Motoe Yamada, senior pastor of Japanese United Methodist Church in Sacramento, Calif., said in the sermon at closing worship that when she felt God’s call to ministry, her own pastor discouraged her.

“I hope you don’t get discouraged, and I hope you find people to support you,” Yamada said. “People will tell you that they need you in the future, but we need you now. You are already doing ministry.”

*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Photo Slideshow


Related Articles

Bishops seek younger church membership by 2019

Study highlights lack of young clergy

Young clergy evangelize in cyberspace

Relationships encourage young clergy hopefuls


Explore Calling

United Methodist Young Clergy

Comments will be moderated. Please see our Comment Policy for more information.
Comment Policy

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW