|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
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
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
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.”
Many of the speakers reminded participants that if they accept God’s call, they will not be alone.
“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
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
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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