|Leadership group fostering churchwide 'culture of call'|
The Rev. Carol Bruse (left) discusses new resources to encourage
young people to enter the ministry. The church's new leadership
development advisory team includes (from left) Laura Sisson, the Rev.
Karen Koons, the Rev. Sara Baron and the Rev. Herb Coleman. A UMNS photo
by Vicki Brown.
By Vicki Brown*
May 16, 2007 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
One year after a startling report showed significantly fewer young
people seeking to become clergy in The United Methodist Church, a new
advisory team has mapped out a strategy to create a churchwide "culture
The National Leadership Development Advisory Team is expediting
information about the ordination process to district superintendents,
boards of ordained ministry, candidacy mentors, pastor/staff parish
relations committees and district committees.
"The approach we’ve been taking is: What can we do right now, within
the process we have, to encourage young people to seek ordination and to
improve the climate for young adults who are in the process," said the
Rev. Meg Lassiat, director of student ministries, vocation and
enlistment at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and
Ministry, which organized the team.
The group plans to create an information package that can foster
sensitivity and support for young adults and those involved in the
candidacy process – a sort of "tool kit" for annual conference staff and
committees that work with candidates, and for those who work with young
people in local churches or on college campuses.
"The approach we’ve been taking is: What
can we do right now … to encourage young people to seek ordination and
to improve the climate for young adults who are in the process."
– The Rev. Meg Lassiat
"The tool kits in general are geared toward helping create a culture
of call," said the Rev. Carol Bruse, Texas Annual Conference.
The advisory team began its work last October and held its second
meeting April 25-27 in Nashville. Its 21 members includes seminarians,
clergy and college students who are under 35, as well as campus
ministers, annual conference staff, agency staff and others who work
with young adults.
The team is developing tip sheets – short, condensed information to
help those involved in the mentoring process for ministry candidates. A
worksheet with tips on helping youth and young adults explore their call
already had been developed.
"The tip sheets will get a lot of information out to a lot of people
in a basic fashion," said Chad Johns, Ohio Wesleyan University.
While some of the information is basic, Lassiat pointed out that some
churches might have only one candidate for ministry every 15 years. The
pastor and members of that church need to know where to easily access
information to help a candidate.
Other priorities are:
- Developing interview questions and suggestions;
- Writing a Bible study for boards of ordained ministry members,
district committee members or anyone who makes decisions about the
- Gathering tips on best practices for annual conferences in
encouraging young people and supporting young adults in the candidacy
- Posting suggestions or liturgy for a worship service to recognize calling;
- Developing short videos and testimonies of young people called to
ministry or adults who are excited about young people in ministry;
- Updating www.explorecalling.org,
a vocational Web site, with these and other materials useful to both
young people who are exploring a call to ordained ministry and those who
work with them.
Saying that the church as a whole has begun to recognize its
leadership crisis, several team members cited a 2006 report revealing
that only 4.69 percent of elders in The United Methodist Church are
under age 35.
The report was developed by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at
Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and its director, the Rev.
Lovett Weems. The center is working on a follow-up study, asking United
Methodist clergy 35 or younger to share information about themselves and
their ministries. Topics include factors influencing decisions to
enter ministry, perceptions of how age influences standing in the
church, the nature of current appointments, financial well-being and
levels of satisfaction in ministry.
The Rev. Amy Aiken, an elder in the California-Pacific Annual
Conference, said the candidacy process is so complicated that full-time
pastors struggle to find the time to keep up. "The whole process is so
elaborate and exclusive. Some of it is like hazing. I had to go through
this, and so you have to go through this," she said.
The Rev. Ed Hoke, Illionis Great Rivers Annual Conference, hopes the
work of the leadership team can create sensitivity to young adults that
he does not see now.
Bruse noted that fear is also a factor. "Some worry that if a bunch
of young people come in, other clergy will be threatened," she said.
Team members said plenty of useful information already is available,
such as Bible studies, information about the candidacy process and how
churches can encourage youth to explore ordained ministry.
But Hoke said condensing the information and collecting it on www.explorecalling.org will make it more accessible and user-friendly for those involved in the candidacy process or who work with young people.
*Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of
Interpretation, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist elders under age 35 declining
God's call comes in different ways, clergy tell young people
Major efforts get under way to recruit young clergy
Program seeks to call young people into ministry
Exploring the Calling
Board of Higher Education and Ministry
Answering God's Call for Your Life
Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Lewis Center report on clergy age trends