Churches join project to gauge 'pulse' of young adults
April 6, 2004
A UMNS Feature By Pamela Crosby*
Tenn.-The relatively low numbers of young people in mainline
denominations has propelled the United Methodist Church to join in an
interfaith effort to cultivate interest in pastoral ministry among young
people and to help them explore God's call.
denomination, through its Board of Higher Education and Ministry, has
joined the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the
United Church of Christ in a "Pastoral Leadership Effort (PLSE)," an
initiative of the Atlanta-based Fund for Theological Education, Inc.
"pulse," the three-year project is designed to encourage congregations
and campus ministries to invite young people to explore God's call in
their lives. Resource kits, designed to equip congregations to establish
a revitalized culture of the call to pastoral ministry, are being
readied for distribution in early fall.
average age of members of the United Methodist is 57 years, with only
4.7 percent of church members younger than age 18, and 80.1 percent
older than 40. Fewer than 10 percent of clergy are younger than 39.
addition, the number of clergy with master of divinity degrees is
declining and fewer young people see ordination as elder as a
the banner, "for such a time as this," PLSE will enable churches to
identify and track "gifted" young people as they explore the call to
ministry. Protestant church leaders note that the pool of potential
young leaders is the largest in this nation's history, and increasing
numbers of young adults are entering seminary. PLSE will tap into the
renewed spiritual interest of today's young, the leaders say.
theme for PLSE, 'for such a time as this,' looks at the challenges and
issues facing the church," said the Rev. David Fuquay, a United
Methodist working with the Fund for Theological Education, "particularly
the issues of globalization and the rapidly changing world through
high school and younger students have been brought up in a rapidly
changing technological world and view it as the norm, he said, making it
easier for them to know how to engage a global world.
PLSE project is particularly focused on exceptional young people,"
Fuquay said, "who typically are pushed toward being engineers or doctors
or lawyers. Ministry is not necessarily seen as on par with those
professions, and that's a real problem."
Fund for Theological Education represents an attempt to help
congregations understand opportunities related to ordained leadership
and encourages them to call forth gifted, young candidates for ministry.
congregations and campus ministries nominate young ministerial
candidates, PLSE will add their names to a database. The organization
will track aspiring church leaders through their educational
preparation, and help connect them with appropriate resources and
support. Congregational mentors and access to internship opportunities
and ministry programs will also be available to PLSE young leaders.
with the larger effort, each denomination will maintain contact with
its own candidates for ministry, providing information and developing
programs and resources that promote and encourage pastoral ministry.
United Methodist candidates will be connected to conference boards of
ordained ministry, United Methodist-related colleges, campus ministries,
seminaries and special programs.
is funded by a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. The United
Methodist Church, through the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, is
contributing $300,000 toward the project as part of its efforts to
cultivate a new generation of faithful leaders for the denomination, to
reconnect young people with the church and to rebuild the educational
are already seeing the positive results of such efforts as EXPLORATION
events, which encourage youth and young adults to consider the call to
ordained ministry and Student Forum, which develops leadership skills
among our college students," said the Rev. Hal Hartley, the board's
director of student ministries, vocation and enlistment.
will directly involve congregations in calling forth young leadership
for the church and will connect these gifted young people in a seamless
web of support from their youth group, through college, and on into
seminary," he added.
"new and compelling" effort targets "gifted young people who love
technology, yet are excited about and want to respond to God's claim on
their lives," said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the United
Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
emphases in the church combine those two or use technology to reach,
encourage, and inform Christian vocation, she said. The project is an
opportunity for the four denominations to work together and learn from
each other about what God is doing in the lives of young people, she
seeing that young people are going to make a difference in the world
with us or without us," said Fuquay. "They have unique gifts our church
needs, but we won't be able to receive those gifts if we don't invite
them and create that space for them."
information about PLSE is available from the website, www.thePLSE.org,
or from Fuquay by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (404)
is a staff member of the Office of Interpretation at the United
Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. News media can
contact Linda Green at (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.