If I were in charge of the Call to Action, which I clearly am not, the number one priority would be aggressively recruiting younger clergy. Unfortunately, The United Methodist Church’s approach to ordination in many ways is almost the exact opposite of recruitment.
For too many people I hear from, the ordination process feel like a burden of endless obstacles in their path and hoops to jump through. To make things worse, prospective clergy are sometimes ignored or treated with indifference. I have heard many people from many different annual conferences say that they were told that it was their responsibility to keep track of their paperwork, not the DCoM or BOM.
As I have interacted with gifted younger people who feel called to local church ministry, I have had the thought that it feels like the church is almost daring them to go and do something else with their life. Sometimes, it feels like we are doing all that we can to be inhospitable and make them feel like their calling is an imposition on the church.
The irony is that the exact opposite is true. The church is desperate not just for younger clergy, but for gifted clergy who are passionate about being ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If there is one thing that I think the church could do that would be the most likely to have a positive impact on the church, it would be pouring time, money, and resources into recruiting the most gifted spirit-filled younger clergy we can find.
Here’s one possibility: What if every Annual Conference made it a priority in the next quadrennium to find 10 women and men, who were 25 and younger and displayed unmistakable passion and giftedness for ministry, and then did everything that they could to make sure that these people progressed through the candidacy process as efficiently as possible (with integrity). And then they were put in positions where they were most likely to thrive. What if we treated them like they had something of urgent importance to offer to the church not in a few decades, but NOW? If a group of young leaders were encouraged, nurtured, supported, and empowered to fulfill their callings, I would be shocked if they didn’t have a huge impact on the church.
There might be a better way to do this, and there might be something that would be even more important. But if there were one thing that I could do that I would be most confident would pay dividends, I would search far and wide for the next generation of leaders that God is raising up and I would put them in positions to thrive today.
If you are a pastor and you are reading this, let me ask you: What are you doing to raise up, encourage, and support the next generation of leaders? Maybe the best way to ask this question is to ask you what you wish someone had done for you when you were preparing for full-time local church ministry?
I often hear seminary students talk about being disappointed by the feeling that they are abandoned by their annual conference while they are in seminary – that they feel invisible. How can you communicate to someone who is ready to make a difference for the kingdom of God that you believe in them and are willing to invest in them?
How are you investing in the future leadership of the church?