God is calling people in to pastoral leadership, but it seems as though the call is going unheeded, at times, from those in our youngest generations. The UMC (as well as other denominations) has seen a drop in the number of clergy ages 35 and younger. I’ve written about the lack of young people in both our congregations and in leadership here and here.
Adam Hamilton featured an interesting post entitled “The Future of the Church” on his blog, reflecting on his recent experience with Church of the Resurrection‘s confirmation program. One of the goals COR has set is to see 200 young people enter clergy ranks in the next 20 years. As a result, the confirmation program has featured a space in which young people identify those who seem to have the gifts for pastoral leadership in their midst, whether that be through observation of their character, their insight, or their leadership ability. Commentary on this blog post can be found here and here from Jim Morrow. Morrow both applauds Hamilton’s leadership and offers some critical questions that should be considered.
All in all, I’m extremely pleased with Church of the Resurrection’s vision for church leadership. Hamilton, and the church leadership as a whole, have recognized the need in this area and have responded well. COR has provided vision for how the church should be actively engaged in the Missio Dei, and have created an environment where life change and transformation are taking place. Hearing Pastor Adam’s story of engaging young people concerning a call to ministry is encouraging.
I would remind Rev. Hamilton that the young people whom he has engaged are not only the future of the church, but they are also the now–a vital and important part of the body that can encourage us in our commitment to Christ. They are also currently providing leadership–they need not wait until they undertake the vows of ordination. With Morrow I would question the process by which COR will mentor and discern with these young people as they pursue their call–a good question. I am glad to know that Jason Gant and the RezLife team have thought about this and have created a space within their ministry to help students who are discerning a call to ministry, whether it be in the pastoral role or in an associate pastor role (children, youth, etc.).
I hope that Rev. Hamilton continues to consider their vision of 200 young people in clergy within 20 years too small! I also hope that other churches would grasp this vision and create similar cultures in their local congregations. The question needs to be asked, and a theology of vocation needs to be explored. The language and discourse surrounding the call needs to be developed.
God is calling servants into pastoral ministry. Are we helping people to listen and pay attention?