How do you talk to students about God calling them into ministry? That is a question I have been plagued with for the last year or so. After hearing about what Church of the Resurrection does in their MAC Track Program (MAC = Ministry as a Career) I was wondering how I could help inspire, cultivate, and encourage the students in my church, district and conference to follow God’s calling in their lives.
I was introduced to the idea of being called into ministry by my associate pastor when I was 16 years old. I had asked him, “How much does a Youth Pastor make?” which he followed up with, “Let’s get together and talk.” He shared with me his calling story and expressed the idea that I may be called into the ministry as well. He saw some things in me that I didn’t even know about yet. He pushed me to explore the ministry and I did in college. Finally through some hands on experience working as an intern in the Western North Carolina Conference Center I learned I was called into ordained ministry and I started the candidacy process.
But what I soon realized is that there is not much out there to help Middle and High School students explore the idea of being called. If it wasn’t for my associate pastor I would have never known because it wasn’t something ingrained in the conversation at youth group or at church in general. After hearing about the MAC Track I contacted the head minister of that program at COR to see what they do and how that might translate into something for my area.
My brain swirled with ideas but I never knew how to get it off the ground. Then I visited the conference center and went to say hello to a friend of mine. We were ordained together and I knew she had a new position in the Conference Office. I learned she was now the Associate Director of Ministerial Services. What that translated to was she was in charge of people who were exploring their calling, were starting the candidacy process and through ordination. I told her we needed to talk.
During our conversations we found out that we, as a conference, have a huge gap in our system when it comes to Middle and High School students. We have nothing on District or Conference levels to encourage and cultivate a sense of calling in their lives. We explored different options of what it may look like to do something on a conference or district level in this area. Finally we decided that the district level is where we should start and we should start with one event. We formed a planning team of young clergy and the Metro District IDK ’14 was born.
IDK, for those who don’t know (get it J), is texting short hand for “I Don’t Know”. IDK ’14: Turing Don’t into Do, is our attempt to help cultivate, encourage and start a conversation with students in our district who may feel called into some sort of ministry. It could missions, local church, chaplaincy, working with homeless, WHATEVER. We aren’t recruiting Elders or Deacons, we are simply starting the conversation and leading them to the path to start this calling journey.
I am truly excited about this event and thrilled it is coming into fruition. Our hope is that after this test run is over we can learn what worked and what didn’t. Then we can duplicate this in other districts around our conference. We hope that after these events, possible small groups can start where people are sitting down with students to continue to check in with them and see how their journey is going. We are also asking that every church that sends a student or students to this event also sends at least one sponsor. This sponsor will learn how to encourage this student in the process and ways the local church can help guide and cultivate this calling in their student’s life.
If all goes well, over the next three years we could see a culture of call emerge within the Metro District and possibly the Western North Carolina Conference. At least that is the dream, and the way I think God is directing us.
So here is where I need your help. All who read this, both lay and clergy alike, I need some advice. During our day long IDK ’14 event, I will have an hour and a half to teach and share my calling story. What do you think would be essential to tell them? We want this event to be upbeat and positive. This is not the time to start to discuss the long ordination process and all the issues involved with that. Nor do we want to turn this into a gripe session about the way ministry can be a drag sometimes on families and lead to an early death (depending on which study you read).
I would like my teaching time to be focused on how God moves in people to express God’s love to the world. I want to share how exciting ministry is and how wonderful it is to be used by God to make a difference in this world. What I need help with is some other ideas. What would you share and what would you think is most important for someone who is just starting this journey to know.
Please leave a comment or you can email me at revjimparsons at g mail dot com.
Thank you for reading and please keep this event in your prayers.