Meeting Explores Best Practices for Developing Young Clergy

December 02, 2010

By Vicki Brown*

Rachel Billups grew up in a church of 50 members that was part of a two-point charge served by local pastors, but she said those pastors in that small church "stirred within me a sense of call."
 
Billups, now an ordained elder and pastor of a church of about 300 members, talked about her own call as part of a young clergy panel during the Annual Conference Recruiters Network meeting sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The panelists, all young clergy who had completed the candidacy process recently, talked about what worked for them.
 
Billups and others expressed the belief that The United Methodist Church has to recapture a "culture of call" in which pastors and lay leaders actively seek out the best and brightest young people and urge them to consider ordained ministry.
 
About 70 people from 25 Annual Conferences attended the meeting held Nov. 8-10 in Nashville. They focused on best practices for district superintendents, district committees, and local churches – working with college students, using group mentoring, and internship programs that actually work.
 
The Rev. Meg Lassiat, GBHEM's director of Candidacy, Mentoring, and Conference Relations, said the main goal of the meeting was to bring Annual Conference recruiters and others involved in development of young clergy together for strategic planning about leadership development and supporting young adults who are exploring or entering into a call to ordained ministry.
 
Presentations included the Fund for Theological Education's Calling Congregations program and the Ministry as Career Program of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
 
The Rev. John Kalz, a provisional elder in the Kentucky Conference, said he had a good experience on the ground at a campus ministry where there were "folks who let me do ministry."
 
"The UMC has a lot of great things to offer – you are connected; wherever you go there is a United Methodist Church. The Kentucky Conference did a good job of supporting me and supporting my colleagues. I had great mentors," he said. The Board of Ordained Ministry and others leaders in the Conference were intentional about staying in touch with candidates while they were at seminary, he said, noting that his bishop visited him and others from the Kentucky Conference at the Divinity School at Duke.
 
"They cared for us and called us and made sure we had internships at churches in Kentucky," Kalz said.
 
"What young adults want to know is how the work keys into the mission of the church … I think all the hoops [in the candidacy process] are not so bad if you have someone to walk with you."
 
D.J. del Rosario of the Pacific Northwest Conference said he likes the fact that the candidacy process is tough. "I think this is a great vehicle."
 
Del Rosario, who is now pastor of Lynden United Methodist Church in Lynden, Washington, said he grew up in the Filipino culture, where everyone is asked if they want to be a pastor.
 
"My grandmother wouldn't get off my case," he joked.
 
He said he believes young people will be willing to accept the call to ordained ministry. "I believe young people will invest in what they believe in."
 
Billups talked about her experience in a West Ohio Conference residency program through which she was appointed to serve a pastor in a large church who was willing to actively and intensively mentor her.
 
"I was partnered with an incredible leader, who met with me on a more regular basis than a normal associate pastor," she said. And, she said, she was included in meetings and discussions that she would not have taken part in as an associate pastor.
 
The West Ohio Conference has applied to the Lily Endowment for a $1 million grant to expand that program, said the Rev. Wade Giffin, director of the West Ohio Office of Ministry. Churches must apply to be a residency site. The program pairs a young clergyman or woman with a senior pastor who mentors them for three years, then the young clergy person is appointed senior pastor of a church.
 
Lassiat said participants from several Conferences indicated that they are going to explore internships and regional Exploration events.
 
The national Exploration event, scheduled for Nov. 11-13, 2011, in St. Louis, is for young adults 18-26 years old who are considering a call to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church.
 
To learn more about ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church, visit www.gbhem.org or www.explorecalling.org.
 
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.