Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Young & in Ministry II

Why are young people not entering the pastoral ministry?

I ask myself this question all the time. When I go to clergy meetings most of the people there could be my parents and some my grandparents. I look around and try to find new faces and new voices but they are not there.

I believe there are three reasons why in United Methodism we have this situation: lack of a clear theology of ministry, the climate in our churches, and (what I will call) an unclear future.

Methodism has always struggle with its theology of ministry. We were a lay movement in the early days that only by chance became a church. In American Methodism the heavy influence of a lay movement still resonates in our church. How are we to understand the ordained ministry in our setting? I believe that the struggle for a theology of ministry is really a struggle due to a lack of a clear ecclesiology. Are we a church or a movement? And if a movement does it need an ordained ministry? Due to the lack of clarity many young persons, who want to be part of something, see United Methodist ministry as a burden instead of an important vocational choice. Couple our ambiguous theology with issues such as intinerancy and we have more "stumbling blocks" for young people to answer the call.

The church is not set up for the current generation. We still have old patterns of worship and education. In many parts of the U.S. any new ideas are seen as threats to the current order and to the faith in general. The current divisive political climate makes it more difficult for young people in ministry.

With the current divisive climate, where does the church go? I believe our future is bright because God is with the church. I think we need to find ways to talk to one another with respect. There needs to be a realization that although different in ideology we can be one in the spirit. One of the things that I am doing here is Louisiana is to gather all 22 clergy under the age of 35. We are going to caucus and begin plans to support young clergy and to provide a young clergy voice at the Annual Conference, Jurisdictional Conference, and General Conference level. This will allow us to begin to make progress towards a better church and a better defined theology of ordained ministry.

Here it is Josh. It's been a long time coming but what do you think? Could you caucus the young clergy in the Texas Conference?

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