Friday, September 2, 2016

The next generation of ministers

For fourteen years as a Resource Minister in our denomination I worked with dozens of pastor search committees. It was often an exciting and frustrating time for the committee and me. One of the most frustrating aspects was the small number of pastors available for the churches to interview. By a few number I'm writing more about the quality than the quantity. Sometimes I could get 40-50 resumes, but often there would be no more than 3-4 who actually fit the church and its needs.

Smaller churches faced the biggest challenge due to the growing number of people who will not even consider interviewing with smaller churches. Many of these churches are bivocational, and the majority of pastors are still seeking fully-funded positions. Many of these pastors will soon realize the number of these fully-funded pastorates are rapidly declining as many churches are becoming bivocational.

Even larger churches often face challenges when seeking new pastoral leadership. Due to a lack of education, a lack of pastoral experience, or a host of other issues, churches often find it difficult to find a candidate that will be a good match for their current needs.

I thought that this problem might be isolated to the denomination in which I serve, but as I talk with leaders in other denominations I find they struggle to find good matches for their churches. Is there a solution? There is, but it's not a quick one.

Growing up I heard my pastors give an invitation every Sunday at the close of the service. The primary purpose of the invitation was for those who wanted to ask Jesus Christ into their lives as Lord and Savior to come forward. However, almost every invitation in those days also included a call to persons who might sense a call to "full-time Christian service." That was the term I remember hearing most often. Many churches do not give an invitation any more, but among those who do, very few invite persons who sense a call to ministry to respond.

I find this odd because nearly every minister I talk to tells me they are in ministry today because someone asked them to consider that God might be calling them to such service. Many of those conversations may have been private, but there are still many of us who were first challenged by the invitation our pastor gave at the close of each worship service.

Those of us in ministry today need to help others hear God's call on their lives. We cannot call anyone into the ministry. That is God's job, but we can challenge persons to consider that they may have such a call on their lives. If we are to have ministers in the future we need to be prayerfully challenging persons today to consider that call on their lives.

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