Striving to be a more effective and prepared servant
From early on in life my desire has been to follow God and serve Him in any capacity that was available to me. My grandparents, who actively involved me in the spiritual life of our family, raised me in a Christian household.
I accepted Christ as my personal savior when I was nine years old. As a teenager I felt a strong, consuming desire to do more with my life, especially as it related to life within the local church. After much prayer and spiritual counseling, I answered the call to preach when I was 16 and delivered my first sermon when I was 17, becoming the fourth generation of pastors/ministers in my family. Eventually, my responsibilities within the local church increased. I have served as Youth Minister, Associate Minister, Assistant Pastor, Interim Pastor, and Senior Pastor in churches in Missouri and Texas.
Creating a “Culture of Calling”
What happens when God Calls?
While there has been growth in mid-life folks feeling called to ministry after a career (or two), Central remains interested and concerned for those who hear God’s calling as youth. Last month, a small ecumenical group of pastors, denominational executives, and youth leaders met at Central to talk about youth in our churches. Specifically, how do we help churches care for middle and high school students as they make some of the most important spiritual decisions of their lives? We wanted to know how Central and church leaders could nourish a “Culture of Calling” in our congregations. How can we best weave together a variety of ways to reach these youth? The question led us to exciting plans, including something called a “Gospel Slam,” and a Sample Seminary Day.
We began by remembering how people had helped us.
A youth pastor spoke of peers who nudged, encouraged and called forth responsibilities from him. For another, it was an aunt who was a pastor who took time to ask a 6-year-old theological questions that nurtured the possibility that her ideas mattered. For others it was a pastor, church member, or Sunday School teacher who listened, gave extra time, and did not treat young people “like stupid kids.” Our stories reminded us that encouragement and guidance in our journeys of faith are indispensable.
And so, weaving together ideas we brainstormed around the table, such as a summer camp prayer partner program, a youth leaders network, seminary-centered events, a circle of calling ritual, lay leader development, seminary student mentors for youth and lay leaders – along with seed money from American Baptist Churches USA for Central’s Transformed by the Spirit Leadership Center – our Culture of Calling Group started planning. Two events to be held at Central are in the beginning stages: a Gospel Slam, a creative way for teens to share the gospel in their own words (see www.academyofpreachers.net); and a Sample Seminary Day for youth and youth leaders with classroom experiences, mentoring, celebrating and consecrating the students’ vocational callings, and discernment practice. Few goals are more urgent or important than nurturing discipleship of our youth. We are excited about the energy and creativity that the Culture of Calling ministry has produced, and we invite you to join us.