Summit to Focus on Young Clergy Initiative Priorities

Summit to Focus on Young Clergy Initiative Priorities


by Vicki Brown

Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. prays with a young man during Saturday evening’s commitment service at Exploration 2011. The service was the culmination of the discernment event sponsored by GBHEM. During the service, 172 young adults signed cards saying they feel God is calling them to ordained ministry. Photo by Vicki Brown.

Encouraging young adults to respond to God’s call to ordained ministry and helping them overcome roadblocks to accepting that call will be the focus of a Young Clergy Summit on Aug. 20-21 in Nashville.

The gathering, sponsored and convened by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, will include agency and annual conference staff, pastors, and young clergy. It will begin the work of the Young Clergy Initiative approved by General Conference 2012, said the Rev. Kim Cape, GBHEM’s general secretary. General Conference created the $7 million initiative.

Participants will include the Rev. Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas; the Rev. April Casperson, director of Internal Operations for Spark12 and director of admissions for Methodist Theological School in Ohio; the Rev. DJ del Rosario, executive director of Spark12 and senior pastor of Bothell United Methodist Church in Seattle, Wash.; Cape; the Rev. Gwen Purushotham, associate general secretary of GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Ministry; and the Rev. Lisa Garvin, director of Ministerial Services for the Mississippi Annual Conference; and more.

Cape said General Conference made a momentous decision in creating the Young Clergy Initiative.

“We know that vital congregations require vital clergy leaders. Investing in young clergy, understanding their challenges, and addressing those challenges can encourage talented young people to see a clear way forward in living into their God-given call to ministry,” Cape said. “We need to listen closely to these young people, understand the roadblocks in their path, ask ourselves if we are complicit in those roadblocks, and problem-solve with them.”

She said those who work with young people must also encourage local churches, our families of faith, to exert their spiritual leadership and discernment.

“ We need to look and see what God is already doing in our young people, and align our efforts with the Holy Spirit's call,” she said.

Hamilton said the initiative is focused on raising up a new generation of leaders for the UMC.

“Only 950 of our 16,000 active clergy are under age 35. In the next 10 years, we’ll have a wave of retirements among our pastors. This initiative is aimed at helping young adults to hear God’s call and assist them in pursuing ordination. Raising up gifted young leaders is essential to reaching a new generation for Christ and for our churches to have a future,” said Hamilton.

Del Rosario, who was GBHEM’s director of Young Adult Enlistment and Discernment prior to his appointment to Bothell, said the UMC has already done great work with young clergy on the local church level, Annual Conference and through our Boards and Agencies.

“That being said, it’s time for The United Methodist Church to make even greater critical investments in young people like the world has never seen. We cannot be afraid to fail, to act or to make an intentional investment with this money the Church has entrusted us with. My prayer is that we act decisively, quickly and with transparency. Our future deserves nothing less than the very best we have to offer,” Del Rosario said.

Cape said one particular concern is helping young adults graduate from seminary without a tremendous burden of debt.

Garvin said she sees the meeting and the initiative as an opportunity to collaborate and make a significant investment in developing young clergy.

“I hope we will identify some the best and brightest and we will send them to be equipped for ministry. … I hope this will be an opportunity to think about what holistic formation looks like for young clergy,” she said.

“How do we cultivate and nurture young people and then support and nurture them throughout their ministerial life?” she asked.

*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

From Vicki Brown, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry