By Fred Koenig
Last summer Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia was awarded a Young Clergy Initiative Grant of $63,400 from the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, located in Nashville, TN. Young Clergy Initiative grants are awarded to a variety of United Methodist organizations to develop innovative projects of all sizes that could attract young people to ordained ministry in the denomination.
“There are places in our denomination where imaginative ideas are percolating and good, effective work is being done around young people’s discernment of a vocation in ordained leadership. The goal of the grant process is to support that work and hopefully find ways to spread the most fruitful efforts more widely throughout the church,” said the Rev. Trip Lowery, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Director of Young Adult Ministry Discernment and Enlistment.
The goal of the $7 million Young Clergy Initiative, approved by the 2012 General Conference, is to increase the number of young elders and deacons in the UMC. Missouri UMC’s grant will be to fund “The Exploration Project,” a model of ministry internships and fellowships, as well as a “Jr. Pastor” program for children as young as 4th-8th grades to explore careers in ordained ministry in the church. The Exploration Project came from a vision that has developed over the recent years, building on MUMC’s heritage of raising up leaders for the church and strengthening the natural connections with ministry partners such as the Missouri Annual Conference, Central Methodist University, the University of Missouri, Saint Paul School of Theology, local social service agencies and others.
Rev. Amy L. Gearhart, Missouri UMC’s Senior Pastor, says, “God still calls people to lead the church today, and we especially need new leaders who are innovative, creative, imaginative and passionate for offering God’s hope to our struggling world. We are so excited and honored to receive this grant and look forward to all the people we will meet and encourage as they listen for God’s invitation to lead the Church and serve the world.”