By Pam Ekey
Karen Hayden, Director of Pastoral Excellence, was asked to count the number of exterior doors to her church a number of years ago. She recalls that her congregation was humbled to learn all the ways that could be found to get into the building. Likewise, it is surprising to think about all the ways to invite people to enter into ministry.
She led her report with a summary of the ways people are invited into ministry in the Missouri Annual Conference. Through the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Call Culture Commission, Pastoral Excellence offered two Candidacy Summits for persons entering the candidacy process. There, participants share in worship, relevant workshops and covenant groups as they work with a mentor to prepare to meet with their particular district Board of Ordained Ministry. In August 2013, 34 attended the Candidacy Summit, and 27 attended the January 2014 session.
The Hannah Project encourages laity to help with the recruitment and nurture of candidates for ordained ministry. Four ways a congregation can participate in the Hannah Project include: celebrate Ministry Sunday, sponsor a seminary student, sponsor an exploration of ministry event and support seminary scholarships. “I do not know of a single pastor, that even after accepting their call to ministry, who did not get nervous and question that call,” Hayden said, “While I think that is healthy, we need persons ‘at the door’ skilled in supporting persons in their vocational discernment.”
Pastoral Excellence also sponsors college-age interns. “If you have ever doubted that there is a future for the United Methodist Church in Missouri, I want you to meet our 2014 college interns,” she said. These persons take their baptisms and understanding that they are all ministers seriously. Eight college students will be interning in ministry settings throughout the conference this summer.
One additional student, Kris Keller of Springfield, is a Cole Summer Seminary Intern. In partnership with the Missouri Methodist Foundation, Keller will be an intern at King’s Way UMC in Springfield.
Missouri Fellows is a new program developed in partnership with the Missouri United Methodist Foundation. Two persons have been selected to receive two-year fellowships to work as a staff member with an experienced pastor and a committed congregation. They are Chris Abel, serving at The Gathering in St. Louis, and Jennifer Moxley, who will be on the staff of First UMC in Sikeston. Fellows may be Missouri-certified candidates in seminary, seminary graduates, or licensed local pastors. The program is intended to cultivate leaders who would not otherwise have such a ministry experience, she said.
There are a number of opportunities to foster excellence among clergy throughout the conference. The first is the 48-hour Converge seminar which will be held in Joplin this year. Clergy also may participate in a renewal leadership weekend through the Soderquist Center. Soderquist weekends are offered in Arkansas, Texas or New Mexico. Information about the weekends may be found at soderquist.org.
Another new initiative is the development of Soul Connections, a 24-hour opportunity for spiritual renewal. The first is scheduled for November 3-4 at Cross Pointe Camp and Retreat Center.
After a one-year pause in the Pastoral Leadership Development program, Pastoral Excellence is ready to unveil the new Compass program. Hayden said it is designed to promote resources to strengthen a pastor’s spiritual life and pastoral effectiveness. Over a two-year period, participants will participate in eight large-group gatherings. Pilot testing for the new program is now underway. It is anticipated that the program will be opened to interested clergy in 2015.
The Office of Next Generation Ministry has been formed through Pastoral Excellence in order to bring together youth-age ministry, college-age ministry and camping and retreat ministry under one umbrella, allowing the ministries for persons between 12 and 25 years of age to be directed by one person. Garrett Drake is directing the new office.
Hayden also said that Pastoral Excellence and the Board of Ordained Ministry have asked Wade Giffin and Sue Nilson Kibby to serve as consultants to examine the entire clergy ordination process. A task force also has been formed to make recommendations for future Pastoral Excellence changes and initiatives.