Great blogging Ruby - haven't seen you for ages! But look forward to seeing you soon.
Been away for over a week in Oxford at a Conference for Methodist scholars from around the world. It's great to meet colleagues, and it's always challenging to hear how God is working so vitally in so many parts of the world. Makes me feel very inadequate!
Back at home/cliff college now for a few days and my mind is turning to a chapter of a book I am contracted to complete by the end of the coming week! It is nowhere near and I need help!
The book focuses on young adults who are experiencing the call of God in their lives to 'ministry', often full time, often for life, but not always.
There are very few of them offering, and all mainline churches bleat from time to time that not enough younger folk are offering for ministry/ ordination and they would like more. Fair enough.
So I just throw out some random thoughts in the hope of responses from you which will help me,
a) Are our denominational systems - the processes by which we assess and test God's call - geared to younger adults? Particularly males? Or has the preponderance of older candidates, with experience and often posswessing a different kind of articulation, subtly altered 'what we are looking for' so as to disadvantage younger adults, whether consciously or not? Do we still say 'come back when you are older' to too many younger folk?
b) Do we know how to discern God's call in young adults, say 20 -25 years old? Is their call discerned differently, or is their age irrelevant to the business? If it is different how? And has anyone any ideas about improving the process of discernment and testing?
c) Some younger people I meet are experiencing a deep call from God, but they are petrified that the call will result in entry into Methodist ordained ministries, especially that of presbyter! Why? Well - rightly or wrongly - some of them think they know what that form of ministry consists of, and don't like what they know. They associate it with maintainance, 'keeping the show on the road', whereas they feel a fall to 'change the world', go anywhere, especially among poorer contexts like housing estates, and church planting in pretty unchurched areas. They can't understand why we don't snap their hand off, rather than, as they see it, putting them through a process which de-energises them, and prepares them for a style and kind of ministry they don't find appealing. So they don't offer. In fact they are far more interested in ministry that is missional, engaged and 'bigger' - but they can't easily relate this to ordained ministry as they perceive it. Ironic? Real? Mistaken? Whatever - it appears to be a factor and perpetuates the dearth of young candidates.
d) Some younger ministers who have undergone the process are incredibly frustrated by 'normal' ministry. They feel loved (some of them) but trapped in a world of church that is very difficult to relate to their call and sense of giftedness. Is it because they are different from previous generations in that they will not tolerate what they don't like - i.e. they are just more selfish, or demanding - or are they genuinely 'misplaced' in terms of what they actually do and be - or say they are expected to do and be - and what they feel called to do and be?
e) In my recent book 'Resourcing Renewal' I claimed that the church is training too many ministers for yesterday and not enough for tomorrow. Beginning work on this project is not changing my mind!
What is the way ahead?
Comments quickly please.