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Churches sign promise to cultivate more clergy through 'culture of call'

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by gb93433, Mar 1, 2006.

  1. gb93433

    gb93433 Active Member
    Site Supporter

    Jun 26, 2003
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    Churches sign promise to cultivate more clergy through 'culture of call'

    By Hannah Elliott

    Published: February 28, 2006

    DURHAM, N.C., (ABP) – In a demonstration of their commitment to develop young clergy, roughly 40 churches across the East Coast and Southwest have signed a covenant to coordinate their efforts and hopefully avert a clergy shortage.

    As founding members of the Shiloh Network, the diverse group of churches includes congregations of less than 100 people and congregations of thousands, urban churches and some that have existed for centuries.

    The churches signed their agreement Feb. 22 at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. The signing came at the culmination of “Baptist Heritage Week,” an event hosted by Duke’s Baptist House of Studies. Church representatives also discussed mentoring methods like retreats, fellowships, seminary scholarships and financial loan programs.

    Though aided by Duke and other institutions, the network was founded as an initiative of local congregations. The name Shiloh comes from the Old Testament account of Samuel hearing his call to ministry at a temple at Shiloh.

    “The whole idea of creating call in a small church is relevant for us in terms of raising up leaders,” said Gregg Hemmen, pastor at Cane Creek Baptist in Hillsborough, N.C. “Raising leaders from among us who are skilled and helping them to feel that ‘Yeah, I am equipped to do this’ is a great thing,” said Hemmen, whose church, founded in 1789, typically has 80 to 100 people attending Sunday worship services.

    Hemmen said the motivation and energy demonstrated by each church represented at the ceremony made him even more sure of the need for the network. He lives 20 miles from Duke, but the fact that church leaders came from thousands of miles away impressed him.

    “There must be some sort of freaky Spirit thing going on here,” Hemmen said with a laugh. “The sense of urgency and expectation surrounding the event was much bigger than I had expected. I started to think there was a bigger fish in the kettle than I had imagined.”

    Curtis Freeman, director of the Baptist House, said the network will help curb clergy shortages and put vigor into congregational cultivation of pastors. Otherwise, he said, churches could be left with a short supply of leadership.

    While seminary enrollment is up nationwide, only a third of seminary students intend to work in a church, according to a study by Auburn Theological Seminary. Further complicating the problem, today's seminary student is typically older than in years past and pursuing a second or third career, which means they will be in the clergy pool for les time.

    According to Freeman, 33 percent of pastors in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina were over 55 years old in 2001, while only 7 percent were under 35. That means that in the next 10 years, almost five times as many leaders will retire as the young clergy who take their place.

    Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas is ahead of most congregations in stemming that clergy drain. Wilshire’s “Pathways to Ministry” program includes training for high-school, college and seminary students. The church receives funding from the Lilly Endowment to maintain a pastoral resident program.

    “If churches really love what God is up to in their church, they will want another generation to follow in that vein,” Senior Pastor George Mason said. Wilshire’s congregational “self-esteem” is higher than ever, he said, thanks in part to the way congregants feel involved in the program.

    “They see themselves as an incubator for the ministry,” Mason said. “We have been growing greatly in our understanding in this regard. The congregation has a sense that they have something to offer.”

    Leaders at Wilshire Baptist envision a “three-year revolving emphasis” for the Shiloh Network at their church.

    Organizers of the Shiloh Network plan to involve some of the same elements recounted in the biblical account of Samuel's call. They hope to integrate each phase of the covenant -- calling, qualifying and connecting -- as Shiloh candidates and initiatives develop.

    Calling involves naming specific people who have the skills and aptitude to potentially become ministers. Qualifying means fostering those individuals through education, whether it be internships, seminary or other learning opportunities. Connecting means advocating, grooming and placing pastoral candidates with selected bodies of worship.

    Frank Granger of First Baptist Church of Athens, Ga., came to the same conclusion that others had regarding the “clergy crisis” among churches nationwide. As the church’s minister of education, Granger saw the network as a way to support local seminaries and leaders.

    “I see that it is significant for a church to invest in theological education, because whether they realize it or not, that’s where their future leadership will come from,” Granger said. “We need to support these schools, and I see the network as a way to do that.”

    For its recent 175th anniversary, the Athens church invited those people whom the church has ordained. For Granger, that told a lot about the state of things when it comes to young leaders. “Through our whole history, we’ve ordained 18 people,” Granger said. “We’ve ordained six since 1972 and three in the last five years.”

    Granger said the difference in ordination will come from lay involvement. The key for his church, he said, is “getting more focused in the congregation as a whole. I’m convinced we’ve got to get this to the lay leadership.”

    Part of that congregational involvement involves money. As members of the network, each church must contribute $500 annually (or 0.1 percent of its annual budget, whichever is smaller) to support of the network. While some churches may have limited budgets, Granger said, one thing he appreciates about the network is that it allows each entity to creatively find a way to participate.

    “Our missions ministry has a certain amount of money available for this type of thing," Granger said. "I see this as a part of missions, and this was a one-time gift that fit that description.”

    Mason agreed.

    “Churches that have very little resources can still do this with not a lot of money,” he said. He plans to eventually create a website detailing the network so that interested churches nationwide -- no matter the size, location or budget -- can glean information and resources for their own participation.

    Some of that information may detail ways churches can tailor logistics of their involvement to fit their congregation.

    Hemmen plans to do just that. “Some of our ideas are springing up out of our current need for a youth minister,” he said. “We’re looking at, ‘How do we nurture this for our church; how do we tailor it to fit us?’”

    Whatever they decide, Hemmen said, they’re on the right track.

    “In one way, we’ve grown wiser,” he said. “We’re not just throwing programs at people. We’ve gone back to basics.”
  2. jshurley04

    jshurley04 New Member

    Feb 29, 2004
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    It seems to me that the bigger problem is the fact that churches today are exceedingly picky about the "qualifications" or "credentials" that their future pastor carries with him. It seems that there is a feeling that education (not that it is bad) and long term experience are the first two things demanded of those who may be interested in wanting to be considered for staff or pastor positions with churches today.

    I have been looking for a church to work as staff or pastor and am growing annoyed with the attitude that if you do not have a Masters at minimum, then do not insult us by submitting your resume for consideration. I might be able to understand the pastorate, but very many churches expect that out of their youth ministers.

    If the churches will accept this movement without huge amounts of education or background experience then I would be all for it. It is a need that will begin to demand an answer soon.