Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Energy, enthusiasm, and experience: Lifting up leaders for public ministry

March 1, 2010 11:09 AM

By Pastor Jonathan Linman

 

In future years, will there be enough new leaders for the church? And will they have the qualities necessary to faithfully and effectively lead the church in mission through the challenges of our day? Based on what I am seeing in my work with ministries and initiatives which identify and prepare persons for public ministry, I offer a hopeful yes to each question.

 

In the several months that I have served as Bishop’s Assistant for Formation, there has already been a steady stream of persons who have enquired about the discernment and educational processes that lead to public ministry. Several of these have entered into our formation processes. The persons enquiring are young adults, some of whom are recently out of college or graduate school—and this is consistent with a trend in seminaries where the average age of students is again becoming younger. They are also older, bringing significant life experience to bear on the practice of ministry. They are men and women, gay and straight. They have attended some excellent colleges and universities and have excelled in their varied professions. They come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Some are new to Lutheranism, and bring the freshness of the romance of a new love of our tradition to the work of ministry. Others are lifelong Lutherans, deeply formed in our tradition. Some are already doing exciting things in ministry, giving expression to alternative ways of living and serving in Christian communities relevant to our 21st century context for mission. Some are already clergy persons in other traditions or are ordained in Lutheran churches of our Lutheran World Federation partners. I am impressed with the energy, enthusiasm, personal and professional backgrounds of these persons, and with their ability to articulate the faith in a Lutheran key. Individually and collectively, given their gifts in concert with our church’s educational processes that contribute to ongoing formation for ministry, they hold great promise to be effective and faithful leaders. In short, in both quality and quantity, we will have leaders for the church. My greater concern is this: will we have sufficient numbers of places for them to serve? Pray not just for leaders, but for the strengthening and growth of the places where they will be called!

 

In addition to persons entering into processes that prepare them for public ministry, we are also giving attention to discernment processes themselves. Project Connect—a special initiative of the ELCA and the eastern cluster of our seminaries focusing on identifying people between 18 and 30 years of age for public ministry—is entering a new phase that seeks to strengthen sustainable, local networks for vocational discernment that include a wide embrace of ministries to that age group such as church camps, campus ministries, church colleges, congregations, social service agencies, and so on. One goal is to provide additional discernment resources to local congregations that each and every faith community would provide occasion for all of God’s people to discern what God would have them do vocationally in the world. Diakonia remains a wonderful program of lay education and formation that can serve as a venue not only for people’s education and enrichment, but also their discernment of call. In short, these ministries, along with the regular candidacy processes, also serve as guarantors that the church will indeed have leaders for its future.

 

Should you have interest in discerning a call to public ministry in our church or know of someone who does, please contact Pastor Jonathan Linman to learn more about discernment and vocational preparation at jlinman@mnys.org or 212-665-0732 x242.

 

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