Raising up Future Ministry Leaders

In my work for the Texas District, I have the privilege of sharing about our association and have often been invited to give a presentation about LCMC. One of the questions that I have been repeatedly asked over the years I just love to answer: “Where do your pastors come from?” My answer: “Well pastor trees, of course!!” After a good chuckle, we then engage in an important conversation that many congregations have neglected for far too long. What my tongue-in-cheek answer points out is that the initial question presumes that pastors are “produced” from some external source. This line of thinking is problematic.
Many Lutherans in well-established American denominations have relied heavily on church camps and campus ministries to speak into young people the calling of God to vocational ministry. Over twenty years ago, a study of first-career seminary students in one Lutheran denomination revealed that the overwhelming majority personally experienced his or her call to pastoral ministry primarily through either a church camp or a campus ministry. While camp directors and campus ministers received this news as a great affirmation, it also exposed another weakness: a student’s home congregation was a far less significant factor.
This outsourcing of vocational calling to church camps and college ministries is particularly problematic for our association of congregations that does not have a developed system of affiliated church camps or college ministries to funnel our youth to in hopes that those youth may discover God’s calling to be ministers of the Gospel. But the truth is, I believe that the local congregation should be the center of vocational calling and leadership development in the church.
What can a church do to help raise up ministry leaders for the future? I believe there are some small shifts that you and your church can make that will lead to significant impact! First, love your youth and children in your church. Words of welcome and kindness can make a bigger difference than you might imagine. Strike up a conversation by asking questions and getting to know young people and what they are interested in. Secondly, teach the faith in ways that are fun and engaging. Thirdly, encourage and affirm young people both with your words and invitations to serve and to lead. Perhaps the most powerful sentence you will ever speak to another will begin with “I see in you…” Finally, pray for God to move in their lives to hear and answer the call.
Pastors do not grow on trees, but they do grow up in our congregations! I want to encourage you to make a Kingdom investment by investing in future church leaders. If you want to learn more about raising up future leaders, I would be delighted to begin that conversation with you!