annual conference leadership renewing the church united methodist church

young pastors’ network

I heard about the young pastors’ network yesterday and am thinking about putting in an application. From the website:

Young Pastors’ Network

…a partnership between the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and Ginghamsburg Church.

The Young Pastors’ Network is designed specifically for high capacity clergy within the United Methodist Church who are under the age of 35. Network candidates must be nominated by their bishops based on each candidate’s potential and drive to serve as a future leader of a large membership church within the annual conference.

Another project with great potential for renewal within the denomination. This is really exciting! It feels like the movement of God’s Spirit.

7 replies on “young pastors’ network”

In some ways this sounds like an interesting project, but your description gives me some pause. Bishops recommend “based on each candidate’s potential and drive to serve as a future leader of a large membership church…” I understand a desire for a young pastor’s network, and I even understand narrowing the group to those who bishops consider to have potential for particularly effective leadership. But linking such potential to a drive to serve a large membership congregation seems idolotrous to me. What if an effective young pastor is called to equip smaller churches in rural areas? What if an effective young pastor is called to the inner-city to renegotiate the church’s ministry to meet the evolving needs of inner-city communities? What is the point of limiting the Young Pastor’s Network to only those whose calling is administering large churches? Besides, the phrasing of the statement seems to suggest that such pastors seek to one day be appointed to an already large membership church. The point of evangelism is bringing new people to Christ whether it be in a small rural church or in a rundown inner-city neighborhood. I may have read into the statement more than was meant, but I only mean for this to be constructive criticism. A Network for Young Pastors seems to be a good idea in many ways.

I’m a little concerned. I have nothing against big churches – I’ve been in big churches almost my entire life – but I do have a couple of concerns. One, I remember how in Greek class the professor would call out certain students as being better than others. He meant for it to create an atmosphere of hard work, as people strove to get onto that good list. Actually, though, it created an atmosphere of unholy competition, in which motivation became less and less about pleasing God with one’s work and more and more about getting the special applaud of the professor. To create an elite club of young clergy may sound like it could inspire hard work to get into it – but do you really want a pastor whose motivation is getting into an elite club for the sake of appearances? That’s the temptation that follows from this type of thing. Two, David was the youngest and least likely to be king of Israel, and yet God said, “Humans look on outward appearance, but God sees the heart.” The implication here is that Samuel wouldn’t have chosen him, but he would have been really, really wrong. Moses was a stutterer. Jesus was no one special to look upon and some of the religious authorities actually hated him. My point is that creating a special group for the human-picked “cream of the crop” is sketchy at best. God has always been most glorified through the least likely people. It’s one of the strongest consistencies in Scripture. Three, I have had the utmost respect for each of my husband’s District Superintendents – the first, following his DS time, took a 2-point charge with a huge pay cut in the inner city to try to bring the churches together in mission. Within 2 years these historic churches sold their properties and merged into one church that now is on a mission to reach the downtown area. The former DS promptly left the church in order to avoid it becoming “his” church. So… would he fit into this group? I mean, he didn’t seem to think being appointed to a “big church” was the goal of successful ministry. Our second DS, when he was first ordained, was on his way to being the associate at one of the largest and wealthiest churches in the conference. Literally while he was driving on his way to the church, he had to go through the poor, dangerous inner city, and he saw a crumbling church on a corner. He got out of the car and strongly felt the Holy Spirit calling him tot his church. He told this to the DS, and his appointment was moved to this collapsing church as his first appointment. Would he have fit into this group? I don’t even think he would have wanted to. I think it would have seemed uncomfortably weird to him. His goal was to serve Christ wherever that was, whatever the cost, even if it landed him on a cross and his children as minority white people in impoverished inner city public schools, not to be someone with potential to serve a large church one day.

I have nothing against people seeing potential in others, and I have nothing against big churches. But I really think this special invite-only fellowship is antithetical to the whole point of koinonia, it will form world-imitating divisions among commissioning candidates, and it could distract young clergy from taking up their cross for no other reason that the obedient love of God.

I will be praying for God to stop this.

Eric – Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your comments. I know nothing more about the development or execution of the program beyond what is on the website.

I agree with you 100% that there is a need for effective young clergy in rural, urban, suburban, large, small, medium, emerging, new start, revitalization, renewal and all types of churches. My guess is that this network is to fulfill a particular need within the denomination – as there are equally needs for effective clergy in many other congregations.

Have you seen the links to young UMC clergy on Facebook? I have previously written about these connections. I think that a multiplicity of efforts in many different places and with many different purposes will serve best the renewal of the church.

What do you think?

I wanted to add an apology for the statement at the end of my comment above. It was divisive, which is not the desire of Christ for his children. I will try to listen more sympathetically to the rational behind the formation of a group such as this. My father is a pastor, and he became one of the really well-respected pastors in his conference. Because he was considered to be so good, it was like he was “rewarded” by being put into larger and larger churches. But his real gift was in growing small churches into larger mission-oriented churches. I’ve seen this with other pastors I have known well, also.

There is certainly a particular gift and call to administrating large membership churches, and maybe it makes sense to have a niche network for young clergy who appear to be gifted and called to each type of church.

However, the wording on the website for this particular group plays into a culture that exists around appointments where one appointment is considered good (wow! the Bishop must like you) and another appointment is considered bad (oooh–well, I am sure you’ll be fine there). Operatives like “high capacity pastors,” “potential,” and “drive” are part of a worldly language that seems to assumes good = big, and effectiveness = result of individual skills and work ethic. God is left out of the equation.

Besides, given that we are young clergy, I expect to have as many as 40 years of ministry ahead of me. I could imagine times of being called to different types of settings throughout my ministry–so I am not sure focusing on one niche is best–though I certainly may be wrong.

Ultimately, it is not the concept with which I find pause, it is the way in which it is described. I find it possible, and perhaps likely that I may be a person who would be considered for such a group, and yet I would have to think twice about joining it because I am afraid it could play into my already existing and sinful tendency towards pride. I look forward to continued conversations.

Eric – I hear your concern and agree that there are different seasons of calling. As one of my professors in seminary would say – if we have heard a yes from God, we should also be able to hear a no.

I am also not a fan of good=big – that is just not true. I wonder if there are other training events / conferences / groups that are focused on other areas of church life or size of churches.

Do you know of any?

klh – Thank you for expressing your concerns. I think that you are absolutely right – each person has a distinct call and there is no appointment that is “better” than another. Just appointments that are closer in line to what God dream for our life would be – that is an appointment that I would consider to be better. A place where the gifts that God has given the pastor meets with the deep needs of the congregation and the community. This may be at congregations with large or small worship attendance.

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