Reviving our commitment to intentionally identify leaders
By Wendell Loewen
I asked Kelsie, a prospective Tabor College student, why she was considering a career in ministry. “I just thought it would be awesome,” she exclaimed. So, I pressed her a little. “Who helped you with this decision?” “No one really,” Kelsie replied. “I made it myself!”
Kelsie’s story is not uncommon. In fact, an overwhelming majority of prospective students tell me of a deeply personal but individualistic and private call story. Most often, their sense of call includes a significant event, such as a mission trip. Occasionally, I hear about students being influenced by a mentor or family member. But in almost 20 years at Tabor College, I cannot recall ever hearing a corporate call story—one that involves the collective intentionality of the faith community.
My role as a ministry professor at Tabor and director of Ministry Quest, a youth leadership program, has had me paying close attention to the leadership development landscape of our denomination. Sadly, I believe we’ve lost the sense of corporate calling.
I’m continually encouraged by the story of Carson MB Church. Decades ago this Minnesota congregation agreed together to call, nurture and send out a generation of young leaders as missionaries, pastors and denominational leaders. One small rural congregation left a legacy that will last for generations—one that reaches around the world.
Return to a culture of calling
Our MB story is one of a small denomination that lives out God’s Word and follows Jesus daily. We have so much to offer the wider Christian community and our world. What if we worked together as churches, denominational agencies and institutions to cultivate a culture of calling our young leaders? Our kingdom influence would expand exponentially.
Cultivating a culture of calling means that our churches prioritize leadership development. This is the work of the entire faith community, not just that of a few youth volunteers. Such a priority could include making it a focus of an annual sermon series. Or creating a budget line item specifically for leadership opportunities. How about having the value of leadership development reflected in our mission/vision statements?
Cultivating a culture of calling could also include a commitment to mentoring relationships. Are there ways in which your congregation can connect potential leaders with current leaders? In their biweekly meetings they could talk about their faith, develop leadership skills and consider the unique demands of leadership in the church. Mentoring relationships are rich and rewarding for both the mentee and the mentor.
Cultivating a culture of calling requires real-life opportunities to practice, test and evaluate leadership gifts. This could mean offering young leaders the opportunity to preach, lead worship or serve on various church committees.
Finally, the congregation should willingly send out their leaders. I am blessed to be a part of a congregation that is committed to local and global mission. In recent years we have called out and sent countless young people all around the world. Selfishly, we’d love to have them stay, but God’s call and his kingdom extends far beyond our four walls. We must be committed to releasing our young leaders into God’s care, wherever that may lead them.
Our fluid and fragmented world calls for effective and durable Christian leaders. Those are best nurtured corporately. Let’s join together and cultivate a culture of calling.
Wendell Loewen is the director of Ministry Quest, soon to be Faith Front, a mentoring and leadership program for high school students, and professor of youth, church and culture at Tabor College. He is a member of Parkview MB Church in Hillsboro, Kan.
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