Churches must identify leaders of tomorrow


“How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?

And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?

And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim God?

How are they to proclaim God unless they are sent?” — Romans 10:14-15

Special to the Advocate

The recent Circuit Rider magazine focuses on emerging leaders.

It calls out United Methodists — it concerns itself with questions and issues Methodists have been mumbling about and afraid to deal with directly for some time. 

Lovett Weems asks three key questions in relation to our development of leaders for the future church:

Are we reaching more people for Christ?

Are we reaching younger people for Christ?

Are we reaching more diverse people for Christ?

Churches are tempted to assume it is another church’s responsibility or assume they cannot do anything about it due to their resources, size or lack of connection to candidates. That is simply not good enough.

Over the past four years The Vocational Call and Nurture Committee (VCAN) of the Board of Ordained Ministry has been working with the conference, churches and candidates for ministry through the The Calling and Hannah Project.  There have been expressions of concern for the future leaders of the conference.  Young and old, small and large churches have come to the front to say that enlistment and nurture of future clergy is important. VCAN has seen just what Weems writes: “The issue of enlisting younger quality clergy must be seen side by side with the quality and vitality of the church itself. The church’s overall health is the most important factor determining who comes into ordained ministry.”

The task and question, then, is: What can we do to assist those whom God is calling to be leaders in the church? Two considerations among many are offered in the Mississippi Conference:

The Calling — The Calling, a retreat for those sensing a call to ministry in the United Methodist Church, is open to persons in 11th and 12th grades, college students and adults. It is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 20 at Christ UMC in Jackson.

To register, complete the registration form obtained from your pastor, district superintendent or the conference office and return it to: Mississippi Conference, The Calling, PO Box 1147, Jackson, MS 39215. Those with questions or concerns may contact Sheila Cumbest at or 601-351-0515; Karen Koons at; or Allison Dickerson at or 601-355-0224. Registration deadline is May 10.

The Hannah Project — This project is named for Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, who handed her child into ministry (I Samuel 1:1-2, 10). The group comes from local churches that can offer their people into the wider ministry of the church.  The Hannah Project’s aim is to offer local churches tools for nurture of such candidates.

A church need only complete four of five standards to be recognized at annual conference as a church “raising up leaders.”  The fist standard is required.

Observe Ministry Sunday

Support seminary students

Adopt a seminary student

Sponsor and exploration of ministry event

Name ministerial recruiters

The VCAN has extended the deadline for applications until May 10. To learn more about the project, see resources for “Ministry Sunday” or download applications, visit the conference Web site under “ministries” or ask for a brochure from the conference office. Questions may be directed to Cumbest or Koons.