The effectiveness, faithfulness and vitality of the United Church of Christ begin in the local church with the partnership between committed laity and capable and well-prepared clergy. Almost every authorized minister in the UCC can point to a member of the clergy who inspired and influenced them at some point in their journey, perhaps who even encouraged them to consider a vocation as an authorized minister.
However, as many search committees of local churches can attest, the number of available and qualified candidates for pastoral positions is often limited. (At the same time, candidates in the search and call process often find that the number of positions available to them is limited!) Small membership churches and those lying outside metropolitan areas, in particular, find the limited supply of candidates to be pronounced. In addition, as current clergy retire, there are fewer younger professionals to replace them.
The challenges of a shrinking and/or unevenly distributed supply of pastoral leaders must be met in the context of every local congregation, where faith is first formed and nurtured in young people and people of all ages. Every local church holds potential future leaders in its midst. Every local church has the capacity to make identification, nurture, and support part of their ongoing mission and witness. Congregations that are ably equipped to speak the language of call and to take intentional steps toward nurturing and identifying future leaders will contribute to the health and vitality of their own communities and of the wider denomination. The “culture of call” in each local church, then, is the ongoing commitment of that congregation to identify and nurture future leaders of the church, long before they reach the point of connection with a Committee on the Ministry.