Depending on a congregation’s setting and circumstance, it may be able to provide formal mentoring programs, internships (for students during seminary), and residencies (for graduates post-seminary). Churches in college or seminary towns have obvious opportunities to invite and support students in their vocational discernment. However, it is not only congregations in geographic proximity to colleges and seminaries that can develop a culture of call. Indeed, congregations that may be farther away from traditional sources of education and preparation have both a particular opportunity and a particular challenge to identify, raise up, and support those in their congregations who manifest potential for authorized ministry.
A productive culture of call can be expressed through a variety of simple practices, including:
* Helping persons of all ages, but especially the young, recognize they are already ministers;
* Developing eyes to see individuals with potential for ministry;
* Providing appropriate opportunities for persons to engage in leadership;
* Choosing to use the language of “call” in the varied settings of the church’s ministries;
* Developing youth programs that emphasize careers in ministry;
* Avoiding negative stereotypes of careers in ministry (low pay, long hours, etc.)
* Making the most of potentially transformative experiences like mission trips and immersions, recognizing in them not just opportunities for mission but also for vocational discernment;
* Highlighting authorized ministers who have been raised up in a congregation, e.g., by recognizing and celebrating ordination anniversaries;
* providing support for retired ministers in the congregation’s midst and in the wider church;
* Inviting ordained, licensed and commissioned ministers to tell their own stories of call;
* Encouraging and supporting members to become involved in ministry at the Association and Conference level, including service on Committees on Ministry.
* Engaging in one-on-one conversations between clergy and members about the possibility of ministry careers;
* Giving explicit descriptions of ministry and invitations to it from the pulpit;
* Being aware of and supporting theological education.
* Discuss: Which of these do you already practice? Which could you start practicing?