Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Discovering Discernment

Last Saturday, the fruit of nearly a year-and-a-half's work finally came to be - the first ever Central Texas Conference Discovery and Discernment Retreat.  The brainchild (and heart-child) of my wife and many others in a strong team of young adults and mentors, the retreat was set up to be a time to help young people discern where God was calling them to be in ministry.  And not just ordained ministry.

The UMC is great at discerning people into ordained ministry (kinda...) or out of ordained ministry, but as an organization, we're not as stellar at affirming the call to any and every ministry out there.  This retreat was set up as a time to embrace the call given to each of us at our baptisms; we are all called to ministry by the sacrament, sometimes we just don't know what to.

I was given the task of organizing worship for the event.  I currently don't have a band of my own as I'm into the preaching and teaching gig now, so what did I do?  I called in some of my closest and most talented friends to lead an epic-level, affirming the call event.  The last phrase being the ethos of the worship we would craft together - affirming our common call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God together.

Again, we brought this event together not to tell people that they are called, we brought 70 young people to Waco already acknowledging this.  We expected them to know that they were called - probably just what we should expect from every person who claims the name Christian, but that's another conversation.

Our key song for the day was Here's My Heart, by David Crowder, this chorus being a driver for the worship:
Here's my heart, Lord.Here's my heart, Lord.Here's my heart, Lord.Speak what is true.
It has a modern "Here I Am, Lord" vibe that really captured what we were going for in worship, and what our preacher Lance Marshall, pastor for an emerging community in Fort Worth spoke to - we're not called to be members of the kingdom of this earth.

Obviously corporate worship was a major part of the event, but the bulk of the day was spent in break out sessions for our group of 70 or so.  Speaking of 70, isn't that the number of disciples Jesus sent out in the Gospel of Luke to love and serve their neighbors?  Hmmm ...

Our 70 young people (late high school to mostly college students and a little older) spent time in sessions talking with an assembled group of experts in youth ministry, children's ministry, college ministry, apologetics, spiritual gifts assesments, going to seminary without pursuing ordination, ordained ministry as elder and deacon in the UMC, and even Bishop Mike Lowry was on hand to discuss his call to ministry (he also presided over the table during morning worship).  Each of our 'discerners' was able to attend three sessions of their choice throughout the day as they saw fit, with plenty of time at lunch and in between events just to have conversations with eachother and make connections with the leaders.

A great many of our conference staff were on hand to support our young people, from District Superintendents, District Administrators and support staff.  Many of our breakout session leaders also traveled across conference lines to support the event - and isn't that so UMC?

It was more than a year of work from beginning to end, but I left the day with so much hope.  The Holy Spirit moved in mighty ways the whole day, my wife described it as if she felt "she was sitting next to the Holy Spirit" during worship and in the holy conversations held with young people.

I'm telling you, there's hope in the UMC, if you haven't heard already.  And young people want to be a part of it.

But here's what I would ask: what are other conferences doing to call young people to ministry?  Are we telling young people that a call to ministry is just for the ordained?  Are we building up young people and telling them, "Yes, you can be a lifelong youth minister - and we'll pay you a living wage so you can."?

Our calls are as unique as the people we are, and I think it the CTC we're starting to build a church that will affirm that.  I can't wait to see where all of this goes.  The Holy Spirit is on the move in Texas, and I pray that it is being allowed to move in the universal church, that the Kingdom of God will come that much more near to us.

If you'd like to check out the social media conversation from DDR, just check out #ctcddr on Twitter, FB, and Instagram.  You can find Leanne's  write-up on the Central Texas Conference website here.