Shane Pruitt, Next Gen director for the North American Mission Board, said his office gets 3–5 calls per week from churches needing various leaders.
“The question we kept getting is, ‘Is there a void in leadership coming up to ministry leadership?’” Pruitt related. “In 2017, Barna research found that less than 15% of all Protestant ministry leaders are under the age of 40.”
He said his book “Calling Out the Called” was a response to the question.
NAMB’s GenSend held a “Calling Out the Called” live webinar Feb. 5 featuring Scott Pace, associate professor of pastoral ministry and preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Paul Worcester, director of NAMB’s collegiate evangelism; and Catherine Renfro, NAMB’s director of evangelism. They, along with Pruitt, discussed “what it means to call out the called and disciple those God has called to ministry.”
Pruitt referenced Matthew 9, noting the first step to recognizing those God is calling to vocational ministry is prayer.
“What we always would default to [is], ‘The harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few’ … so let’s come up with an initiative, let’s come up with a strategy, let’s write a book,” Pruitt asserted.
“But Jesus said, ‘Pray to the Lord of the harvest,’” Pruitt added, noting that asking God to reveal callings in others should be a priority of current leaders’ ministries.
Pruitt also said prayer is needed for parents of the young people who are called, along with “seasoned saints” God might call after retirement.
Renfro noted the prayer should include having the ability to see God’s call in others. Once it’s noticed ask, “Have you ever considered a call to vocational ministry?” then hold strategic conversations to help clarify what God is saying.
Knowing how difficult vocational ministry can be, a time of questioning should be encouraged, Pace added.
“Let ‘em wrestle with the call. Don’t immediately bypass that season of wrestling,” he suggested. “It can be invaluable, not only kind of shaping their heart, but you also want the cement to dry, you want the stake to be nailed down so that it won’t be pulled up by a gust of wind.
“We all know what it’s like to have those seasons of ministry to where we would tap out if we could. But the one anchor that holds that ministry to the ground is that calling that we know that Jesus placed on us,” he asserted.
Learning to serve
All four leaders agreed that once the call is felt by either a male or female, learning to serve should be emphasized along with providing opportunities to learn about ministry and start leading others.
Allowing someone the chance to fail is another important part of character formation.
“Let them explore their gifts. Let them see what they’re good at. Give them opportunities to serve and to plug in,” Pace advised. “Give them those chances to fail and mess up … . Help them understand that doesn’t disqualify them from ministry. It actually helps them grow.”
Both large and small churches have a lot to offer, the leaders agreed. Large churches can provide residency programs, ministry schools and similar programs.
“If you’re able to do that, praise God,” Pruitt declared. “That is an incredible pipeline. But I know that’s not the story for the vast majority of leaders.
“So I want to encourage you, this isn’t a topic that only has to happen in big settings. You don’t have to be large to be impactful — because you have a large God.”
‘Invite people to come’
One objection often brought up by current ministers is that they don’t have time to mentor future leaders.
Pruitt recalled that when he was younger his pastor made time by inviting him along on ministry tasks — going to the hospital, sharing the gospel or working on the church building.
“Don’t add something else to your calendar. Invite people into your calendar,” Pruitt urged. “So the things you’re already doing, just invite people to come along.”
Renfro said she heard wise words early on about ministry being more than becoming famous.
“Just serve where you are and God will open the doors along the way, as He wants to open them, where He wants to open them and when,” she was told.
“Just that idea of serving right here, right now, where God has me, with whatever it is … just being faithful in that,” Renfro said. “At the end of the day there’s one person who deserves to be famous, and that’s Jesus. It has nothing to do with us. It’s a privilege to serve Jesus, and if we just remind those that we get to invest in, that could be a game changer.”
Free resources can be found at gensend.org as well as in Pruitt’s book, “Calling Out the Called.”