|Future Ministers of the World
Theyre facing the realities of low pay, stress, and debt. But these six students want to go make disciples anyway.
By Annette Bender
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. The Rev. Jerry Everley first realized that something special was happening at Wesley Foundation two years ago, when several students expressed an interest in entering full-time ministry. Everley put them in touch to talk over their aspirations.
Today, "Future Ministers of the World" is comprised of six members all involved in the Board of Ordained Ministry's candidacy process. They meet regularly for mutual support as well as encouragement and straight talk from ministers in the field. New members are invited each fall.
Since Wesley Foundation has about 65 students participating in weekly activities, it's impressive that 10 percent of the group is headed for ordained ministry, says Everley, Wesley Foundation director. Before now, he knew of only three students from East Tennessee State University Wesley Foundation entering the ministry during the last 27 years.
"Hopefully the pendulum is swinging back and young people are really wanting to make a difference," he said. "The Methodist church needs some young ministers going right out of colleges into seminary, rather than secondcareers- at-40 which is what a lot of our ordination classes have been."
Everley doesn't nix words on the difficulties of pursuing a life in ministry, however.
"What parent would want their little boy or girl to face that day in and day out what ministers get in the church now? It's a tough calling," he says.
Everley tells his students: "If you're not 75 to 80 percent sure God's calling you, just postpone it. You can't handle it if God's not calling you to do it."
Besides low pay, parsonage issues, and stress, the would-be ministers also face education debts, he said. A trust recently established by the Wesley Foundation through Holston Conference Foundation offers a partial solution.
The Transou Trust for Theology Students will soon help pay for books for students who come through ETSU Wesley Foundation on the way to seminary. Named for the Rev. Bedford Transou, ETSU Wesley Foundation director from 1966 to 1991, the trust has been built up to $5,000 through donations and the sale of a lot.
"We've got to do something to nurture and help these folks be able to afford the seminary," he said.
To contribute, contact Everley at Wesley Foundation, (423) 929-2121. Or contact Roger Redding at Holston Conference Foundation, (865) 690-4080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
After pursing an education in pre-medicine, music and computer engineering, Mike Mould finally began preparing for the ministry at age 21. Why? "Once God calls you to do something, then you've got to do it," he says. "I've been running from it since I was 13."
A former youth president at Boones Creek UMC, Mould felt years ago that God was moving him toward the ministry. His grandfather was a Lutheran minister. But it wasn't until he bought a guitar after breaking his ankle in high school that he understood more about his calling. He ended up leading music at a Wesley Memorial UMC youth retreat a pivotal experience. "I saw that I was good at it and started praying about it," says Mould.
Now 22, Mould is studying philosophy with a focus in religious studies. He serves the Wesley Foundation as worship leader and plans to enter seminary after graduating in 2004.
If Amanda Dean could, she would attend seminary immediately after graduating on May 3. "But I have to work on paying off my undergraduate loans first," says the 23-year-old accounting major. She also hopes to get some accounting experience, since she had already begun studying accounting when she realized her call to ministry.
Dean feels drawn to women's ministries and overseas missions. She first considered a life in ministry after hearing a female minister preach on answering the call at a United Methodist Women event. "Numerous times God has brought women into my life with that message," she says. Later, at a Chrysalis gathering, Dean was struck by the realization that "I was going to go wherever God wanted me to go."
This summer, Dean will serve with Volunteers in Mission at a Methodist hospital in the Bahamas. She is a member at St. Matthew UMC in Kingsport.
A s a brand-new Christian in his senior year of high school, Matt Tinn immediately noticed that he had some new abilities. "The Bible really started to make sense to me," says the 22- year-old ceramics major. "And I liked getting up and talking in front of people. That had really bothered me before."
At his home church of Wesley Memorial UMC, Tinn was invited several times to be a youth speaker. He also preaches for the Wesley Foundation. "I enjoy standing up there and saying something from my heart and having people connect to it." A visit to Asbury Theological Seminary in spring 2002 sealed his decision to pursue a life in ministry.
Tinn is an intern at Camp Buffalo Mountain where he lives and works year-round. He doesn't anticipate that ceramics will become a part of his ministry, "but it definitely keeps me sane. Throwing the wheel is kind of therapeutic for me."
I t was an after-school program at Christ UMC in Greeneville, Elizabeth Scott's home church, that first inspired her to pursue a life in ministry. As a high school senior, Scott helped lead activities and devotions for children in the community. Last summer, Scott's work as a counselor at Camp Buffalo Mountain nudged her further down the path.
Now 20, Scott is a sophomore studying sports leisure management, with a concentration in administration in parks and outdoor recreation. "I don't exactly want to preach," she says, "but I would like to start special programs or run a camp."
She appreciates Future Ministers of the World because it provides a forum for members to share their feelings about the future. "It's stressful at times," she admits. "People at my church always expect our minister to be perfect, and they get mad if he's not. You always question whether God is really calling you to do this."
A s a student pastor at Limestone Cove United Methodist Church last summer, Andrew Amodei learned a lot. "I was there only six weeks, because I didn't know what I was doing," said Amodei, 22. "I made a lot of honest mistakes, but I wouldn't undo that experience for anything.
It showed me a side of the church that I didn't like, and a side of the church that I loved."
He didn't like the "secular politics," but he loved interacting with people of all ages. That's why he's leaning toward becoming a professor in a seminary or university. "If the conference needs pastors, I'll probably come back and be a pastor, but only if it's a dire thing."
A member at Munsey Memorial UMC, Amodei says he fi rst felt the call to full-time ministry at age 17. He is a senior majoring in Spanish, hoping to graduate this summer and attend Duke Divinity School in fall 2004.
Jeremy LaDuke N o stranger to the minister's life, Jeremy LaDuke grew up in Holston parsonages as the son of Rev. Ken LaDuke.
On May 3, he graduates with a degree in philosophy. On May 31, he marries his high school sweetheart, Sarah Morgan. This fall, he hopes to be a student at Asbury Theological Seminary.
LaDuke, 22, says he has always been aware that he was "supposed to share the gospel in some form or fashion." But it was at Baptist camp in summer 2000, playing guitar in a Christian band, that he realized a calling to full-time ministry.
"The camp pastor gave a sermon on 'What is God going to do through your life?'" he remembers. "And God spoke to me."
Despite the challenges, LaDuke says he's excited about preaching the word of God. "We need more pastors who base their lives on the word of God, rather than the word of God on their lives," says LaDuke, a youth counselor at First Elizabethton UMC. "I plan to start stepping on toes fast, but I'll do it with love."