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Calling Your Youth: What it Takes to Become a "Calling" Congregation

Why become a calling congregation?

Christians have historically been a people called to vocations as varied as plumber, professor, homemaker and clergy. At its essence a called vocation is practical discipleship: our humble effort to embody obedience to God in the particulars of daily life. When a congregation embraces its place in the history of encouraging faithful reflection and meaningful activity, it helps develop the faith, deepen the spirit and inspire the daily life of church members.

Within the field of called vocation is the special vocation of clergy. Calling congregations recognize that potential clergy, especially among emerging adults, are often recognized and nurtured by their home churches. Until recently, identifying and enabling young adults who appear to have a calling to ministry has always been an essential ingredient of church life. However, in the 1960s national denominational bodies began to downplay, and then abandon, that sacred task. As a consequence, local congregations have lost touch with this sacred mission, and the Church overall has begun to suffer a dearth of young leadership; and young potential church leaders have received the message that the office of clergy is not highly valued in the sacred community.

However, research shows that congregations that embrace their role as calling congregations experience new vitality and spiritual growth, both of which lead to membership growth and health. To learn more, read an interview with Stephen Lewis, director of the Calling Congregations Initiative, hosted on the Resources for American Christianity website. 

The big picture: Choosing faith in the midst of ambivalence

It used to be that people were reared within a particular faith tradition and grew into its wisdom as they matured. However, today teens must choose their religion at the same time that they are trying to differentiate from their parents. That creates the potential for them to abandon their parents’ faith; it also means that once a faith is chosen, these young adults tend to be more strongly committed because they have actively chosen their tradition. In the article, "Why Teens Choose Church," researcher and author Carol Lytch discusses the context within which teens live and make decisions today, and the three components of church life that attract and hold teens.

Helpful resources

Explore what it means to live a called life by reading A Sacred Voice is Calling by John Neafsea (find information about this and other books about vocations provided by the Forum for Theological Exploration). To use Callings as a four- or eight-week study for young adults or adults, download the free Vocational Toolkit: Resources for Crafting a Culture of Call developed by the Forum for Theological Exploration.

For more reading on the variety of ways people come to a sense of calling and the discovery of an authentic Christian vocation, check out the Vocation, Leadership and Ministry reading list provided by the Forum for Theological Exploration.

Also find additional stories on Insights Into Religion: Congregations and YouthYouth Research and Theological Education and Vocational Discernment

 

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