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Georgia initiative aims to help students heed ministry call

Of the more than 500 students at one Georgia Baptist youth camp this summer, 33 indicated feeling a call to ministry. File photo

SNELLVILLE, Ga. (BP) – Teenagers exploring a call to ministry can get the guidance they need to make sense of what can be a confusing time in their lives under a new initiative from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

The Called to Ministry initiative for high school students will be instrumental in preparing the next generation of pastors, Levi Skipper told the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee last week. Skipper leads the mission board’s church strengthening team.

Through the initiative, students will gather online once a month to talk with experienced Georgia Baptist ministry leaders about what lies ahead.

Skipper said the first such meeting in August involved students from across the state.

“There really just hasn’t been a clear pathway for teenagers to take when they felt called to ministry,” Skipper said. “We want to change that in the state of Georgia. There are students throughout this state who feel called to ministry, but for whatever reason we have begun to pull away from challenging people to respond to that call. We want to revive that.”

Called to Ministry was born partially out of Skipper’s own experience as a teenager. He drew laughs from the Executive Committee when he joked that, as he wrestled with his call to ministry as a high school student, he randomly opened his Bible and haphazardly dropped his finger on a verse, hoping for a sign from God. His finger fell on the words: “Do you need a sign? You have the sign of Jonah.”

Skipper said he wants to create smoother pathways for the next generation of pastors, missionaries and evangelists.

“I shared with my parents and my pastor what I sensed God was doing in my heart,” Skipper said. “They sought to help the best they could, but, looking back on that experience, I realize there wasn’t really a clear pathway for my development.”

Initiatives like the one in Georgia fit with a broader movement in the Southern Baptist Convention. The third of six strategic action steps of Vision 2025, which was adopted by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in June, is to “Increase the total number of workers in the field through a new emphasis on ‘calling out the called,’ and then preparing those who are called out by the Lord.”

Skipper said teenagers in Georgia will receive instruction and inspiration for their journeys into ministry as well as action steps to help guide them in the process.

“I am confident this process will help us raise up a new generation of leaders to help strengthen churches,” he said.

At the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s major events for students, including the Surge150, Impact and SuperWow camps, invitations were not solely to become Christians but also to respond to God’s call to ministry. The first wave of teenagers enrolled in Called to Ministry came from those events.

At the Impact summer camp in June alone, 33 of the 514 students participating said they were feeling a call to full-time ministry, said Chris Trent, the Next Gen catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Trent’s job is to help churches minister to the next generation.

“One key action step for each student will be to secure a ministry mentor from their local churches,” Skipper said. “We will provide that ministry mentor with a list of questions to ask their student that coincide with what they are learning in our online training.” The plan, Skipper said, is to expand Called to Ministry to college students and to adults 22 years old and older. We didn’t just call people to salvation at the camps, but extended an invitation to people who feel like God is calling them to ministry to respond.

“I want to challenge you as a pastor to put this in the life of your church somewhere. You have a regular invitation; find a Sunday, maybe one per month, to invite people who are feeling called to ministry.”

Skipper said many pastors have students in their churches who are wrestling with God’s call on their lives and could benefit from Called to Minitry.

“That’s where we can really come alongside and really help a pastor and his church,” he said. “Just imagine the difference this could make for the state of Georgia as it continues to grow. We’re going to have leaders who are developed, leaders who are encouraged to join our Baptist institutions, and, when it comes time for you to look for a staff member, there’s actually going to be a pond filled with great, great leaders for you to fish from.”