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Vocational ministry guidance renewed by Sunday School Board

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Vocational guidance, a concept dating back more than 30 years in Southern Baptist life, is being dusted off and revamped by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s LeaderCare staff.

Neil Knierim, a pastor-staff department consultant in the LeaderCare section, said a redesigned process, new computer software, improved referral systems and fresh resources and events are being implemented to encourage people who feel called to Christian ministry and to help others mentor them.

People who want to register their interest in a Christian vocation may write to Vocational Guidance at 127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0166, or fax a request to (615) 251-5618 to receive a card for that purpose. Quantities of the cards are available on request for pastors, youth ministers and other church staff for use by adults and youth.

The LeaderCare staff will maintain periodic contact with people who indicate a calling to ministry through informational mailings and messages of encouragement on important personal occasions, such as birthdays and graduations. Contact will be maintained past the expected age of seminary graduation, he said.

Information from the cards will be referred to appropriate Southern Baptist organizations, including mission boards, colleges and seminaries, depending on the specific expression of interest.

An interactive book to deal with Christian calling, the first in a series of resources planned for vocational guidance, is expected to be published this fall. Designed for use by individuals, pastors, youth ministers or mentors, the resources also may be used for a class. Content will include affirming the individual’s call, principles of spiritual leadership, spiritual growth and ministry preparation.

A pilot event for future conferences on “Calling Out the Called” is scheduled May 3 at First Baptist Church, Leesburg, Fla. Plans call for 25 high school and college-age teenagers to spend a day getting career preparation help. Parents and youth leaders also will learn how to mentor youth as they prepare for Christian service. The day will culminate with an inspirational rally and a service affirming the teenagers’ vocational decisions. Following evaluation of the pilot event, the goal is to schedule similar annual events in each state Baptist convention.

This summer, a Student Leadership University, conducted in cooperation with evangelist Jay Strack, will offer two weeklong opportunities for high school and college students exploring or pursuing vocational ministry. Behind-the-scenes experiences at NASA, Sea World and Universal Studios will be included in Orlando, Fla.,-based sessions, June 2-7 and June 9-14, Knierim said. For $575, each student will receive lodging, most meals and conference materials and services. Faculty will include widely known speakers Strack, Ike Reighard and Danny Akin. Registration and program information may be obtained by calling the Church Program Training Center at (615) 251-2294.

Knierim said the board’s vocational guidance effort will extend to helping those already involved in Christian vocations know how to encourage others and be effective models.

“We need to examine what we think about ministry effectiveness,” he said, “by creating a climate for young men and women, calling them to vocational ministry. We must work intentionally to encourage more persons to respond by challenging, encouraging and affirming those who have responded.”

Vocational guidance is one of a variety of services offered through LeaderCare, the Sunday School Board’s strategy to provide personal development help for pastors and other professional church staff.

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  • Charles Willis