From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Churches join project to gauge 'pulse' of young adults

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Tue, 6 Apr 2004 14:38:26 -0500

April 6, 2004	News media contact: Linda Green 7 (615)742-5470 7 Nashville,
Tenn. 7 E-mail: 7 ALL-YE {159}

A UMNS Feature
By Pamela Crosby*

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-The relatively low numbers of young people in mainline
denominations has propelled the United Methodist Church to join in an
interfaith effort to cultivate interest in pastoral ministry among young
people and to help them explore God's call.

The denomination, through its Board of Higher Education and Ministry, has
joined the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United
Church of Christ in a "Pastoral Leadership Effort (PLSE)," an initiative of
the Atlanta-based Fund for Theological Education, Inc.

Pronounced "pulse," the three-year project is designed to encourage
congregations and campus ministries to invite young people to explore God's
call in their lives.  Resource kits, designed to equip congregations to
establish a revitalized culture of the call to pastoral ministry, are being
readied for distribution in early fall.

The average age of members of the United Methodist is 57 years, with only 4.7
percent of church members younger than age 18, and 80.1 percent older than
40. Fewer than 10 percent of clergy are younger than 39.

In addition, the number of clergy with master of divinity degrees is
declining and fewer young people see ordination as elder as a significant

Under the banner, "for such a time as this," PLSE will enable churches to
identify and track "gifted" young people as they explore the call to
ministry. Protestant church leaders note that the pool of potential young
leaders is the largest in this nation's history, and increasing numbers of
young adults are entering seminary. PLSE will tap into the renewed spiritual
interest of today's young, the leaders say.

"The theme for PLSE, 'for such a time as this,' looks at the challenges and
issues facing the church," said the Rev. David Fuquay, a United Methodist
working with the Fund for Theological Education, "particularly the issues of
globalization and the rapidly changing world through technology." 

College, high school and younger students have been brought up in a rapidly
changing technological world and view it as the norm, he said, making it
easier for them to know how to engage a global world.

"The PLSE project is particularly focused on exceptional young people,"
Fuquay said, "who typically are pushed toward being engineers or doctors or
lawyers. Ministry is not necessarily seen as on par with those professions,
and that's a real problem."

The Fund for Theological Education represents an attempt to help
congregations understand opportunities related to ordained leadership and
encourages them to call forth gifted, young candidates for ministry.

As congregations and campus ministries nominate young ministerial candidates,
PLSE will add their names to a database.  The organization will track
aspiring church leaders through their educational preparation, and help
connect them with appropriate resources and support.  Congregational mentors
and access to internship opportunities and ministry programs will also be
available to PLSE young leaders. 

Along with the larger effort, each denomination will maintain contact with
its own candidates for ministry, providing information and developing
programs and resources that promote and encourage pastoral ministry. United
Methodist candidates will be connected to conference boards of ordained
ministry, United Methodist-related colleges, campus ministries, seminaries
and special programs.

PLSE is funded by a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. The United
Methodist Church, through the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, is
contributing $300,000 toward the project as part of its efforts to cultivate
a new generation of faithful leaders for the denomination, to reconnect young
people with the church and to rebuild the educational pipeline.

"We are already seeing the positive results of such efforts as EXPLORATION
events, which encourage youth and young adults to consider the call to
ordained ministry and Student Forum, which develops leadership skills among
our college students," said the Rev. Hal Hartley, the board's director of
student ministries, vocation and enlistment.  

"PLSE will directly involve congregations in calling forth young leadership
for the church and will connect these gifted young people in a seamless web
of support from their youth group, through college, and on into seminary," he

The "new and compelling" effort targets "gifted young people who love
technology, yet are excited about and want to respond to God's claim on their
lives," said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the United Methodist
Board of Higher Education and Ministry. 

Few emphases in the church combine those two or use technology to reach,
encourage, and inform Christian vocation, she said. The project is an
opportunity for the four denominations to work together and learn from each
other about what God is doing in the lives of young people, she added.

"We're seeing that young people are going to make a difference in the world
with us or without us," said Fuquay. "They have unique gifts our church
needs, but we won't be able to receive those gifts if we don't invite them
and create that space for them." 

Additional information about PLSE is available from the website,, or from Fuquay by e-mail at or by
calling (404) 727-1416.

# # #
*Crosby is a staff member of the Office of Interpretation at the United
Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.


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