Nearly 200 high school seniors and young adults signed commitment cards indicating they are ready to serve as ordained elders and deacons in the United Methodist Church.
They answered the call to ministry at a gathering over the weekend as church leaders told them their leadership was needed urgently.
"God is calling us to bring some freshness, some newness, to be innovative. God is calling you to lead us to that," the Rev. Tyrone Gordon, pastor of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, said at Exploration 2009, as reported by the United Methodist News Service. "It doesn't matter how old you are. And when you hear God's voice speaking to you, you don't have to be afraid because God's not going to leave you alone."
Elders under the age of 35 make up just a little over five percent of all active elders in The United Methodist Church, and the average age of elders, deacons and local pastors is over 50 years old, according to a new study by Lewis Center for Church Leadership.
The consistent decline in the percentage of under-35 elders hit its low point in 2005 at 4.69 percent. But since then, there have been slight increases. There are currently 906 young elders.
Young local pastors currently make up 5.25 percent of all pastors in the denomination. Though a small percentage, the Lewis Center notes that it's the highest in recent history.
The greatest growth in active clergy continues to occur in the 55 to 72 age cohort.
Young deacons, meanwhile, comprise 8.42 percent of all deacons – 77 out of 915 ordained deacons.
Over the past few years, Methodist leaders have drawn attention to the urgent and crucial need of young people in leadership. Part of the vision for the United Methodist Church in the 21st century is developing new leaders.
"People will tell you that they need you in the future, but we need you now. You are already doing ministry," the Rev. Motoe Yamada, senior pastor of Japanese United Methodist Church in Sacramento, Calif., told attendees at Exploration, according to UMNS.
Exploration 2009 was held in Dallas, Nov. 13-15. It was designed for those who range from high school seniors to age 24 and are considering ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.
Attendees learned how to discern God's call in their life and about the steps into ordained ministry.