United Methodists Address the 'Endangered Species': Young Clergy

United Methodists are forming an advisory team to reach and recruit what they call an ''endangered species'' in the church: young clergy.

United Methodists are forming an advisory team to reach and recruit what they call an ''endangered species'' in the church: young clergy.

At a May 1-3 summit in Atlanta, some 75 concerned United Methodists who specialize in the recruitment and development of young clergy leadership called for the development of a national advisory team that would help devise a national plan that will go into effect during the next year, according to the United Methodist News Service.

The advisory team will work in conjunction with the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and will be funded by the board and the Pastoral Leadership Search Effort through a grant from the Fund for Theological Education and the Lilly Endowment.

The Rev. Meg Lassiat, director of student ministries, vocation, and enlistment at the Board of Higher Education, told UMNS that studies show that only 4.69 percent of elders are under the age of 35 – a figure similar to that in most mainline denominations.

"While a number of factors have been identified as causes that may contribute to the low numbers of young adult clergy, at this time no one issue has been identified as central to that problem," she said.

The lack of youth attendants and leaders in U.S. mainline churches has posed a problem for decades, leading most denominations to host large-scale gatherings exclusively for youth and launching surveys and studies to follow the trend. In the United Methodist Church, the second largest denomination in the nation, recruiters have also devised an advertisement campaign that runs on hot youth spots such as Time Square in New York City.

The Rev. Lovett Weems, director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, described young clergy as “United Methodism’s endangered species,” and identified several issues the church must address in order to attract the group.

"The church itself must change," Weems said during his summit presentation, according to UMNS "Until the United Methodist Church demonstrates that it can reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people in life-transforming ways, current clergy age trends will probably not change."

The denomination is receiving applications for the advisory team, which is set to develop a plan for the denomination’s future efforts, help carry out a denominational plan for young leadership development, and research issues surrounding leadership and young adult clergy.

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