There’s a collective call in Sydney churches to see more people step into ministry. Multiple churches waiting for senior ministers to lead them indicate that the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.
To encourage people to the task, Moore College recently held the online conference “Sydney to the World”. With 270 registrations, it’s clear that many people are keen to consider and encourage others to take up their cross and serve the Lord in vocational ministry.
The principal of Moore College, the Rev Dr Mark Thompson, hopes that many were challenged by the conference and longs to see them undertake theological study and pursue vocational ministry.
“We are excited that the Lord is laying it on the heart of so many men and women to consider full-time gospel ministry in Sydney and beyond,” he says. “The Lord listens to the prayers of his people and many of us have been praying for a huge contingent of men and women who will give themselves to this work. The need is great and the time is now.”
While one Saturday afternoon can inspire many, our churches need to develop cultures of continual recruitment to see a steady stream of people stepping up to serve.
“It takes time to see that they have to let go of the world and serve Christ in that way.”
The Rev Neil Fitzpatrick, senior minister at Jannali, recognises it can take two to three years to start on the pathway to full-time vocational ministry. His church has sent an average of one person a year over the past 14 years to study theology.
“I expect people to say ‘No’ the first time I invite them to start in full time ministry,” he says. “Sometimes it’s a matter of the heart. It takes time to let go of the world and serve Christ in that way.”
The Rev Canon Phil Colgan, senior minister at St George North, adds that this conversation shouldn’t be an out-of-the-blue proposal. His church has also sent a large number of people to serve the Lord as their vocation.
“You can’t separate recruiting for ministry from recruiting for vocational ministry,” he says. “We want to create a tidal wave of people living for Jesus, evangelising and serving. Then there will be a constant stream of people bubbling out of the top. They’re the people you get alongside and tap on the shoulder.”
There are three things churches trying to keep recruiting for ministry on the agenda can do:
1 Keep speaking about gospel work and needs
“Ensure the air people breathe is gospel ministry,” Canon Colgan says. “Whether that’s through preaching, Bible study, one on one… it’s all got to be in the air. Stress the expectation that all people would be serving, that service isn’t something you add on.”
2 Keep seeking those who can serve
“I try to identify who are our potential gospel workers, and I think you see them young,” says Mr Fitzpatrick. “Identify and notice who is around and who could go. Invest in them in particular.”
3 Keep training and sending people
Mr Fitzpatrick encourages people in his church to serve in other ministries, too. “The people who leave us [to pursue vocational ministry] are often people who have also participated in ministries outside of our church. They get a bigger picture of the world, and gain confidence that they can do stuff outside of our ministry here. It breaks them out of their comfort zone. It’s good for the kingdom. They will influence people who are still here as well, so it’s not a sacrifice but a blessing to our church for people to be involved elsewhere.”
Adds Canon Colgan: “I try to give people the opportunity to talk about the next steps. We find a mentor for them who is consciously talking to them about what ministry might look like. I invest in them.”
Mr Fitzpatrick and Canon Colgan discussed the issues at a Ministry Training & Development event in late August called “Creating a Recruiting Culture in Your Church”.
Header image is from Georges River Region mission prayer night in 2019, pre social distancing requirements.