Friday’s Exploration event to offer insights into ministry careers

John W. Coleman

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.  —John 15:16

Orientation to Ministry. That is what at least 17 individuals will receive from the Eastern PA Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM) at its Exploration 2017 event on Friday, Oct. 13. They will gather at Lancaster Theological Seminary (555 W James St, Lancaster, PA) from 10 AM to 2 PM, for an introduction to the beckoning path of destiny that just may be tugging at their hearts.

The UMC Book of Discipline requires every conference BoOm to offer this orientation to persons who may have an interest or an intention to pursue any of the wide-ranging opportunities for service and leadership in ministry vocations. Those vocations may lead them to become pastors, deacons, deaconesses, chaplains, pastoral counselors, campus ministers, missionaries, and so on.

There are many exciting paths to choose from, based on one’s gifts, talents, interests and passions. But the most rewarding choice is always the path for which one is chosen, for which one is called by God to “go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”

This Exploration event—a first for our conference—is for all adults, especially young adults, who sense God’s call to ordained and licensed ministry, or who want to know about preparation for ministry in The United Methodist Church. It will provide helpful information and insights that may help future ministry candidates to discern their divinely ordered path. Candidates cannot be certified as candidates by their District Committee on Ministry without participating in this event.

“Many individuals often feel a nebulous tugging at their hearts, a leading of the Holy Spirit, a calling to serve Christ as some sort of minister,” said the Rev. Gary Knerr, co-chair of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry and pastor of Grove UMC.  “But what kind of minister? They’re unsure and often not aware of the options.

“Exploration helps them discern between local pastor, deacon, deaconess, home missioner, chaplain, elder, etc.,” he explained. Finding the right calling early on in candidacy:

  • makes the process easier;
  • helps one better direct the required investment of funds, education and time; and
  • saves one from the heartbreak of realizing s/he should be serving in a different area than initially claimed, by clarifying the difference between the various ministries and orders.

Ministry vocation norms are shifting, no one would deny. There are many more local pastors, including part-timers, along with challenges in compensation, ministry education and the demands of itinerancy. “But the local church pastorate is still one of many blessed choices for future ministry colleagues,” said Knerr.

Those who attend the orientation will enjoy worship, prayer, fellowship and conversation to help them explore and respond to God’s Call to ordained and licensed Ministry in all its forms.

They will learn about the seminary experience, options for theological education and various ministry fields available. They will also visit and observe a seminary classroom to witness the sharing of knowledge, insights, experience and community among teachers and students.

And they will benefit from the personal insights and experiences of one longtime, successful ordained pastor, who will share wisdom from his own guided walk of faith as a clergyman.

“The mission you are on is under the eye of the Lord” (Judges 18:6), the Rev. Jeff Raffauf (left) will admonish attendees in his keynote message. “I will illustrate a bit of this journey with stories from my own life and call to ministry, including a reflection on the tribe of Dan and their desire to have a territory of their own.

“We often look around at what others have or where we think the grass appears greener,” said Raffauf, who is lead pastor of the growing West Lawn UMC in Reading. “Ultimately, however, we want what they wanted: an assurance that we will succeed in the mission we undertake and that God will be with us all the way.”

Our ‘successes’ may not always be in line with what society, business, family or friends may consider success. But God looks at our heart, not our outward appearance, when calling and appointing us to ministries. In the end, following the leading of the Lord comes with a promise that the mission we are on is under the eye of the Lord.  Or, to use Jesus’ own words, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:20).”

Each of the four districts will have representatives at Exploration to discuss future (or current) candidates’ interests and potential avenues for entering, preparing for and living out their call to ministry.

For more information contact: the Rev. Dr. Michael Roberts at or the Rev. Johnson Dodla, also co-chair of BoOM, at

Please pray…
for the current and prospective candidates for ministry who will attend Exploration 2017 at Lancaster Theological Seminary on Friday, Oct. 13. Pray that they will feel God’s Holy Spirit moving in their minds and hearts, giving them the answers—and indeed, the paths—that they seek in their quest and preparation for service and leadership. Thank you.