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High School Youth Explore Church Careers

High school youth from all parts of the United States participated in the Exploring Church Careers Event (ECCE), held August 4-7 on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. A total of 78 youth who had been nominated by church leaders to attend the event prayed and worshiped together, engaged in lively Bible study discussions and traveled from the Seminary campus to various ministry sites where they heard presentations by numerous people currently serving in church vocations.

Vocational topics ranged from the traditional to the technological, including pastoral ministry, Christian education, counseling, music, missions, and television/radio. “This event is extremely significant because it helps identify future church workers,” explained Rev. Glen Thomas, vice president for seminary relations at Concordia Seminary. “Sometimes our most gifted youth are never approached with the idea of serving in a church vocation. This event, however, allows young people to see the many ways God can use the gifts He has given them to serve Him in these special ways.”

Admission representatives from nine Concordia University System schools and Valparaiso University distributed information and answered questions about academic programs that lead to church careers. They also served as small group leaders and sponsored an information fair on the last evening of the event.

Evaluation forms completed by the students expressed heartfelt enthusiasm for the event and indicated that the ECCE achieved its stated purpose of encouraging and informing youth regarding church careers. A number of students acknowledged that the event had become a major influence on their decision-making process and described it as a life-changing experience. “I am so incredibly grateful for all the effort, time and love that has gone into this event,” wrote one student. Another participant wrote, “It has been a great experience and I have no doubt that the ECCE will affect my choices, decisions and my life. I know now that I will definitely be working in the church.”

Congregations throughout the United States and Canada offered a strong show of support for the ECCE. “Approximately 400 nominations were received and we were filled to capacity in just 6 weeks,” Thomas said. “I want to thank the pastors, parents and others in the church who nominated youth to attend this event. We were overwhelmed with the response.”

Concordia Seminary worked with Rev. Terry Dittmer, director of the LCMS Department of Youth Ministry, to design the event. Rev. Darrell Zimmerman, pastor of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Brentwood, Missouri were also instrumental in the development of the program.

The ECCE was made possible by a $150,000 grant Concordia Seminary received to assist in the process of identifying, informing and encouraging high school youth toward service in church work vocations. The grant is from Lilly Endowment, Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“This grant allows us to address the declining number of students who are preparing to serve as pastors, teachers, directors of Christian education and other church career positions,” Thomas said. “Everyone who has watched the shortages in these vocations increase over recent years is alarmed. We plan to hold an ECCE again next year to assist our church in addressing this trend.”

For more information, contact the Admissions Office at Concordia Seminary by e-mail at ECCEvent@aol.com; by phone at 314-505-7722; or by regular mail at Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105.