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High School Youth Explore Church Vocations

High school youth from all parts of the United States participated in the Exploring Church Careers Event (ECCE), held July 29 – Aug. 1, and Exploring the Pastoral Ministry (EPM), held Aug. 1-4 at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. A total of 44 youth attended the ECCE, and participated in Bible studies, worship, prayer and discussion, and visited various ministry sites in the St. Louis area to hear presentations by people currently serving in church vocations. A total of 40 young men attended EPM and studied theology with Seminary professors, worshiped with the Seminary community, listened to pastors discuss the joys and challenges of the pastoral ministry, took part in a Servant Event and attended a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.

“These events are extremely significant because they help identify future church workers,” commented 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. These events allow young people to see the many ways God can use the gifts He has given them to serve Him in these special ways.”

During the ECCE, admission representatives from eight 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. While the ECCE included information regarding a wide variety of church work vocations, the EPM focused exclusively on the pastoral ministry and featured Seminary professors talking about preparation for and challenges of the pastoral ministry.

Evaluation forms completed by the students expressed heartfelt enthusiasm for the event and indicated that the ECCE and EPM achieved their stated purposes of encouraging and informing youth regarding church careers and the pastoral ministry. Many participants acknowledged that the events had become major influences on their decision-making process and described it as a life-changing experience.

One ECCE participant commented, “What I liked most about ECCE was hearing about different church careers from people who do them everyday.” Another participant said, “I absolutely had a wonderful time at ECCE. I would definitely come back!”

An EPM participant said, “Every time I come to this event I am encouraged even more that God is leading me to serve Him and His people as a pastor.” Another participant commented, “EPM was a great opportunity to grow in Christ and develop relationships with future colleagues and friends.”

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 careers. The grant is from Lilly Endowment Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind. “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 both an ECCE and an EPM again next year to assist our church in addressing this trend.”

The 2007 ECCE and EPM are scheduled for Aug. 4-7 and Aug. 7-10, respectively. Nomination forms will be mailed to all LCMS pastors, high school principals, teachers and guidance counselors in February 2007. Prior to this, nomination forms may be printed from the Concordia Seminary Web site at www.csl.edu. Registration will begin on March 1, 2007, and no registrations will be accepted prior to this date.

For more information on the ECCE or the EPM, contact the Admissions Office, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105; ECCE@csl.edu. Pictures of the event are available online at www.csl.edu/Admissions_HighSchoolYouth_ECCE_ECCEPictures.aspx.