Raising Church Leaders: What I Did This Summer

When I was in high school and college, nobody mentored me into the ministry. Sure, I taught Sunday school, but not once did anyone suggest that I had the gifts for Christian leadership.

Now, let me be clear. I am not sure that I had those gifts at that time. I was sullen, troubled, and cynical. In other words, I was seventeen. But I took things a little further than your average teen. Let's just say that as an underachiever, I overachieved.

So much so that when I announced my plans to become a minister in my early twenties, my high school friends thought it was a practical joke.

No one else saw this in me. In fact, even after college, I would go on to be officially rejected in the ordination process by the Episcopal Church.

Perhaps it was that rejection that makes me so passionate about mentoring future leaders. They don't have to get ordained. But we ask them to explore a future as ministers or as lay leaders who have to work with ministers. We take them to visit seminaries, we teach them about pastoral care, and we expect them to lead worship and preach. We workshop their sermons and sometimes they cry. They have theological crises. As a result of this summer internship, I now have two groups of families that can potentially hate me: those whose children are not selected and those whose children are.

Most of those former interns are now in college. Some have changed majors as a result of that summer experience, or taken classes in religion "just for fun."

That's what I did back in college. I took religion courses "just for fun." I had no vocabulary for a calling. I had never met a woman minister. I did not know how any of this worked. I told my friends that I wanted to be a professor, because I didn't have the words to articulate that what I really wanted to be was a preacher.

Lillian Daniel, high school senior

Years later, our punk rock band ended when I went to divinity school on a hunch that, having been rejected by the Episcopalians, I might still be called.

Would you have looked at this kid at age seventeen and told her she had the gifts for Christian leadership?

I'd like to think that today, in my church, we would.

So that's how I spent my summer.

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8/21/2013 4:00:00 AM
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