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Exploration Event Guides Young Adults on Path Toward Church Leadership

November 9, 2017

Participants join in worship at Exploration

A passionate group of approximately 300 young adults from across The United Methodist Connection gathered in Portland, Oregon November 3-5 to learn more about ministry in The United Methodist Church. Exploration provides these young adults with a space to explore ministry options, gain insight from those in ministry and connect and support others also considering ministry.

Exploration is a biennial, three-day event for young adults to listen, discern, and respond to God’s call to ordained ministry and to explore their gifts for service as a deacon or elder in The United Methodist Church. This event, hosted by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), guides students as they discern their call from God to become leaders in the church.

“Attendees showed up already having a sense that God is calling them to ordained ministry; we introduced them to those and other options for ministry within The United Methodist Church,” said Rev. Trip Lowery, D.Min, director of young adult ministry, discernment and enlistment at GBHEM. “We’re helping them sift through the issues involved in discerning an ordained vocation and giving them the resources they need to be successful on their journey.”

Representatives from United Methodist seminaries and theological schools
Representatives from United Methodist seminaries and theological schools

Conference attendees learned more about United Methodist seminaries and theological schools, explored their gifts for service, and devoted time to both personal and group reflection throughout the event.

“Exploration seeks to respond faithfully to The United Methodist Church’s focus on increasing the number of clergy in our denomination,” adds Lowery. “By creating sacred space together, we challenge the most gifted and promising young people of our denomination to hear, and follow, God’s call to the ordained ministry.”

Biblical scholar and visionary, Rev. Kevin Murriel, D.Min., senior pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, gave the opening sermon at worship on the first night of the conference. The Candler School of Theology graduate spoke to the group on what it takes to follow a call from God, citing three things to remember as you take this path to ministerial leadership:

  1. If you want to surrender your all to God, you must be willing to live like you are already redeemed
  2. You must love Christ enough to sacrifice for your call
  3. In following your call, you must allow God to allow your gifts to take you where you are supposed to be
Attendees clasp hands together showing support for each other on this journey with God.
Attendees clasp hands together showing support for each other on this journey with God.

Murriel concluded worship by asking all attendees to reach their arms out in surrender to God. As he continued preaching, arms began to sink lower, at which point he addressed the group saying that when your arms grow tired, you must remember that you’re not holding them up alone. Attendees proceeded to clasp their hands together with one another, showing support for each other on this journey with God.

Rev. Brent Strawn, Ph.D., director of the Doctor of Ministry degree at Candler School of Theology, gave the Saturday morning message. He focused on the “formfulness” of call, sharing that literary form helps with formless—even chaotic—experiences by enhancing and articulating them. “Objection is an expected and regular part of responding to a call,”

Strawn said. He acknowledged that those following a call from God often feel isolated and that it’s not easy. Focusing on Old Testament examples, Strawn reassured the group that even Jesus referenced scripture to better understand how to answer the call.

Throughout the day, attendees went to multiple workshops designed to help them learn about specific ministry paths and related topics, such as funding options for seminary.

The Gifts of Women in Ministry Workshop
The Gifts of Women in Ministry Workshop

2017 Exploration Workshops

  • Certification, Endorsement and Extension Ministry (Mary Brumley, Genevieve Clark and Kimberly Davis)
  • Deacon (Victoria Rebeck, DeAndre Johnson, Jeff Lowery and Rachel Neer)
  • Deacon or Elder? Two Paths to Ordination (Chip Aldridge and David Martinez)
  • Elder (Megan Boatwright, Juan Huertas and Jenny Smith)
  • Funding Your Theological Education (Tracy Anne Allred and Allyson Collinsworth)
  • Navigating the Ordination Process (Meg Lassiat)
  • The Gifts of Women in Ministry (HiRho Park, Lindsey Baynham and Anna Guillozet)
  • To Rev or Not to Rev? The Ordination Question (Doris Dalton and Brad Laurvick)
  • Working for Change in the World (Mission) (Arnold Brown, Kara Crawford, Nora Cunningham, Margaret Lohmeyer and Kendra Twenter)
Rev. Trip Lowery, D.Min. preaches on the topic of unique gifts
Rev. Trip Lowery, D.Min. preaches on the topic of unique gifts

The final evening’s worship was led by GBHEM’s Lowery, an elder in the North Carolina Annual Conference. The theme of his message was on the unique gifts each person brings to ministry, and how those gifts from God connect everyone within the church. “We are different people, and the church desperately needs every single one of us,” Lowery preached. “We need to discover our differences and own what makes us different. The church needs the difference that you bring to the body.” Lowery compared a life in ministry to a stained-glass window, noting the importance of each individual color. “The power isn’t in a single color, but all of them together. A window with one color is an incomplete gospel.” The evening concluded with a baptismal remembrance service where each person drew a colored glass bead from a bowl of water to remember they are each one in the vast spectrum of color. Participants dispersed to spend time in fellowship with one another and within small groups designed for reflection on the day’s messages.

Baptismal Remembrance Service
Baptismal Remembrance Service

On the final morning, Rev. Jenny Smith, United Theological Seminary graduate and elder in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, offered the closing worship message on the theme of overcoming fear while following the call into ministry. “I could keep avoiding the things in my life out of fear, or I could do the thing I knew God was calling me to,” preached Smith. She assured participants that each person is worthy of their call saying, “God uses our brokenness.  It’s our strength. It’s our superpower.”

Exploration creates a sacred space for young adults to enter meaningful fellowship, passionate worship, theological reflection, and practical workshops as they discern whether God’s call on their life is to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church and what faithful steps they can take in response.

The next Exploration event will be held in Orlando, Florida, November 1-3, 2019. For more information about this event or a to learn more about United Methodist ministry, please visit or Follow Exploration on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @explorecalling.

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