“Am I called to be a pastor?” “What is your call story?” Questions like these imply that, to become a pastor, a person first needs a clear calling from God. Churches have varying expectations for how this call takes place—through a deep inwardly felt desire, after volunteer ministry and/or seminary training, by invitations from church leaders, by drawing lots. Each of these questions and expectations focuses on a person’s calling prior to entering pastoral ministry.
Discerning one’s ministry calling is not, however, a one-and-done event. Instead, pastors and church leaders ask questions about their calling throughout their ministry—just as Christians face questions about their calling or vocation no matter their age and stage of life. Pastors revisit their calling when their job descriptions change, when they leave a church or ministry, when they retire, when illness or burnout set in, or when conflicts arise. Churches face questions about calling pastors when a ministry role goes unfilled, when they can’t afford to pay a pastor, or when their demographics and needs change. Compounding these questions, declining numbers of students are enrolling in ministry studies at many Christian theological schools.
ReNew 2023, a resourcing conference for pastors and church leaders, will focus on the dynamics of the pastor’s callings—that is, their vocations. Dr. Kathleen Cahalan—a professor of practical theology at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary—will draw on her years of ministry and research to provide three stimulating addresses on how ministers experience calling and vocation throughout their lives, and on practicing Christian discernment faithfully.
In addition, the conference will feature worship sessions, Bible studies, pastors’ stories, and workshops. Throughout, attendees will have ample time for discussions and conversations during the sessions, and over coffee and meals—including a banquet.
Bring your questions and insights to this two-day event, which promises to encourage, inspire, and resource everyone who attends.
Cahalan is Professor of Practical Theology at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary. She is also Director of the Collegeville Institute Seminars, a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and ecumenical research project that includes seminars on vocation across the lifespan, vocation and faith in the professions, and interfaith perspectives on vocation.