In the last five years, four seminarians have come out of Spearfish United Methodist Church (UMC). Some are heading into pastoral, pulpit ministry, while others are using their education in specialized ministry. The congregation invites everyone to explore their call.
Spearfish UMC is creating a culture of call to foster how God calls each and everyone. The culture of call at the church has evolved by providing direct support to students in seminary, reaching out to young adults, developing leadership in the youth program and continually welcoming and inviting everyone.
“Spearfish accepts this responsibility because we can. We have been blessed and surrounded by excellent school systems at all levels, preschools through university. Our congregation understands college students because of our connection to Black Hills State University (BHSU) just blocks away. Our goal is always to connect students into the life of a vibrant, local church. We can do all of this, so we choose to do all of this, said Rev. Scott McKirdy, Spearfish UMC.
The congregation is intentional about the support for students in seminary. The church has provided financial support to certified candidates on their way to becoming ordained. An asserted effort is made to keep in direct contact with students away at seminary by sending cards and letters. Seminary students are invited to preach when they are back in Spearfish. Members of the church bathe ministerial candidates in prayer.
“The most important support we try to supply is prayer and relational support,” said McKirdy. “I as a pastor try to stay in phone contact and personal contact with them as regularly as possible. We as a congregation are regularly keeping them in prayer. We try to share updates on their progress with small groups and in worship. We send prayer quilts or Starbucks cards to them on special occasions. Each seminarian is unique, so we simply try to understand where they are at on their journeys and support them in unique ways.”
The focus of the youth program at Spearfish UMC is leadership. Youth are invited to plan worship, lead Bible studies and engage in service. Middle and high school students experience leadership by helping with Children First, an outreach ministry of Spearfish UMC that houses a daycare, preschool and an afterschool program. “When you participate in our youth program, we specifically work to equip you to lead,” said Pastor Scott.
Spearfish UMC allows young adults to explore their call to ministry in a variety of ways. Education students from BHSU education come the preschool at Children First to observe and work. The church assists in preparing the next generation of teachers. BHSU art students help with preschool and designing worship settings.
McKirdy explains that the church is open to learning opportunities and internships for youth and young adults. “We are regularly approached by high school and college students asking for experience and internships. The internship may be in technology, as they seek to participate in our worship experiences in our tech booth. We actively work with musicians of all ages who are seeking ways to participate in our congregation’s music program. First by participating and then by leading and directing in choirs, solos, instrumentals, worship teams, bell choir and teaching opportunities.”
The congregation will host their fourth Elisha Intern. The Elisha Project is an internship program that allows the opportunity for students to explore, discern their call and discuss with mentors and peers where God is calling them. Students who have completed at least one year of college completed the application process and selected by the Elisha committee are assigned to a church and mentor. Cody Warns, 2017 Elisha intern at Spearfish UMC said, “ It was an opportunity to learn. I preached for two weekends. I was not used to speaking in front of a group. I noticed as time went on I felt comfortable with preaching,”
The church and the pastoral leadership at Spearfish UMC encourage everyone to explore their call. There is an effort to personally invite and engage people of all ages in the life of the local church. The message and theme of invitations is—come and engage. The church has a ministry focused on welcoming people into worship. There is an effort to get people into small groups and settings, inviting them deeper into the daily happenings of the Spearfish church.
There is an intentionality to get those who are exploring their call connected to the district, and conference activities. Everyone is welcomed to hands-on ministry and mission locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.
Pastor Scott is quick to point out, “It’s not that we are doing anything special. We aren’t! We simply say come, engage. We invite people for meals in our homes. My favorite is inviting our college kids for supper every Sunday evening at our house.”
It is the simple invitations that create the culture of call at Spearfish UMC. Invitations to: Come learn how to run our dishwasher and serve food in our kitchen. Come make quilts with us on Thursday mornings so we can love those who need prayer and those who are in our local abuse shelter. Come participate in music. Come help in any way and learn to lead in our youth program. Come join in Bible study. Come worship and then learn to lead worship. Come cook and send meals out into our community. Come be a part of the congregational care ministry sharing directly in our community’s care centers. Come participate in the multiple recovery groups our church hosts. Come travel with us on a Solar Oven trip.
McKirdy is the first to admit that there is still a lot to learn. “By the way, we get it wrong all the time. We are constantly trying to figure out how to do all of this better. We are constantly falling short of where we would like to be. So, with God’s grace in hand, we simply try to take the next right steps.”
Join in the effort to create a culture of call at your church and across the Dakotas Conference. Participate in the 2018 Miracle Offering Called: One Word, Many Ways. Begin with prayer and discern who among us is called to answer God’s call. Lift up their names at the 2018 annual conference by bringing a commitment card.
Churches and individuals are invited to contribute financially to the Culture of Call Grant. Grants will allow churches to foster a culture of call for children through adults.