“Well-meaning people asked me all the time when I was going to be a ‘real’ pastor or made comments like it must be the life to play video games and go to schools and themes parks for a living,” he said. “Guys and other staff often got forgotten during pastor appreciation month, staff anniversaries, etc. It’s usually the senior pastor who’s remembered.”
Southern Baptist seminaries offer instruction that, even if it doesn’t explicitly say “student,” nevertheless includes training in church leadership or other areas that can be extended to student ministry. Ross still sees a problem, though.
“A growing number of SBC colleges no longer offer degrees or even specific courses in student ministry,” he said. “The majority of SBC seminaries no longer have fulltime faculty teaching student ministry. Almost all state conventions have reduced the number of staff that are out training future and current student pastors. The same is true in the SBC agencies.”
He also pointed to “a muted focus” on calling teens and collegians to vocational ministry, citing what he admitted was anecdotal evidence of fewer sermons, altar calls and Bible sessions dedicated to such callings. “My church celebrated and supported me in that decision,” he said. “I see that same dynamic happen rarely today.”
There is evidence for a return to identifying and training the next crop of student pastors.
“I am so thankful that the messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting affirmed a Vision 2025 goal in this direction,” Ross said. Strategic Action 3 in Vision 2025 specifies “calling out the called” and increasing the total number of workers in the field.
“We need senior pastors to articulate from the pulpit how strategic and valuable the calling to be a student pastor is today,” Ross said. “We need parents sensing pride when a child of theirs hears God’s leadership in that direction.”
That responsibility also rests on those who should have the strongest clarity on the need for student ministers.
“Those leading our seminaries, colleges, state conventions and agencies are becoming aware that the future of our churches, and even the denomination, depends on our ability to evangelize, baptize, disciple and send out the next generation,” he said.
“That sobering realization should lead to increasing, rather than decreasing, those who are training and supporting student pastors.”
This article originally appeared at Baptist Press.