The Hannah Project Recognizes Churches That Encourage Call To Ministry

LAKELAND - There are some pastors that enter the ministry because of an intense sense of calling. Some pastors enter the ministry because a pastor presented them with the idea of the ministry being an excellent profession to share their gifts and talents.

The Florida Annual Conference Center for Clergy Excellence is hoping the Hannah Project will capitalize on the latter.

The Hannah Project will celebrate local churches that, like Hannah, the mother of Samuel, dedicate and send people into God's service. The Center for Clergy Excellence hopes that every local church will create a culture of calling that lifts up licensed and ordained ministry in such a way that children, youth and adults will hear and respond to God's call.

Each congregation is challenged to participate in the Hannah Project. The Center for Clergy Excellence will celebrate and recognize churches at the 2011 Florida Annual Conference Event that have met all of the Hannah Project criteria.

The deadline to notify the Center it has met the criteria is April 1.

Rev. Emily Oliver
The Rev. Emily Oliver, associate director of the Center for Clergy Excellence, said the desired result of the Hannah Project is simple.

"The goal of the Hannah Project is to celebrate congregations who are creating a culture of call, lifting up licensed and ordained ministry as an exciting and important calling for people of all ages," she said.

Churches that will be recognized have completed the requirements, which include celebrating a Call to Ministry Sunday; adopting a seminary student; giving a special offering toward the Conference Seminary Scholarship Endowment or sponsoring a young adult to attend the 2011 General Board of Higher Education Ministry's Exploration; focusing on calling in children's ministry; focusing on calling in youth ministry; and paying the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.

While churches meeting all of the Hannah Project criteria will be recognized at annual conference, Oliver said the overall goal is to give local churches specific suggestions about how their congregations can "create a culture of call through their worship, discipleship, relationships and financial giving." She said by celebrating churches that meet all six criteria at annual conference, she hopes other congregations will be encouraged to do so as well.

The Rev. Scott Farmer, senior pastor at Palm Coast United Methodist Church, said his congregation currently has eight members, ranging in age from 18 to 49, who are either entering the ministry, exploring the ministry as an option or in seminary. He said while God calls the people, he views his role as pastor as an ambassador to the profession.

"I don't preach about entering the ministry, I talk about my own calling," said Farmer, who is in his fifth year at the church. "I make myself available to people. I think many times people are embarrassed when they are in the early stages so it helps if you are approachable."

While larger congregations may have more resources available to them, Oliver said the Hannah Project is adaptable to any church regardless of size.

"Studies show that large-membership churches tend to produce more ministerial candidates, but churches of any size can help create this culture of call throughout our conference," Oliver said." Already, we've heard from churches of all sizes who are working toward Hannah Project recognition in 2011.

"We believe that by recognizing a wide variety of churches, not just large churches that have a history of producing many ministerial candidates, we can encourage all churches to grow in their culture of call."

Oliver said bright, talented young people are often encouraged to enter the medical or legal professions but rarely are those same people pursued for the ministry.

Oliver said many times simply asking a person to consider whether God might be calling them is a pivotal moment in their call process. She said lifting up the option of pastoral ministry for children, youth and young adults can make a huge difference in young people realizing and pursuing God's call in their lives.

Farmer said he views his role as someone who can help an interested person sort through what it means to be called to the ministry, as well as be the person who will walk with them through the entire process.

"Sometimes the process of calling will take place over a dynamic period of years," Farmer said. "You can't sway from the process. You have to sort through it."

Just as Farmer is working within the congregation, Oliver said the Hannah Project is designed to enhance the culture of calling within congregations.

"The local church is the place in which a person's call is most often discovered, nurtured and developed," Oliver said. "Therefore, it is vital that every local church develops a culture of call.  We believe the Hannah Project is a great tool to celebrate and encourage churches towards this goal."

If local churches are already meeting the criteria for the Hannah Project, Oliver encourages those churches to fill out the form to inform the conference.

Oliver said by celebrating what local churches are doing it allows the Center for Clergy Excellence the opportunity to encourage other churches. She said if congregations are not currently meeting the criteria, the Hannah Project may provide concrete and reachable goals for the future.

Details of each of the criteria can be found on the Web site of the Center for Clergy Excellence.

News media contact: Cary McMullen, 800-282-8011,, Lakeland
*McMullen is managing editor of the e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.

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