By Colin Scott
“The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”
Circular tables. The Mission and Ministry Board meets around circular tables the same way Church of the Brethren delegates to Annual Conference have for the past decade. When used purposefully, this setup–this space–can inspire robust sharing, provoke thoughtful discernment, and give voice to an array of perspectives. We grow, we are nourished, and, sometimes, we find ourselves outside our zones of comfort.
When asked to share my calling story, I was transported back to one of these circular tables early in my tenure on the board, when we were queried about the impact of outdoor ministries on our faith journeys. As I spoke, I quickly realized I could track, in fairly linear fashion, both callings to serve and callings to ministry (and, yes, this may be a distinction without a difference) to summers spent at Camp Eder, outside Gettysburg, Pa.
As an adolescent at Camp Eder, I forged friendships that extended into my years as a senior high youth and well into adulthood; relationships that continue today. I found a passion for youth ministry in large part because of the way evening services held in the sanctuary that is Vespers Hill shaped me, and the way nights singing around a campfire fed me. From there I capitalized on opportunities to serve on our district’s youth cabinet and to attend regional and denominational conferences. Participation in these events broadened my understanding of the church and what it means to live in beloved community. Somewhat naturally, but also with a lot of love and support, I developed an assortment of spiritual gifts.
As I reflect on the gifts within me, I realize that often they have been identified–called out–by others in the Body of Christ. I only needed to trust that He would sustain me and then be open to the movement of the Spirit. One example of this “calling the called” occurred when a close mentor put my name forward for a position on the district board once I had moved back to central Pennsylvania and started my career as an attorney. In turn, an ex officio member of that board spotted certain giftings in me and asked if I would allow my name to be considered for the Mission and Ministry Board. Once there, my fellow board members saw within me gifts of leadership and called me to chair the board. One call multiplied and had quite the ripple effect in my life.
The clearest example of being called out of my comfort zone and into ministry, however, occurred in 2018 when multiple members of my home church expressed that I should prayerfully consider stepping into the church’s coordinator of Youth Ministry position. While I had been voluntarily teaching the junior high Sunday school class and learning who these young brothers and sisters in Christ were, accepting this call would mean a more active presence in their lives and their spiritual formation. Moreover, while confident and secure in my foundation in Christ, I had no formal seminary training and certainly could not profess to being a biblical scholar.
Still, I accepted the call and stepped out in faith. And unsurprisingly, my faith community surrounded me and helped me find my footing. I quickly learned that, as much as anything else, my youth needed someone in their corner who cared about them. Yes, I offered guidance and taught them, but I also listened, learned from them, and began to understand who each of them is individually. Suddenly, and possibly the most rewarding part, I caught myself identifying their spiritual gifts and searching out ways to embolden and empower each to explore, develop, and use those talents.
An important part of those circular tables I mentioned at the outset is an invitation to join and the encouragement to participate meaningfully in those spaces. We bear a responsibility to journey together with others and to discern calls to ministry that may challenge us. Even more, we must share our stories and call out the gifts we see in others. We trust, God, then, to equip us and others whom God calls to fulfill God’s will.
— Colin Scott is an assistant counsel at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, coordinator of Youth Ministry at Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and chair-elect of the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board. This is reprinted with permission from the SVMC.