(Kari Barlow for AWFUMC) - The Alabama-West Florida Conference has launched a new partnership with Huntingdon College to nurture high school students who are discerning a call to ministry.
The program, Ministry as Calling or MAC Track, is part of Bishop David Graves’ efforts to establish a stronger culture of the call across districts and at local churches and speaks to one of the conference priorities
. Modeled after a similar program at FUMC Lakeland in the Florida Conference, it’s headed by Celeste Eubanks, director of leadership strategies with the conference, and Rev. Macon Armistead, director of the Huntingdon Leadership Academy.
Allowing them the space to hear and listen to people older than them has been great
“MAC Track is looking at those students who are really either serious about going into some form of contextualized ministry after school or who have really strong gifts for that but maybe aren’t sure how they will utilize that,” Armistead said.
Working with the senior pastors and youth ministers from the Montgomery Prattville and Montgomery-Opelika districts, Armistead identified four girls and four boys seven seniors and one junior—to participate in the pilot program, which kicked off in September 2019 and is scheduled to wrap up in late spring.
Since September, the students, along with Eubanks and Armistead, have attended a different church on the third Sunday of each month. After each service, they are treated to a meal and given the opportunity to fellowship with the congregation’s clergy team.
“Whoever the leadership is there, the senior pastor and even some of the associates always share their call stories” Eubanks said. “Seeing the clergy rally around these students—it has been a phenomenal experience. …We’re going deep!”
MAC Track—which is designed to expose the students to vastly different church sizes and worship styles—has taken the group to Saint James UMC, Aldersgate UMC, Frazer UMC, FUMC Montgomery and Mulder Memorial UMC in Wetumpka.
“That was intentional,” Eubanks said. “Especially in pulpit ministry, you can’t be like, ‘Bishop, I need you to send me to a church that has a contemporary service because that’s my jam!’ No, you’re going to go where the Bishop feels God is leading him or her to place you.”
Armistead agreed, adding that some of the students had never experienced a “high church” service with formal liturgy and spoken creeds. “It was a great way for them to see that everyone worships differently … but we’re all one body,” he said.
Since MAC Track started, Eubanks and Armistead have strived to serve as companions and mentors, walking alongside the kids, listening to their questions and providing them with resources.
“I think the most beautiful thing you can say to a young person is, ‘I don’t know,’” Armistead said. “It just opens up so many more questions.”
Eubanks especially enjoyed the Sunday the students delved into a spiritual gift assessment and talked about how they think God is equipping them for ministry.
“I think it was that moment when they really gelled as a group,” she said. “They were so conversational … really transparent and vulnerable with each other.”
Eubanks and Armistead have also worked hard to help students understand that the pulpit is not their only choice and that ministry can take many different forms. Along the way, they have discussed youth ministry, campus ministry, music ministry, missions, teaching and lay efforts.
“Allowing them the space to hear and listen to people older than them has been great,” he said. “What I hope is they are not feeling the pressure to have it all figured out.”
Eubanks agreed, adding that she shared with students her own story of answering the call to be a deaconess after she had become an adult.
“It is my hope and my desire that they will continue discerning this call,” she said. “That they’ll go to their respective college and universities and seek out spaces where they can continue to discern.”
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Celeste Eubanks and Rev. Macon Armistead hope to replicate MAC Track at the district level. To learn more about this program, contact Armistead at firstname.lastname@example.org.