Choosing a career path is a difficult decision, but for some Western Pennsylvania young adults who feel a call to ministry, attending Exploration 2015 helped bring things into focus. The three-day event is offered every two years for those age 18-26 by the United Methodist Church's General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
“This weekend at Exploration 2015 has truly been an inspiring experience. It was so amazing to be surrounded by young adults who all feel a strong calling towards ministry," said Taylor Keltz of Lakeside UMC in DuBois. "I got to share my experiences along with also hearing other testimonies from other young adults all over our country. Exploration not only helped me better understand what God is calling me to do, but it also showed me the resources and support that are out there to help me respond to my calling.
"Knowing there are other young adult Christians out there going through the same things as I am was very relieving. I am truly blessed for the opportunity to have attended Exploration 2015.”
Rev. Keith Dunn, pastor of Belmont UMC in Johnstown, who leads the Call and Recruitment efforts of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM), led the group of Western PA young adults to the Nov. 6-8 event in Orlando, FL. Other clergy accompanying the group were the Rev.Alyce Weaver Dunn, Johnstown District Superintendent; the Rev. J.R. Virgin, who is slated to chair BOOM's Call and Recruitment team next year; and the Rev. Janet Lord, ministerial services coordinator for BOOM.
“Exploration is for those who think God may be calling them to ordained or licensed ministry and wondering what that type of ministry looks like in the United Methodist Church,” says the Rev. Trip Lowery, director of young adult ministry discernment and enlistment at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Participants have an opportunity to learn more about The United Methodist seminaries and theological schools, and explore their gifts for service as potential deacons or elders in The United Methodist Church.
“Exploration has to be one of the coolest experiences of my life," said Ryan Brownfield, who was part of the WPAUMC group. "It has really helped me understand and want to go after my calling. This weekend is really going to help me shape my future. It has showed me that I should change my major when I go to college next year.
"I also have learned a lot about the church. For example, I had no idea what the difference between a deacon and an elder was before this trip. I also learned the steps I should take to live out my calling. Seminary and ordination are a big part of taking your faith to the next level.
Lowery emphasized that Exploration is "an opportunity to discern with others who are in similar seasons of life, with similar questions, and learn from the experiences of leaders who have already answered that call.” Brownfield's reaction confirmed that.
"At Exploration, I didn’t have to be nervous about sharing and expressing my faith," he said. "It was pretty awesome to meet so many people who are interested in the same thing as me. I was able to skip the normal questions that are asked when you first meet someone and skip to telling your life story or future plans. I was able to meet good-hearted people and have deep, personal conversations with them. There is nothing like Exploration. Thank you to everyone who made it possible for me to go.”
Lexi Kalkbrenner said Exploration 2015 "was a truly incredible experience and I learned more than I expected to. Exploration helped me clearly see what my call is and I will forever be grateful for that. I now know that youth ministry is where my heart is and where God wants me to be. I am truly blessed for the opportunity to attend Exploration 2015.”
Other Western PA young adults who experienced Exploration 2015 were: Will Boddorf, Kelly Jones, Kelsey McCarthy, Matt Scott, Kayla Schwanke and Tom Verner.
Attendees heard from several renowned speakers who have explored and followed their calling to ministry. Videos of the worship featuring the following dynamic speakers can be seen at explorecalling.org/exploration/worship/