When a church is in need of a lead or associate pastor, do they nurture these characteristics in the youth and young adults in their congregation or search for ready-made pastors outside of their congregation? The trend among Mennonite churches is to search for pastors who are educated in seminary or at one of the many Mennonite schools in Canada and abroad. While the trend has moved away from choosing a pastor from within the congregation, some Mennonite churches are providing opportunities for the young people in their midst to worship lead, be a part of committees, and even to preach.
This is the case for Rebecca Steiner of Community Mennonite Church in Stouffville, Ont. and Serena Smith from Jubilee Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. Steiner has recently been hired as the enrichment coordinator at her church. She is responsible for engaging young adults, for community outreach, and for creative worship. But her engagement with the church began long before this.
“Since I was a child, I grew up in the church. In the past few years I’ve been away at school, but I’ve sat on committees and been a part of worship services, I’ve done some preaching and now that I’m back in Stouffville, I’m hoping to be more involved,” Steiner said.
Smith is a youth sponsor and has been for a few years. She has helped teach adult Sunday school, she has been on retreat planning committees and has occasionally led worship. Her leadership started because her potential was noticed by a youth sponsor.
“When I was 16, one of my youth sponsors positively pressured me to go to MinistryQuest and ever since then I’ve tried to get involved in a leadership role,” Smith said.
Because her church has raised her to be a leader, Steiner hopes to lead within the church and help others move into leadership roles.
“It takes a community to raise a child and it also takes a community to raise a leader. When there’s this community that has supported you all along that way, it’s a beautiful thing when that person can give back to the church and to continue the cycle of life within that congregation. That makes sense,” she said.
“That being said, going away to school to learn and discern and receive some education is really important to be a strong leader. Perhaps that education can happen within the church, too.”
Smith believes that one is often most comfortable speaking up in their own congregation.
“If I were to go to another church, it would take me quite a few months to speak up and suggest things to them. You gain that confidence from within your own congregation,” she said. On the other hand, Smith recognizes that while a church is nurturing leadership qualities in a potential pastor, the church may not be receiving the leadership it needs.