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Discerning Vocation and Call

In the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church we believe that all are called to ministry in the church be they called to serve as laity or as clergy. The journey toward vocational discernment is different for everyone. We can begin to feel a pull toward a certain field of study or career as early as grade school and as late as our golden years and anytime in between. The call to ministry is no different. It’s important to create spaces for youth and young adults who are at the beginning of their leadership in the church to explore their self-knowledge and begin to imagine how God might be inviting them to use their gifts – be that inside the church or in another vocational field. Here are a few places to start the journey of discernment:

If you’re thinking about something quick for a one-hour class that can be stretched into a day retreat, try this:

Discerning Your Call by the Rev. Crystal R. Sygeel

Available upon request: [email protected]
Written as a one-hour workshop, this curriculum invites participants, 6th-12th grade, to explore their own gifts and graces and how those can be used for the work of God’s kingdom -including but not limited to – a call to ordained ministry. Delving into the definitions of vocation, talent, and ministry, participants are invited to do a series of finger paintings that reflect something they are good at, and how that something can be engaged in the church and in the world. A brief study into Genesis 1 reveals that everything in the creation narrative is designed with identity and purpose, as well as a place in a web of interconnectedness where the parts rely on each other to make up one great whole. The curriculum has flexibility and can be expanded from one hour to two hours.
Dream, Believe, Discern, Live Out: A Career Discernment Event for Youth

A discernment event hosted by the Center for Clergy Excellence and Connectional Ministries for Junior and Senior High Youth to consider their God-given gifts and ways that they can participate in God’s greater world. Working in collaboration with churches, activities will include interactive learning in small and large groups and closes with worship, often with a meal as part of the schedule.

If you’re interested in being a host site for this multi-youth group event, contact: [email protected]

When preparing Sermons, Curriculum, Media Support try this:

Called: One Word, Many Ways by Exploring Call

Available at:

Called is a resource from the Young Clergy Initiative* that helps your community explore how to listen for God’s voice, discern what you’ve heard, and respond faithfully at any age.

Worship resources, educational curriculum, and support graphics work together to offer four weeks of sermon starters, liturgy, worship slides, curriculum for K-12th grades, testimony videos, and more.

*The Young Clergy Initiative (YCI) is a $7 million fund created by General Conference in 2012 and 2016 that is charged with increasing the number of young clergy within jurisdictional conferences of The United Methodist Church by encouraging opportunities that leverage denominational change on systemic and cultural levels through various conversations, events, experiements, resources, research, and training.

The YCI invites grant requests that assist young people to listen fordiscern, and respond well to God’s call to ordained ministry.

If you’re looking for a Book Study, try this:

Blessed Wrestling by the Rev. Jessie Squires Colwell

Available at:

Discerning one’s vocation often means that we wrestle with God. Sometimes these matches last minutes and sometimes years. We want to know where God is leading us next and what choices we should make to get there. Yet it is difficult to decide which is our own voice and which is God’s.

Research from a recent Barna Group study shares that “only 40% of practicing Christians say they have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives. Christian Millennials are especially sensitive to this divine prompting-nearly half (48%) say they believe God is calling them to different work, yet they haven’t yet made such a change.”

This book takes readers into the stories of 8 biblical persons who struggled with God. As a result, they were changed, blessed, and moved forward with hope. They each found God’s preferred future for their lives and this opportunity is available to all of us.   
Blessed Wrestling includes reflection questions to help readers focus their thinking.

Ways to Equip Youth and Young Adults to Identify Their Own Gifts

Local Church Level

Communities of faith look to confirmation as a season to teach young people the fundamentals of our denomination and what we believe as United Methodists. It can also provide opportunities to introduce people from all walks of life who serve in a variety of capacities in the church as examples of discipleship. Confirmation can be a time to invite participants to consider how God might be leading them as members of Christ’s church.

Leading Worship
Having youth -and when appropriate, children as well- to lead congregational singing, read scripture, offer moments of testimony or lead prayers beyond Youth Sunday or Children’s Sabbath can offer them the opportunity to try out different skills, provide leadership, and possibly imagine themselves in a future setting of church service.

Mission Trips
Many people serving in the church -lay and clergy alike- can trace their call back to a moment of mission. Whether spending time building houses, serving as a camp counselor, or providing basic needs to the world’s most vulnerable- many young people feel this is the time “it all made sense.” They were able to begin articulating a sense of call and a desire to serve God’s people. Including times for reflection and discernment can be an important part of any mission event schedule.

Seminary Visits
Planning a seminary visit for youth who have expressed an interest in ministry can be a great way to enhance knowledge of our educational requirements for ordination, as well as the journey of self-discovery that students often go through. Seminary can be hard to describe. Arranging a visit with your nearest seminary is one way of inviting youth to imagine themselves pursuing a vocation in ministry.

Scholarship Funding
Students looking for funding for higher education can visit:
Students from Virginia looking for seminary funding can visit:

Conference Level

Candidacy Summit
The Candidacy Summit is an overnight event for anyone (18 or older and out of high school) who is interested in learning more about pursuing ministry leadership in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church (VAUMC). The Candidacy Summit provides opportunities for vocational discernment, connection with others who are exploring God’s call in their lives, and a deeper understanding about the VAUMC journey towards certified, licensed and ordained ministry.

An event for high school-aged youth is being discussed. Email the Rev. Crystal R. Sygeel ([email protected]) if you’d like to know more.

The Virginia Conference is blessed with several camps and retreat centers which provide options for children and youth to explore the great outdoors. Being in nature provides opportunities for young people to connect with God through the environment, test their leadership skills in activities and worship, and learn what it means to be a part of community. Visit: to learn more.

Convergence at Randolph-Macon College
All too often, young people are taught there are no connections between what they read in the Bible and what they study in science class. From June 22 -June 30, Randolph-Macon College and Union Presbyterian Seminary faculty will lead high school youth (freshmen, sophomores and juniors) in exploring topics such as The Origin of the Universe, Stewardship of the Earth, and Non-Western Religious Voices on Science. The following link will be updated soon: You may also visit Convergence on Facebook

Youth Theology Institute at Shenandoah University:
Shenandoah University’s Youth Theology Institute is an intensive two-week program from July 19-Aug. 1 , designed to help rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors become better leaders through deep and thought-provoking experiences. During the course of the two weeks, daily rhythms of academic study and religious reflection will be balanced with immersive experiences. Students will be exposed to different faith traditions, service opportunities and a mixture of rural, wilderness and urban contexts at Shenandoah’s Winchester campus, its Shenandoah River Campus at Cool Spring and the Wesley Theological Seminary campus in Washington, D.C. Click here for more information and how to apply.

The Office of Clergy Excellence is here for you!

The Rev. Crystal R. Sygeel, the Associate Director for Call and Candidacy, is available as a resource for conversation, preaching, and one-time teaching events with your youth and young adults.
[email protected], 804-521-1141

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