SHAWNEE—What is supposed to happen when a person answers God’s call to serve? For many Oklahoma students who surrendered to the call of ministry, they have the opportunity to attend The Call Conference, which happened Aug. 27 at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), to understand what their call may look like. More than 450 people attended the one-day event.

“The Call Conference is specifically designed to help kids process what area of ministry they might be going into and how they know they are discerning God’s call on their life,” said Todd Sanders, student education specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). “We covered what it means to pursue the call to vocational ministry or ministry leadership specifically, so there were a number of breakouts that address different ministry areas.”

Conference breakout sessions covered specific ministries such as pastoral, worship through music, youth, children, missions, evangelism, girls’ ministry and women’s ministry. Sanders said they also offered a session covering ministry from an entrepreneurial aspect, which included the possibilities of bi-vocational ministry as well as people working in a secular profession but also being involved in ministry. 

A special breakout session was offered to church leaders who can help guide and support students who have been called to ministry. Heath Thomas, OBU dean of the college of theology and ministry, led a session on preparing for the call to ministry, and Scott Pace, OBU associate professor of applied ministry, led a session titled “A Call to Obedience.”

Sanders said Pace’s session was designed to “help students pursue obedience in their life every day and understand that every believer is called to ministry. Every believer is called to obedience and faithfulness.” He said this session was helpful for those who may have attended The Call Conference and did not know specifically what they were called by God to do.

The Call Conference originated as a follow-up for students who made decisions during Falls Creek summer camps, as hundreds of campers answer the call to ministry every year. The event has grown to include support for church leaders and parents, and many of them were in attendance this year. The Call Conference helps them identify how important their influence is on the next generation of ministry leaders.

“If we are going to create a legacy, we have to start here and now in developing these students and these leaders and churches to assist kids in this way,” Sanders said.

The general sessions featured Shane Pruitt, director of missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and Stuart Henslee, pastor of leadership development at Muscle Shoals, Ala., Highland Park. The Mike Romero Band led in worship through music.

Brett Selby, BGCO pastoral leadership specialist, said he was encouraged by the practical guidance Pruitt offered.

“(Pruitt) attributed two factors to his call or surrender to ministry leadership,” Selby said. “The first one was, and this is pretty much a direct quote, ‘Some people ask me when did I surrender to ministry. I think it was when I gave my life to Christ.’

“The second thing that he said was that his call to ministry came because he was hanging out with his pastor. His relationship with Christ and his relationship with his pastor—those formed the basis for this thing we know as a call, and both of those things are normative in life.”

Attendees of The Call Conference also experienced an interview session with International Mission Board missionaries who helped students understand what an actual missions experience looks like on the field.

Sanders was encouraged with the turnout of students and their willingness to attend.

“Leaders are not forcing them to do this,” he said. “It’s a big day of focus on what a call looks like and what it can be. It’s encouraging to see this is not a generation of students that are being forced to be interested but rather want to pursue it and want to figure out what the Lord’s doing in their lives.”

Both Sanders and Selby have positive outlooks for those who attended The Call and for the conference itself.

“I’m encouraged. I see these students and think, ‘This is a positive thing,’” Sanders said. “To look over the past few summers, it’s a pretty good sign of students seeking training and investment towards that call. To have 450 or so students come out to an event like this, I think it says a lot.”

Selby believes The Call Conference will continue to be beneficial in the years to come.

“What I am hoping is as we continue to do The Call, we continue to lift (practical guidance) up, and we continue to see 450 students show up on a Saturday at OBU, it’s going to become normative, not the exception. I think we are moving in that direction,” said Selby.

The Call Conference also demonstrates how current ministry leaders can invest in helping ministry leaders of the future. Selby commended Anthony Jordan, BGCO executive director-treasurer; Sanders; and Andy Harrison, BGCO student ministry specialist, for their leadership and influence in helping church leaders of the next generation.

“People like Andy and Todd and (Jordan) are concerned about succession,” said Selby. “They realize that it is not all about them. The fact they are thinking about succession indicates that there’s a heart of servant leadership.

“There’s two sides to this. It’s going into great hands, and the hands that are passing the baton off are servant-minded. That’s the way this has always worked. There were those who passed the baton off to us, and they were servant-minded, and now we’re trying to continue that. I have every confidence that it will continue.”