One of the great problems facing the church today is the increasing shortage of new ministers enter ing the field. According to recent calculations 211 new ministers are needed each year to fill all possible SDA ministerial needs in the North American Division alone, but at the present rate we are graduating only sixty to seventy ministerial students yearly. What is the answer to this acute two-thirds shortage of ministers?
In Testimonies, volume 4, page 604, there is a statement that I believe holds the answer. "There will surely be a dearth of laborers unless there is more encouragement given men to improve their ability with the purpose of becoming ministers of Christ." The key, then, is in giving "more encouragement" to those with ability to improve their talents with the purpose of becoming ministers. The Lord evidently plans to work largely through us and our encouragement of others to gain more workers.
As we pursue this study it may come as a surprise to find that we are actually to urge others into service. "There are many who would work if urged into service, and who would save their souls by thus working." Gospel Workers, p. 82. "There are among us many young men and women who, if inducements were held out, would naturally be inclined to take several years' course of study to fit themselves for service. . . . Urgent inducements should be held out to those who ought now to be engaged in work for the Master." Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 229.
Does the plan work of encouraging others to enter the ministry? Through the years one minister has made it a practice to speak to boys and young men who seem as though they would make good ministers. He graciously asks them, "Have you ever thought of becoming a minister? It seems to me you would make a good one." If the Spirit of the Lord has been moving on that soul this may be the very needed and added stimulus to start him on the pathway to the ministry. From this simple but important contact that minister knows of at least twelve young men who are now in the ministry or are preparing for it.
Encouraging young people to enter the ministry through an organized group activity is also one of the quickest and most effective methods of gaining workers. During the past school year a special ministerial promotion program was put on in all the senior academies of the Northern and Central California conferences by the Ministerial Fellowship Club of Pacific Union College under the leadership of club president, Earl Simmons; program director, Jere Wallack; and sponsor, Elder Robert W. Olson.
The effectiveness of this promotion program was indicated in the interest shown by the seniors on the annual academy visit to the college. In 1962, only eight seniors showed an interest in majoring in religion, but this year  after the program there were forty! The majority of these were boys, but some girls were present who are being encouraged to become Bible instructors. In the academies the interests were even higher, but many of those students are not yet seniors. The total interests from the nine academies in which the program was conducted were twenty-eight for minister or evangelist, four for Bible teacher, twenty-six for Bible instructor, seventeen for missionary work, and fourteen for other denominational positions. 'tre feel that the program has been richly rewarding and that the seeds sown will continue to bear fruit in the future.
The plan at PUC is to go to the senior academies every other year and during the alternate years, beginning this year, a new field will be entered, which may be even more rewarding. The grade schools and junior academies, where the young people are often already making their decision for their lifework, will be visited to interest and encourage those whom the Lord can use to dedicate their lives to the gospel ministry. There are about sixty of these schools in the PUC area. The only way to reach them all is by putting the program on slides and tapes and sending them out with a retired minister or the local pastor. Some very effective programs have been done in a similar way.The PUC academy program was aimed primarily at interesting, informing, and gaining decisions from the young people. The format of the program was as follows: Jere Wallack, the program director, introduced the program and the speakers; Lloyd Munson showed the great values of the gospel to mankind by the use of slides from around the world, depicting the wondrous transformation of men's lives through the power of the gospel. Don Coles told of the joys, benefits, and life of the minister. Felicia LeVere gave the Bible instructor's way of life and graphically showed from the pages of the large book (shown in the photo) the great need for more Bible instructors. One chart illustrated that there are about 138 Bible instructors in all of North America and that hundreds more are needed. The need for more ministers was shown by Lloyd from sketches in the big book.
Twenty years ago 25 per cent of all Seventh-day Adventist college students were ministerial students; today only 8.2 per cent are. Larry Roth concluded the program by explaining what a call to the ministry is, and then extended an invitation for all seriously interested students to remain after the meeting for further information. In the aftermeeting a paper (sample at the end of this article), further explaining the call of the minister, was given to each student, and his name, address, and class level were recorded on cards.
A follow-up program was given for the interested students on college day. At that time the students met the teachers and were encouraged to continue with their ministerial plans. During the summer each of these students received an encouraging letter from Elder R. W. Olson, the chairman of the department of religion.
Various methods were used to finance the program. However, it is anticipated that in the future it will become a regular phase of the college promotion activities and will receive funds from the public relations department.
The vital need for a ministerial promotion program was forcefully impressed upon us as we found from this first year's experience that, first, there is a general lack of knowledge of the need for more ministers, and in many cases even a feeling that there are no openings for many of the students now graduating; second, the actual duties and gratifying rewards of being a minister are in many cases a revelation to the students. Through the program the image of the ministry is seen in a new and appealing way that many had never realized before.
The need for more ministerial promotion programs is tremendous! The rapidly growing shortage of ministers was discussed at great length by the 1962 worldwide conference of Seventh-day Adventist Bible instructors. As the best solution to the problem they unanimously voted the recommendation that every college put on a ministerial promotion program in their area. We at PUC know that the programs actually do work!
How many programs could be put on in the next year or so? With God's blessing we believe it is possible to reach almost every school across the nation. When we began to think about the ministerial promotion program we had no previous pattern to follow, but we made it a matter of earnest Prayer and study and we decided we could do it. The Lord blessed our faith with men, means, and materials. Surely He will do the same for all who cooperate in heaven's great work, for "all heaven is waiting for channels through which can be poured the holy oil to be a joy and blessing to human hearts."—Christian Service, p. 19. "With almost impatient eagerness the angels wait for our co-operation; for man must be the channel to communicate with man."—Ibid., p. 9.
What a grand and glorious work it is to be instruments in finding the channels through which heaven can work! The need is great. The key is in our hands—"more encouragement given men to improve their ability with the purpose of becoming ministers of Christ."
The Call to the Ministry
Is there a special place for each one of us to fill?
"Every man has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Whether we fill that place depends upon our own faithfulness in cooperating with God."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 476.
"Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 327.
Can we find it?
"In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:6).
"Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will displease God, will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what course to pursue. And they will receive not only wisdom, but strength. Power for obedience, for service, will be imparted to them, as Christ has promised."—The Desire of Ages, p. 668.
"Go forth, young disciples of Christ, controlled by principle, clad in the robes of purity and righteousness. Your Saviour will guide you into the position best suited to your talents and where you can be most useful. In the path of duty you may be sure of receiving grace sufficient for your day."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 87.
"The thoughts and ways of God in relation to His creatures are above our finite minds; but we may be assured that His children will be brought to fill the very place for which they are qualified, and will be enabled to accomplish the very work committed to their hands, if they will but submit their will to God, that His beneficent plans may not be frustrated.' 'Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 638.
How will He guide us?
"There are three ways in which the Lord reveals His will to us, to guide us--
"God reveals His will to us in His word, the Holy Scriptures.
"His voice is also revealed in His providential workings; and it will be recognized if we do not separate our souls from Him by walking in our own ways, doing according to our own wills. .
"Another way in which God's voice is heard, is through the appeals of His Holy Spirit, making impressions upon the heart, which will be wrought out in the character."—Messages to Young People, p. 156.
Three important bases for making the decision:
- Do I feel the woe? "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16). "I have set thee a watchman" (Eze. 33:7). "But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones" (Jer. 20:9).
- Do others recognize that God has called you? "Those whom God calls must be men of deep experience, tried and proved, men of sound judgment, men who will dare to reprove sin in the spirit of meekness, men who understand how to feed the flock. God knows the heart, and He knows whom to select."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 209.
- You will be successful as a soul winner. "The conversion of sinners and their sanctification through the truth is the strongest proof a minister can have that God has called him to the ministry. The evidence of his apostleship is written upon the hearts of those converted, and is witnessed to by their renewed lives. Christ is formed within, the hope of glory. A minister is greatly strengthened by these seals of his ministry."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 328.