A NEW, unique concept in the training of young ministers has been crystallized over a three-year period in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. It is a program geared to accelerate the development of young men in their pastoral and evangelistic responsibilities.
The need for such a program grew apparent as the conference committee was confronted with vacancies in small districts. To these pastorates were called young men, fresh from college and the Seminary, who had not had the experience of working with a senior man. To ensure their ministry, Pastor Desmond Cummings, president, and Pastor Everett Cumbo, ministerial secretary, formulated and put into action the following plan, now proved as a thrilling blessing to these young men of Georgia-Cumberland.
The Concept Became a Retreat
Each year during the month of December a three-day retreat is called for all unordained ministers in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
This retreat is held in the lodge of the beautiful and secluded conference youth camp in the Smoky Mountains of north Georgia. Here, amid nature, the young men come to be challenged to a more efficient and spiritual ministry.
They arrive Sunday evening, and are assigned rooms and settled in time for the evening meal. After supper there is fellowship and recreation around the blazing fire in the lodge. At seven o'clock Pastor Cummings brings the challenge and reason for the retreat. In this keynote a deeply moving spiritual appeal is made and a response is requested in the form of testimonies and prayer. This is one of the most inspiring services of the entire retreat, for every heart burns within as the young men give their testimonies and take part in fervent prayer. This is followed by a brief time of fellowship—talking sermons around a crackling fire; then to bed, for a busy and tight schedule awaits the morning.
Every aspect of the ministerial program is covered from the board meeting to planning an evangelistic campaign. The instruction periods are 30 minutes long with 20 minutes for discussion, and a ten-minute break. There is time for recreation every day, thus a total and rounded program is not only presented but demonstrated.
Entire Program in Spiritual Setting
The entire program is placed in the most spiritual setting possible. Each presentation challenges not only to a more effective but also a more spiritual ministry.
Perhaps the most moving service is on the second evening when the president calls on the men to tell of their call to the ministry. Here the fascinating story of God calling men is told. Tears flow. joy is manifest, and a deep spirit of kinship prevails.
The final meeting is one of deep blessing and challenge as the young men are asked to tell of their plans and objectives for the new year. As they stand to present their programs it is immediately evident that they are not novices. Their objectives for evangelism and the souls they plan to baptize are well thought through and defended.
Blessings of the Retreat
The blessings of the young ministers' retreat are displayed in the success of the young men in Georgia-Cumberland.
God said: "Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28).
This is apparent, for the young men have actually led the field for the past three years. Their ministry is enhanced and their growth is hastened as they fellowship in the mountains each year.
Here is a testimony by a young man fresh from college three years ago. He has now been called to full-time evangelism in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
Only a few months ago I visited with a young minister who had graduated from college just before I did. He had been placed in a district of three small churches several miles apart. The task of getting these weak flocks organized, and winning souls, with little help or inspiration from the conference had driven him almost to despair.
My experience could have been much like his except for the tremendous help the Georgia-Cumberland Conference gives to its young workers. This help is evidenced in many ways, but specifically it is seen in the annual young ministers' retreat.
This retreat gives us interns opportunity to become acquainted with one another's failures and successes, sorrows and joys. Our spirits are buoyed up and our courage renewed just from the fellowship. We are privileged to come close to our conference leaders in play and study. As we see their dedication and spirituality we are inspired to greater loyalty, both to them and to God.
The emphasis at these retreats is on the spiritual; yet the practical needs of an intern are met. We are given much-needed down-to-earth instruction, along with the materials necessary to run a first-class pastoral-evangelistic program. This really takes the guesswork out of running a strong soul-winning campaign.
I am grateful for these retreats. Save for them I would probably have grown discouraged and settled down to mediocrity and halfhearted service. At each of these retreats my dedication is renewed and my sights lifted to a greater ministry for God. —JOHN W. FOWLER.
May the Lord continue to bless this means of encouraging and inspiring our young ministers as they dedicate themselves to His service.