Exploration 2019

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Exploration is a conference put on by the General Board of Higher Education every two years to help young adults discern their call into ordained ministry.  This year, it is November 1-3 in Orlando, Florida.  In the past, young adults have found it helpful in connecting with others in the denomination, understanding the difference between ordained elder and deacon, and meeting with representatives from seminaries. Students from our conference will join hundreds of other young adults for worship, prayer, and workshops to help them discern their call.  The IGRC Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry offer grants to cover part of the cost to attend and explore their call to ordained ministry. 

Learn more and register here: https://www.explorecalling.org

Contact Amy Shreve, ashreve@igrc.org, for grant applications, questions, or connect with other young adults going from our area to coordinate hotel or transportation.

Fifteen young adults received grants to attend in 2017. Below are their reflections at the time. Now, several of them are ministry leaders at their Wesley Foundations, pursing Masters’s degrees at seminary, serving as a local license pastor, and serving the community through education and nonprofit work.


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Reflections from Exploration 2017

Portland, OR

Making Sense of the United Methodist Church

After attending Exploration, I now know that becoming a pastor or minister in the Methodist church is not a simple path. There are a lot of confusing, complicated steps, as well as a lot of things I am still unsure of. I learned that there are many paths and routes consisting of different certification, training, and requirements.
— Rachel Johnson, 2017, Merge at Illinois State University Wesley

Now, Rachel Gustafson works as an on-site supervisor to support people with developmental disabilities.

I learned about the types of ordination that one can pursue and some of the positions that one could have within the Methodist Church. I learned a little more about Methodist theology, though this was more from conversations with my small group leader, who is the Wesley Foundation leader at Illinois State, than from anything else.
— Linsdey Ballard, 2017, Merge at Illinois State University Wesley

Struggling With God’s Call

The sermon that spoke to me the most centered around the process of a call story. The speaker laid out biblical examples of the common steps in a call. I was in the denial phase. I had a plan for my life and being in ministry was not part of it. It was comforting in a way to see that even famous biblical figures struggled with their calls. Exploration opened my eyes to an abundance of avenues through which I can serve God.
— Noel Hudson, 2017, Merge at Illinois State University Wesley

Now, Noel is pursuing a Master's of Special Education at Eastern Illinois University.

When I arrived at the Exploration conference, I told myself that I had to be all in, and that this weekend was it: I was either going to quit pushing back against God and answer my call to ordained ministry, or I was going to truly find out that ordained ministry was not for me.
During a workshop, I learned about hospital chaplaincy and everything made sense all of a sudden. The workshop leader described her job as having the values and practice of social work, while bringing and being the healing presence of God to people and families in hard times. It was as if that workshop was the final puzzle piece and I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders.
— Maggie Thomas, 2017, Wesley Student Center at University of Illinois

Now, Maggie is pursuing a degree at Duke Divinity School.


What’s a Deacon?

After hearing the stories of deacons throughout the weekend, I know that this is where I may find my place as an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. Getting a perspective on where I should continue towards ordination is very exciting! I left Portland with a new excitement for God’s work in my life. I also left with increasing enthusiasm for the UMC and for my faith communities that I am blessed to be a part of. This conference reinforced with me that wherever God sends me or whatever God calls me to do, He will make a way. Knowing this, it sticks with me what John Wesley said: “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.”
— Kenny Smallhorn, 2017, Wesley Student Center at University of Illinois
I thought that to do that I would have to go to seminary and be a preacher like them, but after going to Exploration I got to see that there are so many different ways to spread God’s word than just being a preacher. I didn’t have to uproot my entire life and change everything to be able to talk to people about God. I could continue to work towards my dreams and do what I love and still have genuine conversations with people about their faith. Since I had such an amazing experience at Exploration I can’t wait to tell others about the United Methodist church and how many different options there are when it comes to how someone gets involved with ministry.
— Hope Rutgens, 2017, Merge at Illinois State University Wesley

That Path Gets Clearer

The most important thing that I was able to get out of Exploration was where all I should be applying for seminary. Before this weekend, I had my mind made up that I was going to apply to Iliff and Wesley, and choose between those two schools. However, after being able to meet with representatives of many different United Methodist seminaries, I realized that there were other options for me as well. It put me at ease when it came to deciding where I might end up for the next few years.
— Mark Crawford, 2017, Intern, Merge at Illinois State University Wesley

Now, Mark is a licensed local pastor.

When I learned of the life an Elder leads and the responsibilities that they have, I was even more determined to become an Elder. Hearing what different pastors have been through, what they love the most about their call and career and what opportunities lie ahead, I became increasingly excited for the journey that I am on.
— Ian Barbee, 2017, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville- St. John’s UMC and Salem Grace UMC

Encouragement for the Road Ahead

As a college student in a university that does not support my call to ministry, I often feel doubt. Doubt that God is actually calling me to serve the church, or that I can be a minister as a female. When I was invited to go with the U of I’s Wesley Foundation to Exploration, I was very excited. I knew it would be a trip where I felt accepted and encouraged in my calling.
My weekend in Portland wiped away so much doubt. Hanging out with college students who have so much hope and motivation for the future of the church made me realize how proud I am to be a part of this amazing body of believers I was supported by my fellow United Methodist from around the country while I also got to support my brother and sisters in Christ. Exploration gave me confidence to stand firm in doubt and opposition.
— Skyler James, 2017, Concordia University, Chicago

Now, Skyler Przygoda is pursing Master’s degree at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

I would like to believe our group was the church personified. We had different races present, different political views, and different sexual orientations. Then, after even more exploration and thought, I realized that God was with us the whole time. God made that small group a vision of the future by being together and being in fellowship, no matter the differences. He gave us a small glimpse, a taste, of what the future church will look like – what we will look like.
That’s what I was looking for, a picture of what the church will be like in the future, a community of people who say that things need to change and that its time for reform. And we, the next generation of church, not just church leaders, but of church in general, are on the same page. Maybe different paragraphs, but on the same page.
— Ave Rivera, 2017, Wesley Student Center at University of Illinois