'Kaleo' helps students pursue God's call
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--High school senior Troy Rogers believed God wanted him to pursue ministry vocationally, but he wanted some guidance to confirm his calling.
Now he said he has confirmation, thanks to his experience at the "Kaleo" conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. (Kaleo is a Greek word meaning "to call aloud, to invite or to be called.")
"I have been feeling like I am called into student ministry for a few years now," said Rogers, of Kansas City, Mo. "When this conference was presented, I felt like it was something I needed to go to [for] advice.
"I feel stronger about my call to ministry after attending the conference. I don't think there is any other thing I would even consider doing now."
Kaleo coordinator Donald King said the conference is designed to help high school, college and seminary students discover and embrace God's call to serve either in a secular vocation or a fulltime ministry position.
"We certainly want to clarify God's calling in students' lives. But we also want students to embrace that call, own it, love it and take steps with confidence in answering that call," said King, who also serves as regional coordinator for the North American Mission Board's sending missionaries team.
Kristen Brown came to the Feb. 22-23 conference excited about God's call on her life to be a full-time missionary but desiring more clarity on when and where He wanted her to serve.
"God also helped me see through this conference that I can trust Him with the specifics of when and where He wants me to go. He will make that clear to me," said Brown, a freshman at Union University.
NAMB's Missions Prep Network oversees all Kaleo events. The Louisville conference also was cosponsored by Southern Seminary, the Long Run Baptist Association, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, LifeWay Christian Resources and the International Mission Board.
Nearly 250 people from 10 different states attended the conference despite inclement weather leading up to the event, King said.
Jimmy Scroggins, dean of Southern Seminary's Boyce College, led a large-group session aimed at helping students know God and better discern His will. Scroggins said he was excited to see so many students at the conference actively seeking God's will for their lives.
"One of the great things about this conference is that every person in this room has already decided either 'I am called [to vocational ministry] and I am going to live with a purpose' or 'I am exploring what God is doing in my heart because I want to live life with a purpose,'" he told the students. "Whether or not you end up a vocational minister, I hope you understand that God has a purpose for your life."
Scroggins said students, and all Christians, must learn to strike a balance between cultivating their relationship with God and doing ministry for God.
"God wants a relationship with you -- He wants to know you and He wants you to know Him -- and yet God wants to partner with you as a result of that relationship to do some things in His Kingdom," Scroggins said.
King focused on how to confirm God's call during his large-group session. After experiencing God's call to full-time ministry at age 11, King said he spent the next seven years wondering how God was going to fulfill this call in his life. In retrospect, King said he sees how God was giving him ministry opportunities during those years while also preparing him for future service.
"God was working to equip me through people around me, but in my mind it wasn't big enough. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be," King said. "So through my junior high and high school years I did what seemed to me to be the next best thing: I worked in my church. I led music at a worship service at a local nursing home before one of our lay pastors preached.
"Then, in my senior year of high school, a church called me and said they had heard about me leading music in the nursing home and asked if I would be interested in serving as music minister at their church. From there, other opportunities opened."
Lyndsey Kamp, a senior at Triad High School in Troy, Ill., said she appreciated the reminder to focus on serving God now.
"One of the things that really stood out to me was sometimes we get really focused on knowing God's entire plan for our lives," she said. "I was really encouraged by the idea that we need to just focus on the next step God has for us and trust God with our futures."
In addition to the large-group presentations, students chose from a variety of breakout sessions geared toward both personal and ministry development.
Rick Harris, a senior religion major in Liberty University's distance learning program, said Steve Coleman's "Man after God's own heart" session challenged him to step up and be a warrior for God.
Harris serves as a pastoral intern in charge of media and communications at Plymouth Baptist Church in Plymouth, Ind., and said he senses God leading him into church planting. He said Jeff Fuson's "Launch" session on the dynamics of starting a new church helped develop his vision for church planting.
"The thing that I liked was he talked about how every church plant is not some sort of cookie-cutter sort of deal. Instead each one is unique," Harris said. "Thus, you have to work with the people in your church or area you are planting in and each church will look different."
King said it was a plus to draw from Louisville-area pastors, campus ministers and professors to expose students to people serving in a variety of ministry positions.
"We were able to utilize local ministry leaders as the Kaleo faculty," he said. "Students were able to interact with ministry leaders who are serving in roles in which they aspire to serve. Students had time to go to these ministry leaders and get the questions they had about that role answered. They were able to ask how they could prepare for that role now."
The next Kaleo event will take place at the Acts 1:8 Sent Conference, April 18-19, at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, where a Kaleo track will be offered. The next full Kaleo conference -- Kaleo: North Carolina '08 -- is Sept. 19-20 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Garrett E. Wishall is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. For more information about the Missions Prep Network or Kaleo, visit www.missionsprepnetwork.com or www.kaleoconference.org.