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The next generation of ministry leaders look different from their predecessors. One Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) campus minister is keeping up with these shifting trends.

“Ryan Scantling is doing creative things with the NextGen leaders,” said Lynn Loyd, Missions Consultant for the College + Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Scantling has served as the campus minister at Conway BCM since 2014.

In the past, a call to ministry meant graduating from a Bible college, then accepting a full-time, paid ministry position. Scantling said a lot of students tell him that they do not want to go to Bible college, nor do they expect to get paid as a minister. One student he knows is a representative of many – he’s passionate about his undergraduate studies (in this case engineering) but also passionate about the calling of ministry. This student seeks to be faithful in the work field and faithful to pursue God’s calling, even if the latter is an unpaid position.

According to Scantling, students who are called to ministry want to be trained, but we must use a discipleship model that is different than what other generations followed. It’s a challenge to reach the Gen Z crowd who grew up with Netflix, and with everything customized to their specific interests. “Sometimes we answer a lot of questions that no one is asking,” he said. “I find students are interested in what they’re looking for. If they’re not looking for it, they’re not interested.” It helps to narrow down the focus by passing out index cards to fill out what those called to ministry want to know. “We rally our content around that,” he said. He tries to capture their attention through once-a-month breakfasts and special events. Scantling reaches out to them via cell phone. “It’s crazy, when we call people, they come out of the woodwork.” He tells them, “If you feel God is calling you, we’d love to know that; we’d love to invest in you.” He uses the GroupMe app to connect up to 40 people at a time.

To gain experience, students who are called to ministry serve during their college years through BCM leadership opportunities, by volunteering for a church internship, or by serving in a church. Scantling said he gets two to three calls a month from churches asking for college students to serve as student pastors.

Scantling noted that the good news about NextGen leaders is that they’re not cynical; they’re unshaped, lacking either a negative or positive view of ministry yet. “We have an opportunity to mold them into the young leaders they can become,” he said.

The need to develop NextGen leaders is urgent, and Scantling sees three reasons for this. “These leaders are ready for opportunities,” he said. “If we don’t give them opportunities to serve within the church, they will find it somewhere else.”  Also, “God is calling students to ministry leadership in nontraditional ways. We need to be ready to equip them.” Finally, recent studies suggest that church leadership is now older than it has ever been before. That’s not a negative, Scantling is quick to say, but begs a necessary question: “If we don’t train up younger folks, who will we get to replace those older ones?”

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