The Church of Scotland is welcoming its largest number of trainee ministers in five years as it anticipates the retirement of ministers.
So far, the Kirk has accepted 27 new candidates for training this year. With further applicants due for assessment next month, it could be the largest intake for 10 years.
It comes as the Church builds on its Tomorrow’s Calling campaign to promote parish ministry, with a new recruitment website and a novel online Advent calendar which went live on December 1st with 24 video messages specially created by ministers.
“We’re no different to other professions facing up to retirement challenges, like GPs and teaching,” says Rev Neil Glover, who at a youthful 43 years of age is the Convener of the Church’s Ministries Council.
“The Church has been slow to get to get to grips with the scale of the problem but now it is a top priority. We currently have just over 800 ministers, and more than 400 of them are aged 55 or over.
“Ministers tend to work a bit beyond the normal pension age, but we now need to recruit 30 new trainees every year.
“With around 10 ministers usually returning to parish ministry or joining us each year, then we will be able to continue serving our parishes.”
One of the latest recruits is 29 year old David Nicolson from Stornoway. The married father of one joins the Church following a career making television programmes for BBC Alba.
He’s confident working in the media has been a good training ground for full time ministry.
“Now I have discerned my call to serve God, I cannot imagine a more exciting prospect. Getting to satisfy that itch, that inner voice that asks: ‘What was I put on earth to do?’ is thrilling.
“My hope is to get alongside fellow leaders in the Church and work as a team – utilising everyone’s strengths, gifts and callings within the Church to maximum potential.”
Since the Church launched its ‘Tomorrow’s Calling’ campaign at May’s General Assembly, a series of promotional films about parish ministry have been viewed over 100,000 times on social media.
The success led to the idea of ministers turning movie makers for the online Advent calendar, and more than 2,000 people have already signed up to receive the daily videos.
More than 50,000 have watched the promotional video on the Church’s website and Facebook page.
“Tomorrow’s Calling has certainly generated lots of interest,” says Rev Neil Glover. “Everyone experiences their calling to ministry differently and many put it off for one reason or another.
“What we are saying now is come and talk to us, find out if ministry is right for you.
“It’s an immensely rewarding role, which has its challenges but also changes lives and makes a real difference in communities across Scotland and beyond.”
Pictured is David Nicolson, his wife Victoria and their son Finlay.