At a St. Louis Cardinal Baseball game a few years back, a fellow United Methodist clergy member and I were discussing the need for our denomination to attract more gifted people into ordained ministry. It seemed to us that many of our brightest and best young people don’t even consider whether God may be calling them to ministry when they head to college.
Then it hit me! Like a bat squaring on a 99 mile per hour fastball, it hit me. Crack! What we need are clergy trading cards! Baseball cards are what got me interested in baseball. Football cards are what got me interested in football. Hockey cards failed to get me interested in hockey (but this is clearly the exception that proves the rule). Surely clergy trading cards would get young people interested in becoming pastors. There is something big brewing here! I assume you are feeling the excitement as well.
Here is the deal: The cards would capture clergy in exciting poses and put our church statistics on the back. I am not talking boring head shots like a church directory; we are talking exhilarating, exciting, action shots! Preaching shots, performing baptism shots, eating at an unlimited buffet shots, work trip shots, dressed up like John Wesley while riding a horse shots, playing slow pitch softball shots, walking out of the Garden Tomb shots, prophetically teaching a Disciple class shots! You know, good stuff!
The children of America would soon dream about owning a John Ed Mathison or a Maxie Dunam rookie card and those who owned one would have to fight pride (again helping them become great pastors one day). Young collectors could open packs hoping to get an Adam Weber card, arrange their clergy cards into the correct annual conferences and the proper jurisdictions, stack them from largest to smallest churches and imagine they were Bishops by trading pastors from one church to the other. We could start on-line fantasy leagues where members hold a clergy draft and receive points each Monday for the church growth, professions of faith and baptisms performed by their pastor that week. If their pastor was slumping or injured, they could dump them and get someone else (real churches do this all the time).
And think of the fun the kids will have trading! There they will learn negotiation skills (another great arrow to have in the pastoral quiver) as kids will have to decide as to whether five or six Shane Bishop’s for one Jessica Moffatt is the best trade. With that will come price guides, subsets of seminarians sure to be stars and United Methodist Clergy Trading Card Conventions will be held in hotel ballrooms and rural interstate truck stops all over America. We could also have subsets for people appointed “beyond the local church” which would include seminary professors and counselors. Who wouldn’t want a Dr. David Watson card? Soon the cards will be so popular that non-denom preacher’s kids will ask their father disapprovingly, “Why is there not a card of you?” The father will have to reply in a downcast manner, “Because I am not a United Methodist.” And won’t that feel good? As you can see, the upside is unlimited, the downside is non-existent and there are wins everywhere.
Since I am not really into product development, manufacture, marketing, transportation or distribution; so my part in the next, new, big thing to hit America ends here. And for the new batch of young pastors that returns United Methodism to the most powerful spiritual movement in the nation simply because of the Clergy Trading Cards, I will humbly accept my proper place in history.
Consider this article my intellectual patent. Or more accurately, the “tongue wedged firmly in cheek” ravings of a United Methodist pastor who really needs to get back to work.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.