By Brian C. Smart*
The Ministerial Recruitment Institute, or MRI, is a weeklong spiritual retreat within the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church for youth ages 13-18, or entering the 7th grade. This institute, held each summer since its inception in 1982, is the result of a vision from God through our late Bishop James S. Thomas.
The goal of MRI is to create a space and an environment conducive to allowing young people to hear, question, consider, struggle and respond to God's call and claim on their lives to become true Christian disciples, leaders, ministers, pastors and evangelists. Just as much fun as but more intense than a camp, this "mountaintop experience" aims to alert teens at an early age to the reality that God is calling them to a lifetime of Christian service and may be leading them to pursue ministry as a vocation as well.
The MRI experience helps teens move from knowledge of God to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It empowers them to live out their Christian walk/faith by sharing knowledge and information relevant to their witness. MRI helps participants discover and utilize their God-given gifts and potential, and develops them to be spiritually-rooted leaders for the Body of Christ.
With the aid of Christian adult mentors, teachers, pastors and other staff working with and residing on campus with the youth, MRI becomes a community of faith in a week's time! We live, sing, play, worship, study, pray, laugh and cry together that week, as we all are there to "leave each person, place and session better than we found them/it" under the divine hand of Almighty God.
I first heard God's call for me to be "something more" than just a "good church member" at MRI as a 16-year-old in 1988. God continued to reaffirm that call even as I have served each year since 1995 on staff at the institute as musician/worship leader, faculty member and now as dean. Without MRI I do not know if I ever would have heard God's call with such clarity; the call that has led me down this ministry path as a certified UMC church planter under the Path 1 initiative.
Even now, there is a new generation of young adults – who attended MRI as teens – who, while currently under the radar, are being primed to usher in a new church, one that is mission- and ministry-focused. God indeed speaks and manifests Himself through the Ministerial Recruitment Institute, and I cannot wait to see what He will do through MRI in the future!
Soli Deo Gloria!!!
*Brian C. Smart is dean of Ministerial Recruitment Institute.
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH,
near Akron-Canton Airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW
North Canton, OH 44720
Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
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