United Methodist Clergy Trading Cards
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 connecting with a 99 mile per hour fastball, it hit me. Crack! We need 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 boring talking 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 shots, walking out of the Garden Tomb shots, grounding out to second base in church league softball shots, prophetically teaching a Disciple class shots! You know, good stuff!
The children of Methodist America would soon dream about owning an Adam Hamilton, Mike Slaughter or a Bishop Greg Palmer rookie card and those who owned one would have to fight pride (again helping them become great pastors or bishops one day). Young confirmands could 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 lay league members hold a clergy draft and receive points each Monday for the church growth, professions of faith and baptisms performed by their pastor. If their pastor was slumping or injured, they could dump them and request someone else (real churches do this all the time). All proceeds from the fantasy league could go to UMCOR or the Pension Fund (the two things we all like).
And think of the fun the kids will have collecting and trading their cards! They will learn mad negotiation skills (I hear that can get you elected President) as kids will have to decide as to whether five or six Shane Bishop’s for one Jorge Acevedo is the best trade. And is a Ron Watts or a Brad Kalajainen card worth more? And how are card values affected when someone jumps from Sr. Pastor to General Secretary like Junius Dotson? Kids will also learn to speculate as they race to buy Adam Weber and Matt Miofsky rookie cards before they get goo expensive. With that will come price guides, subsets of seminarians sure to be stars and the inevitable United Methodist Clergy Trading Card Conventions to be held in two star hotel ballrooms and rural interstate truck stops all over America. Soon the cards will be so popular that non-denominational megachurch 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 enough to offset the possibility our denomination could blow to crap? 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; my part in the next, new, big (and possibly only) thing to revive the Mainline ends here. And for the new batch of young pastors that enter ministry because of their cards and return United Methodism to the most powerful spiritual movement in the nation, I will humbly accept my proper place in history. Perhaps even an elections to the Hall of Fame (another great idea!). 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 to bed.
p.s. I was asked how much one of my cards cost? I replied that I normally have to pay people about $6 to take one.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois