All too often, young people headed off to college are also headed off to an extended “vacation from church.” Sometimes that vacation lasts until they are married, with children of their own. What can be done?
Phil Dixon has an idea.

“When I got to the Citadel, the odds were good I’d have gone on that same vacation,” he says, “but the Citadel had a requirement to attend Chapel. Because I had to go, I fell back into my long-time habit of serving as an Acolyte. From there I went on to become a Lay Reader, a member of the choir, and a Lay Eucharistic Minister.”
In the Spring of 1995, Phil encountered The Order of St. Vincent, an organization that at the time focused primarily on the training and mentoring of Acolytes, but today it encompasses all lay ministries. He became involved and served for decades, and today is the Director General for the International Organization.
And Phil still serves as an Acolyte to this day.

“I have been called to do many other things in our church,” says Phil, “but the Lord has never told me to stop being an acolyte.

There are parish Chapters of St. Vincent’s in almost every state, and dozens around the world. The Order is not, however, an organization just for training children. On the contrary, the Order embraces all ages and crosses generations. The Order produces educational tracts and manuals to help carry forward the rich traditions of liturgical services.

“If we can get young people connected to service in the church—not just attending—they will be more apt to step into that role when they reach college,” Phil said. “Once they are immersed in serving their college church, odds are they’ll feel more invested in their membership. I’d like to think this would lead to participation in Bible Studies and community service through their new parish church.”
Becoming a member of the Order of St. Vincent is not a matter of simply signing up. Every aspirant, including adult leaders and trainers, must have performed in a lay-ministerial capacity for at least six months, and demonstrated a desire to serve with knowledge, responsibility and diligence prior to admittance to the Order. Aspirants must understand and be willing to live by The Rules of the Order and strive to support its purpose and objectives.

If three members of a congregation are willing to start a chapter, they will have access to all of the Order’s resources, and train and mentor boys and girls to become outstanding members of the lay-ministry team.

“Every church wants well-trained servers,” said Phil, “and St. Vincent’s sends young people out into the world to serve. You can imagine how excited a Pastor would be to have a young person join, fully prepared to acolyte, lay-read, and serve as a Eucharistic minister.”

“A young man or woman headed off to college usually isn’t planning to stop attending church…It just happens. However—If the young person agreed to the idea—think about how easy it would be to call a church in their new town and tell the Pastor you’re sending along a fully-trained server and Acolyte. That’s an introduction that would catch the attention of even the busiest Pastor.”

Work in the Vineyard takes many forms and fulfills many missions. For denominations practicing a liturgical tradition, much of the service is both nuanced and detailed—and a well-coordinated effort on the part of the entire team adds greatly to the beauty of the ceremony. Thanks to the Order of St. Vincent, thousands of churches across the world enjoy just that.

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Reprinted with permission of The Carolina Compass.