An 11-year–old Maryland boy was ordained as a minister at his parents’ church.
Ezekiel Stoddard said that he decided to become a minister after hearing from God in a dream. He said God told him to read Psalm 23.
"God gave me that particular scripture because a lot of people, they try to draw you away from the Lord, trying to get you on the wrong path," Stoddard said.
His parents led the ordination service on May 6 at their Pentecostal church where they are also pastors.
The young minister said that people expect him to act his age.
"I do things like a child, but still I am a minister. I am an evangelical," Stoddard explained.
Stoddard’s mother, Pastor Adrienne Smith, said her son preaches at the 11 a.m. service with other ministers at the Fullness of Time Church in Capitol Heights, Maryland. She added that he also preaches at area churches.
"He can go to the Bible and pull a text and prepare a sermon. That's in his heart," Smith said. "That's how he feels about the ministry, about Jesus, about the community."
Smith believes that his age won’t hinder his message.
"He's had time to study, he knows a lot of scripture, he knows the 10 Commandments, the stories. He does childlike things, but when it comes to the word of God, he studies, he prepares," Smith explained.
Stoddard believes that there shouldn’t be an age limit for ordained ministry.
"A lot of people think of me being a kid, that my parents are forcing me to minister the gospel," he said. "But the first time I did a sermon, I was seven or eight," Stoddard said.
"There's a seriousness about Minister Ezekiel," Smith said. "He knows it's not about him. It's about ministry. Wherever he goes, they say, 'That's the little preacher there.'"
Stoddard is home-schooled by his mother along with his other three siblings and enjoys basketball, tennis, and going to the movies as hobbies. His mother said that he spends at least three to four hours a day studying the Bible.
Richard Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Dartmouth College and an Episcopal priest believes that it is quite unusual for children as young as Stoddard to become ordained ministers
"What happens in evangelical circles is that a congregation has the power to ordain anyone that it wants really. So if they take a liking to this guy and they think that he is talented and gifted and worthy, then that person can be ordained," Balmer explained.
Balmer feels that ordaining a child becomes identified as a professional calling rather than ministry.
"Just as you don't have 11-year-old lawyers, or 11-year-old positions, there's a general sense that you need a certain maturity in order to function effectively in that role," Balmer said. "I think that's a cautionary tale to anyone who wants to rush in and be ordained."