When a Teen Tells You They Feel a Call into the Ministry
One of the great joys of serving in youth ministry is observing a powerful life-change in the heart of a teenager. It’s an honor to sit front and center when monumental decisions are made. It’s also humbling to be able to play a tiny part in God’s orchestration of a changed-life for the good of His kingdom.
We get to experience all kinds of life change: everything from first time followers of Jesus, to sincere faith commitments, to serving others, learning to share about the person of Jesus. Within all of that wonderful activity, a few students will sense God’s calling to serve in full time ministry. It’s an exciting adventure to align yourself with.
This week, we’re going to focus on some ways you might respond to those who express an interest in vocational ministry. (While “ministry” is the primary focus of these articles, many of these principles will translate well within any conversation about a student’s future.)
Be Positive…Even When you’re Unsure
When a student is excited about serving in ministry, a first response ought to be enthusiastic. Even if you’re wondering or unsure or pessimistic of their chances of success. Just because you doubt doesn’t mean God is capable. We would all agree that God’s plans are a lot bigger than ours.
Let’s say a teenager appears to be a horrible match for full time ministry, well who does a negative response help? Start with excitement and don’t worry yet about being in the right position to ask questions and offer advice. Instead, look for ways to turn your criticisms into a positive challenge for the growth of the teenager.
Share Your Story
After you have heard their story and celebrated their decision, take a little time to talk about your own journey into ministry. Your path probably won’t look the same as theirs, but there will most likely be useful principles you can pass along. Also, sharing your story is a great way to deepen your relationship…a relationship they are likely to count on during this season of ministry experimentation. Be sure to recall all the hopes and fears you felt along the way.
Go Beneath the Surface
When a student shares something serious like this, you have an excellent opportunity to dig a little deeper to discover more of what’s prompting these decisions and questions. Most students can barely look past next week, let alone think about life beyond high school and college. Before you launch into your career counseling advice speech, take some time to really listen to his/her story.
Find out the “why” he/she is considering ministry. Listen for motive. Discover what prompted them to start thinking about their future. Work hard to uncover their expectations and misconceptions about serving in ministry. This will give you great teaching opportunities as you both progress in your relational. Great youth ministry capitalizes on key moments in a student’s life. When he/she is thinking about their future, it’s a wonderful opportunity to make an impact below surface.
Dispel the Big Myth about Ministry
Those of us in ministry have come to realize that ministry doesn’t make you “more spiritual”. An accountant or produce worker has just as “much” as a calling to serve God as a full time youth worker. Through the years, we’ve talked to a number of students who were “on fire” for Jesus, and they naturally assumed that the best way to express their faith was to go into fulltime ministry. We’ve come to learn and experience that some of the best and most effective ministers we know have been volunteers. We’re not suggesting you try to change their mind or alter their decision, but we are suggesting they become aware of this dangerous myth.
Give Them More Responsibility
Raise the bar, raise it high! Let him/her know that training for ministry begins now. The best way to get ready for ministry is to be involved in doing ministry. Schooling is important, but students don’t need to wait until all their classes are completed to start preparing for ministry. We believe teenagers can “taste” ministry now!
Find practical ways for students interested in fulltime ministry to serve. If they are already serving, help them to discover a way they might increase their commitment and step out of their comfort zone. Additionally, we think it’s valuable to regularly connect with them and help them process what they are learning about themselves and where God may be calling.
Be Sensitive To Parents
Not all parents are excited for their son/daughter to go into ministry, and we need to be sensitive to their feelings. It’s not our job to drive a wedge in between parents and their kids as we help them navigate their calling. At times, this can be especially difficult.
We once had a parent say, “My son is too smart to go into ministry.” Of course it was difficult to keep from laughing in her face, but we managed. In this case, thankfully a shred of discernment helped us lead a conversation into why the Church needs intelligent people in ministry. (By the way, this parent is now very proud of her son who is serving as a youth pastor.)
The point is this: the easy way is to have some kind of an anger response and do something that shouts, “How dare you challenge God’s call on your child’s life!” Instead, be humble and support the family while offering wise advice.
This article “When a Teen Tells You They Feel a Call into the Ministry” by Matt Gill was excerpted from: www.youthministry.com web site. March 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”