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Feeling the call to ministry?

I have wrestled since starting seminary with defining my "call to the ministry." It is something that everyone is asked to do when entering seminary, and it is often very difficult. Like everyone else, I tried to identify some mold that I fit into, some place where I was "called" to serve.

I'm not sure that was the point. Certainly there is a point to finding my area of giftedness and things that are practical issues in limiting what I can and cannot do. Someone who is tone deaf is likely not called to music ministry. It won't likely do for me to try to work in missions since I am dependent on American insurance and 15 medications. But there are a number of things I CAN do; and limiting myself based on what I had done in the past or what I knew I enjoyed wasn't working.

I've had a sort of revolution in my thinking. I wrote it out in answer to someone's question on the Church of God email list.

I think it is very normal for a young person to feel that call and then find that the details are "hashed out" over time and even can change. Personally, I don't believe that God calls a person to be "a youth minister," "a music minister," etc. If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have said differently. But I've had some personal experiences that have forced me to come to terms with this.

When I first felt that little tug, I was a teenager and thought that my primary "calling" involved doing something with singing and songwriting. There was no reason to think otherwise: this is something I was doing in the church as well as at other churches regionally, and I was cranking out songs like a machine and showed an aptitude for music production. My parents, solely, questioned my ability to have stage presence due to my lack of use of gestures, etc.

During my 20s, I did a little work with a tiny youth choir for a couple of years. Later I spent several years working in children's ministries with infants and very young children. So all of my early experiences were with youth, music, and children. But what I know now is that my primary gift is not youth or children's ministry. My personality would not suit these types of positions on an ongoing basis, and I don't have the physical stamina necessary to play games and cope with high-energy settings like IYC.

One reason I'm not still doing nursery ministry is that I developed rheumatoid-type arthritis and can no longer hold a baby for more than a few minutes. So I tried something new: teaching adult Sunday school. I found that at this point in my life, teaching seems to be a good niche for me. And what happened to all that music? It is becoming part of my teaching ministry at times; but I'm not going to be a traditional music minister and probably won't be doing any "normal" itinerant music ministry. If I do anything itinerant that involves music, it will certainly have its own flavor. I like to talk, and I've always felt that my music is part of something else I'm doing, but I couldn't put that in words until now.

So I think that often if the church is willing to "experiment" a bit with a person who is feeling the call to ministry and help them discover what they are gifted in--and sometimes how their gifts change over time--the "minister" is discovered. The real question is does that person say yes to the call, whatever it is, and is that person willing to be molded in accordance with the way that call plays out? When God calls, it means giving up your own career aspirations and letting Him set the aagenda. Often we seem to think, "Oh, God called. I'll become a minister." And we still keep the agenda in our hands. A lot of troubled ministers are born that way, I think.

Incidentally, concerning my "stage presence," the overwhelming feedback I have received everywhere I go is that the lack of gestures seems to free people to connect with me in other ways. Perhaps I am connecting with segments of the population who are not reached by others onstage in the same ways... Just something worth thinking about.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
nabba
Aug. 2nd, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
To me, it seems like teaching is something that is a good fit for you - I think it also allows more freedoms than other divisions might.
I'm glad that you've been able to find what works for you and I'm glad that you have something
hickory1996
Aug. 2nd, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
I think you have to seek out the talents God has given you and then seek Him to tell you where you are called and then follow that calling, and yes sometimes the calling changes and that is really neat that you have seen that and if teaching is your calling, then go with it and see where God leads.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 7th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC)
Interesting thoughts
I'm a bit behind, but I found this entry in particular interesting.

While I wouldn't necessarily agree that God doesn't call people into youth ministry or music ministry, I would agree that God doesn't always do so. There are those who have a strong sense of their calling early on, and there are those like you and me that wander and wonder and try different things, only to find out that even if the different things we try don't end up being our life calling, each thing has its purpose. Remember how strongly I felt that tug for massage, and how much I believed God was pulling me in a specific direction? and yet time and experiences showed me that what I believed back then might not be exactly right. But in spite of all that, I don't believe that time and learning was wasted, at all. I've already seen it work in my life and in the lives of others, and I have no idea what He may use it for in years to come. Now I'm working on something completely different, and while I have some ideas what I want to do with the knowledge, if I've learned anything in the past several years it's not to make too many hard plans because they're likely to change.

All this to say I think I have a pretty good idea what you're saying because I have experienced and am experiencing much the same. It's actually freeing to see someone else coming to similar conclusions and realizations. At the same time, I'd offer gentle encouragement to remember that what God does for us may not be what he does for others, and it may not be the best thing to assume that because it's happened one way in our own experiences that someone else's experiences are inaccurate or not the way it works.
Hugs, good post.
3kitties
Aug. 7th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Interesting thoughts
I would agree with you for the most part, and my encouragement to people exploring their call is always to use their gifts in whatever way is possible for them. Massage was an open door for you that you needed to take at the time. A lot of peopl ehave open doors to enter specific ministries, and that would validate their sense of call. The key in all situations is being open-minded. If the initial sense of call is confirmed, that is a great thing. If the direction changes slightly (or a lot), that is not a bad thing. The majority of people I am meeting in ministry roles are doing things they didn't really expect to be doing. Even those who initially did what they thought they would be doing found that God eventually called them to do more, sometimes vastly different things, often because they needed to stretch and test their willingness to answer Him even if He took them outside their comfort zone. One of our missionaries tells a very powerful story about this... I heard it secondhand. She was sure that she was supposed to serve in a particular place, and when the Missionary Board asked if she would serve elsewhere she said no. She went back later and did serve elsewhere as an act of obedience to God.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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