Helping Students Understand The Call To Ministry
In YTH Ministry we will work with all kinds of students. Some students will feel that they are going to work in the Church or sacred world. And some will feel that they will work outside of the church or in the secular world. The terms we use are vast and often confusing. There has been a long-standing ambiguity in defining these terms.
Not only do YTH Leaders not understand the terms, but, students do not understand the terms.
Let’s look at a definition of the Call to Ministry and the call to minister. Did you see what I did there? It is slight. Even just the change of case - capital spelling. Or, the use of a title versus an action. This is a great place to start. A title and an action.
The title (Ministry) is the Church or sacred part of the calling as a Reverend. And the action (minister) is the non-Church or secular setting and work we do as believers. I believe that there is a difference between the call to the Ministry - “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4.11) And the call to minister - “Go into all of the world and make disciples of every nation.” (Matthew 28.19)
Here’s another way to look at it. A setting description. For instance, we are called to the Office of Ministry or the field to minister. The difference between being a Reverend and being a believer. I believe that few of us are called to the Office of Ministry. But that all of us are called to the field to minister.
These are debatable terms for some people I’m sure. But, they are how I look at the terms. And so, with this understanding, here is a further look at this topic.
Over the last 15 years there has been a pendulum swing from talking about the Call to Ministry to an over-emphasis of the call to minister. It came when everyone was talking about the value of every believer having a place or a role in the Kingdom. That the marketplace in the secular worldly setting was just as valuable and important as the sacred or the Ministry setting in the Church.
The argument is not that one is more valuable or important than the other. They are of equal importance in the Kingdom of God. But what happened for a while in YTH Ministry is that we swung the emphasis away from students and the Call to Ministry in the Church or sacred setting because we wanted everyone to know they are to be ministers in the secular setting. And when we did this, there was a period of time in YTH Ministry where we neglected the Call to Ministry in students. I have had this conversation many times over the last decade with college students who put off the inner voice of God calling them to Ministry because they were told that they could ‘just be a minister as a school teacher or lawyer or doctor or other vocation.’
Let me give you a practical understanding of the traits or characteristics of the Call to Ministry in the sacred setting of the office of the Church:
How will you know that there is a Call to Ministry on your life? (For some, it may simply be the voice of God in their spirit. Or the word of a spiritual friend who confirms something God has spoken to them. Or maybe it happened in a Camp or Convention. Either way, here are some practical guidelines to help students understand.)
LOVE FOR GOD - You will have a spiritual hunger for God. Like even if you’re not spiritually strong, you will have a hunger for God. An awareness or sensitivity to the Spirit. I can remember while I was running from the Call to Ministry upon my own life that I was still always thinking about God and His influence in my life. Even when I was not serving Him.
LOVE FOR PEOPLE - You will have a bend toward people. It won’t matter if they are in the Church, unChurched, a misfit, or the pop kid. There will be feelings such as defending or standing up against bullying or brokenness when the unpopular kid is isolated.
LOVE FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH - One of the main responsibilities of the Ministry is spiritual formation and discipleship. If you are not satisfied with your walk with Christ, that is a good sign of God’s call on your life. Another part of this is that you may be intrigued by moments! Altars and Worship times are emotional.
LOVE FOR THE CHURCH - I have often found that many PK’s (Preachers kids) have a hidden call on their life because of this trait. They have been raised around the supernatural aspect of the Church. And that has a lingering affect upon them. A reverence for the Church and for spiritual leaders.
It’s Never Too Early
What should I do when I know that I am Called to Ministry?
One thing I have told students for years is that it is never too early to start to minister if a student senses that Call on their life.
Here are some things that you should encourage students to do if they sense this Call to Ministry:
INVOLVEMENT in YTH Ministry - Encourage them to use their gifts and talents in the YTH Group. There are so many things to learn from being involved early in ministry.
MENTORING with YTH Pastor or Leader - The influence of adults in a young persons life is critical. They can only learn so much from their peers. But an adult can help teach them from an experiential standpoint.
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES - Every YTH Leader should teach our Called students the value of the spiritual discipline at an early age. To encourage them to develop early daily commitments to bible study, prayer, fasting, giving, simplicity, and other spiritual disciplines.
FUTURE PREPARATION - Teach the importance of praying for their future setting (city, Church, people, staff, students, schools, etc.). This can excite them and prepare them for their future setting before they even get there. It also teaches them the importance of the supernatural in Ministry.
Middle Eastern Custom
There is a quality of leadership that is inherent in students who are Called to Ministry. I have often seen it immediately in my students. This reminds me of the middle-eastern custom in farming and herding.
Often there will be a lead cow in a herd. That cow will be given a bell that is placed around its neck. It is called the Bellwhether cow. Or, the lead cow. This cow will move about the field and the sound of the bell will attract the other cows in the herd. You can see the movement that is created in the whole herd by following the ‘bell-cow’.
In YTH Ministry we must identify these students and shape them into lead cows. It is the quality of a leader that is most defined by Paul when he talks about the office of Ministry. And we must make this a focal part of our leadership.