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When the Path to Ministry Is an Obstacle Course

What if the things that seem to get in the way of ministry actually qualify us for it?

When I’m with college students now, instead of asking “What job do you want after college?” (which is a performance question), I ask “What frustrates you? What gives you joy? And how do you feel called to respond to that frustration and joy?” These are passion questions, and they draw beautiful responses from the students, which often come from their own stories.

What I realize now is that even when I was a secretary and a full-time mom, those unspoken joys and frustrations were expressing themselves in my life. As a secretary I had little outlet for Bible teaching, so I volunteered to teach the youth group. As a full-time mom, my limited outlets for teaching compelled me to write my first two books while the kids were napping or at preschool.

In the end, calling is much more than something we do for money—in fact, we may not get paid for it—so it’s important to separate out these lies about career from our understanding of calling. If we wait for a paid role before we step into our calling, it will limit our ability to live out our calling—not only because the church may not recognize our gifts, but also because there may not be a paid position available yet. It may mean raising our own support or doing it part-time or doing it on the side for a while. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t calling you to something that could become a paid role in the future.

I realize now how I’d answer those questions I ask students: I’m frustrated in any way that the church is not living up to its call, and I have joy for all the potential that the church has to transform lives—and I want to be part of that any way I can, whether or not it has a job title or pay.

Anxiety in Entering Ministry

Finally, after years of wrestling and waiting, when my youngest started school, I looked for a part-time paid ministry role. It was humbling to start looking for my first ministry job 13 years after graduating from college, knowing many of my peers had been in ministry for over 10 years already. On top of that, I had few female role models to look to, and the old messages discouraging from this work came back to me. It was a trying time.

Once more, I had to rely on that old habit of trusting that God is One: If God is calling me to do this work, there must be a way for me to do this work as the person God has made me to be.

March15, 2018 at 8:00 AM

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