Vocational Ministry

I’ve been thinking a lot about vocational ministry. What is it? For those who don’t know, it’s when a person gets paid to do the work of the ministry.

Earlier this year, a young man was offered a job at a church. It was a visible leadership position. The advice he got: don’t take it. Instead, go to the church. Love the people, learn the people, earn the trust of the people. Serve and serve well. Don’t hold back on service. Give the church everything you’ve got. Then, after some time, see if that paid position is still available.

When he told me that, I didn’t get it…but I did. God started working.

All around me were people who had been in vocational ministry, but left. Either by choice – or not by choice – in various positions of ministry. I began to ask questions of them. And more importantly, I listened. I wanted to hear where they were, what happened (as much as they could share), and what God was doing in their lives.

This has brought me to a few conclusions. These are my conclusions – and God may speak to you differently – but here they are:

Church first. Find a local body, get connected, love the people, learn the people and earn trust. You may be the most gifted leader, but you may have to start at the bottom of the leadership pipeline. I know of one person so called to vocational ministry that he accepted a job as the church facilities manager. He’s a gifted pastor and leader, but humbled himself in order follow God’s call.

Job second. Too many times, people go to a job and take their family into the church. I think we need to reverse that. It’s your family’s church first. Your job second. Don’t get that wrong. Churches change. Jobs change. Roles change. People change. But your family is who you live with 24/7. Forever.

It has to be a calling — not just a job. The call to ministry has to be just that: a calling. If you don’t know the difference, stop reading and don’t go into vocational ministry.

Serve with all you’ve got. You’ve got 24 hours in a day. What are you doing with them? The greater the calling, the more you’re going to WANT to serve. There are 40-hour/week volunteers. Be one.

Butwhat about the need to earn a living? You knowmortgages, car payments, braces, college.

There are seasons of waiting. In them, serve your church as much as you’re able. But do what needs to be done in order to support your family. I know former church staff members who have gone into real estate, sold snow cones, and worked at a soap factory.

Realize that everything can be a ministry:

“Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.”

― Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work

During the job interview process (if you choose job first / church second) propose a time of volunteer service before moving forward with any further discussions on a staff position. If finances are truly an issue, propose working for the church on an outside contractor (1099) basis. Take Sundays off to be with your family, and then if God moves, take steps to get your family more involved in the ministry.

Know this: you are not alone. People have walked this path. There are many walking it with you. Many more will follow.

Follow where and how God leads and set an example for others.

And finally, stop reading this blog and go serve. Serve someone. Somewhere.

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