Being a youth pastor is not the ultimate calling

Youth pastor callingYou’re probably expecting me to say something like, “Being a godly husband is the ultimate calling,” or something like that. And yes, they are both very high callings, but I’m not really thinking along those lines right now.

As I’m going through this transition in trying to figure out what God has next for me and my family after being terminated last year, one of the thoughts I’ve been wrestling with is, “Man, I am just not that excited to go back into a church job.” I’ve been trying to separate past negative experiences from my calling knowing that it’s unfair to transfer those experiences to a new church, but I still have this guilty feeling like, “Why do I feel guilty about not wanting to serve teenagers and families through a local church?” I’m not ruling a church context out because I know God can bring the right church along and when He does, I’ll be totally pumped about it! But in the meantime, I also feel like a church context is one of the hardest places to seriously serve teenagers and parents, which is frustrating for me because the church is the bride of Christ, God’s plan for advancing the kingdom on earth!

Last week I started reading Dan Miller’s book, “48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal.” So far it’s been great at asking challenging questions and giving different exercises that help me discover certain things about myself and how that might look vocationally.

The chapter I read yesterday helped me understand some of the guilt I was feeling about not feeling like I want to serve as a paid youth pastor in a church context. Dan Miller quotes Martin Luther as saying:

“I advise everyone against entering any religious order or the preisthood ulnless he is forearmed with this knowledge and understands that the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the worlds of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone” (page 44).

I think I’ve been trying to talk myself into pursuing church opportunities and I felt bad about it because I had unknowingly equated pastoral youth ministry as some sort of higher calling than other forms of work and youth ministry. Like, I’d be doing something less noble by serving teens and families in a different capacity than in a church. But in a breath of fresh air, Dan Miller pointed out that whatever God’s calling on your life is, that’s what you should pursue. Being called into a pastoral role at a church is in no way any more noble than being called to anything else and using that vocation to serve as a “pastor” to the people in that context.

I know for certain that my vocation is to work with teens and their families, but if that’s not in a church, is that okay? Would I be “down-grading” to something less spiritual or even less honorable? I’ve been trying to be okay with that and after chapter 3 in Dan Miller’s book, I think I am. I firmly believe that while I was serving in a pastoral church context, I was definitely called to that place for that time. It’s just been more recently in the past few months that I seem to be heading in a different direction now.

I’m not sure what my future vocational service to the Lord will look like, but I do know that serving as a volunteer youth leader last night was great! I loved it! I’m totally excited about being a volunteer because, as I’ve said before, I feel like I’m finally free to actually do youth ministry.

Now I have to figure out how to serve teens and families in a way that supports us financially so I can continue to volunteer at a church and serve Him there.

I feel like I’m going to be creating that ministry avenue from scratch because the talents, giftedness, passion, abilities, experiences and connections the Lord has given me don’t seem to fit anywhere else right now unless, of course, the right church comes along.

To be clear, I’m not ending the possibility of serving in a church context. If a church comes along that fits my vision, values, philosophy, personality, etc, I’d be totally open to exploring the possibility of serving there full-time. I’m just learning that being a youth pastor is not the ultimate calling. Being exactly where God calls you, even if it’s not in a church, is the ultimate calling.

In the words of my Haitian translator last year, “You are always a pastor because being a pastor is your spiritual gift, not your title. Even if you don’t work at a church, you are still a pastor.” My takeaway from this last year was that it means there are a lot more teenage pastors in our youth groups than we probably think, which puts a whole new spin on the term “youth ministry,” but now I wonder how much it applies to me, as well.

Sounds like I have a scary and exciting year ahead of me. *buckles seatbelt* *gulp!*

Posted on March 31, 2011

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99