***NOTE: This is a paper that I had to write for my Intro to Ministry class at school. I decided that I would share it here for you to read and consider. Feel free to respond. END NOTE***
I sensed God’s call on my life to go into the ministry when I was a senior in high school. I had not really been fighting the call so much as I had been unsure what it was exactly that God was calling me to do. It felt like I was fighting with Him at the time, but, looking back, I was just not as in tune to God’s voice as I should have been.
As a senior in high school, at church, I was forced into a situation where I had to study the Scripture’s in an in-depth manner. The youth minister at the time was an intense individual and loved deep study. He was Reformed to the fullest. Even though this was a Southern Baptist church, he went even so far as to affirm the validity of paedobaptism. How he was ever hired to this church I will never understand save for believing that God had him placed there to open my ears to God’s calling on my life.
Wes placed me in places of leadership before I had even heeded to God’s voice. I led some small groups and things of that nature within the youth group. In this time, the church decided to bring on a new youth intern. Wes took the program and revamped it completely. It went from being a semi-permanent position in the church to being a shorter internship of three months. I applied for this internship after a lengthly discussion with Wes about my feeling like God was wanting me to do something. He handed me a copy of John Piper’s Desiring God and told me to read it. I did. A couple of months later, I went forward in the congregation to share publicly that I felt called to ministry and around this same time, the parent-leadership of the youth group voted to have me be the church’s intern for that quarter.
As the intern, I worked primarily with the middle-school half of the group. Shortly before my being hired on, Wes took the youth group and created separate worship services for the middle school and high school students. They were run fairly similar, but the high school group, originally, left out the games and spent more time in study. The middle-school group had more game time and less study. And then I came along.
I tried following all the rules, but it was not working. The students just were not into it. After about three weeks, a couple of the girls came to my office (the intern had his own office) and told me that they thought the group needed less games and more study. The next Wednesday, without saying anything, I cut the game portion out completely, cut the song time down to three from something like five songs, and started a somewhat expository message series. I also introduced a small group time.
The group exploded. We went from about 10-15 students to close to 50 middle school students within the month, and the group continued to grow. It was not just a bunch of kids coming like I was a babysitter though. These kids wanted to learn. They were hungry for what the Scriptures held for their life. I knew, through this experience, what I was called to do.
As of today, I am not totally certain what God wants me to do. I still have a heart for youth ministry. And when I send resumes to churches, that is what I primarily apply for. But I have had a couple of churches approach me via my resume being posted on youthspecialties.com that have been interested in me filling an associate pastor roll. Maybe God has more in store for me than I had originally thought He did.
When deciding what to do in regards to furthering my education, I wanted to do something that would benefit my service to God. I spent lengthly times in prayer and, for reasons that I do not even remember, I ended up visiting Oakland City University. As I walked around campus, I did not feel particularly called to be there, but, at the time I thought it would be best for me to attend a Christian university.
When I got home, I prayed at length about what I should do. A couple of weeks later, I received some information including forms for a half-tuition scholarship for the pep band. I decided that I should at least apply to OCU and see what happened. I was accepted and this is where I have been ever since. I decided to major in religious studies in hopes of better prepare myself for serving God in His Church. Little did I know that nothing would truly prepare me for service in the church.
When I was a sophomore, my friend Joe had been serving at a small church in Princeton, Indiana. New Covenant Baptist Church was a small mission church of Joe’s and my home church, First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville, Indiana. He was hating it. He and the pastor did not get along. They clashed too often for either of them to be as effective as they needed to be. One day, Joe asked me if I wanted his job. I said yes, and a couple of days later, Joe and I went to talk to Pastor Fred.
The conversation went smoothly. I was a little nervous. Then again, I had never been interviewed by a pastor for a position in a church before. I was not sure what I was in for. He seemed nice enough. Joe told me I should visit on a Sunday and see what I thought of the church when everyone was there. So I visited.
The service was decent. It was not necessarily my cup of tea, but it was something that I could learn to really enjoy. Within a few weeks, the mission voted to hire me on as their Minister of Youth.
This is when I realized that no amount of schooling was going to prepare me for true ministry. The students in this youth group were unlike any kids that I had ever had the opportunity to minister to before. One kid was diagnosed ADHD but his parents did not believe that he should be on the medicine and thought that he could overcome it. They thought that it was demonic influence more than a psychological or medical problem.
Every single student there came from a broken home. Some of these situations were worse than others. Considering where I was from, this was not something that I had a lot of experience with. I knew people who were in divorce situations, but I had never met people in homes where the divorce happened because of abuse. I was, therefore, thrust into the position of not only a youth minister, but a father figure for a lot of these students. School does not prepare you for something like that.
School does not prepare you for the kid who comes because his parents make him who claims he is an atheist. It does not prepare you for the pastor who feels that, with kids like him, the gospel needs to be forced down his throat until he accepts it. It does not prepare you for the backlash that comes when you don’t do this and, rather, choose to build a relationship with the student and let him see that not all Christians are crusty and uncaring.
School also does not prepare you for the crazy girl who becomes obsessed with the youth minister and begins to keep a fantasy diary of all the things that she wants to do with the youth minister. School does not prepare you for how to deal with that either. Thankfully, I had a pastor and a group of parents, even though their homes were a mess, who were willing to step in and nip it in the bud. It was never a problem again.
At this time, I did recall something I had learned in school and that was the issue of setting boundaries. It was not that I had neglected to do this. Quite the contrary, I had set very strict boundaries regarding my relationships with the students. I just realized that I needed to reestablish them in the minds of the kids.
In January, after two years of service at this church, I was asked to resign. My fiancée and I had decided that we needed to go ahead and fill out the legal papers for our marriage. We were having some personal struggles and I was needing the freedom to look for an apartment. The scholarship I am on at school is such that, to keep it, I have to live at home, on campus, or with my spouse. We figured if we got married by law that I could find an apartment even if she was not with me and I would be able to keep my scholarship but live closer to the church. At this time, I was living close to a forty-five minute drive away. Maybe it was a lack of communication on my part, or a lack of understanding on the pastor’s part, or a combination of the two, but this did not go over well with the pastor. The Sunday of my return, he told me I needed to resign. From what people have told me, this is going to make it harder for me to find a job at a church. I do not understand why because we did not do anything wrong in taking care of the legalities before the day of our ceremony. In fact, after some research, it was found that this was a very common practice.
Another thing that might make it hard for me to find places to serve is the fact that I am Reformed in doctrine (a while back I decided to stop referring to myself as a Calvinist) and also more liberal in my dealings with issues like the environment and illegal immigrants. The Calvinism may hinder because there are not many churches who are even sympathetic to that system of belief. I am not particularly staunch with my Calvinism, but, because I have leanings that way, in the current state of things in the church, it might be challenging to find somewhere willing to have me. My liberal-ness may hinder me because, within the church, it seems to be understood that, if you are liberal on one thing, you are liberal in all things. Rare is the church that stands on the side of moderation in all things.
I dream, though, of a church that will accept me for who I am as a minister of the gospel. I want a church that does the bulk of its evangelism outside the doors of the church. I want a church that seeks to meet lost people where they are at. This congregation would not be too big or too small. Probably somewhere around one hundred to one hundred and fifty people. It would be located wherever the people were who needed to hear the Gospel.
I also, someday, hope to plant a church. During a visit at New Covenant by a missionary to the deaf in England, I had it laid on my heart to do that. I do not know if it will ever happen, but it is something I would like to do. The worship would borrow from all cultures in regards to music. Because of this, no two services would be totally identical. The congregation would be as big as God chose to make it, and we would be content with that and seek to glorify God with however many or few people we had.
In the end, though, all of this is up to God. He knows the plans that He has for me, and He will see to their fulfillment.