How do You Know if You’re Called to Ministry?

Working with young leaders, one of the most common questions I find myself fielding is, “How do I know if I’m called to ministry?” And while there are some good biblical verses we could point to or theological answers that could be given I’d like to get very practical with you for a moment. If you take the time to ask, and listen, to the stories of people who have been called into full time Christian Ministry you’re likely to hear some very similar responses that generally include the following four components.

#1 Deep Sense of Burden or Passion

A calling to ministry typically begins with a deep sense of burden or passion. It’s this idea that something is wrong, someone needs to do something about it, and maybe that someone is me. I can remember my own calling to ministry beginning this way as a young teenager. I felt a deep sense of responsibility and burden for the spiritual wellbeing of my friends (even though my lifestyle was ironically in no condition to do much about it). I can remember praying at night before sleep, in tears begging God to use me to influence thousands of people for Him. I also felt compelled through those prayer times that God didn’t just want my “heart”, or even my career, but my life.

#2 Ministry Experimentation

The typical next step that a calling to ministry takes is actually experimenting with ministry through volunteering and discovering your gifting and place in the Body of Christ. I was 17 years old and scared to death when my Pastor asked me to lead a Jr. High Sunday School Class. What would I teach, would they listen to me, could I do it, could I keep those unruly Jr. Highers under control?

#3 Affirmation by the Church

Who knew that Jr. High Sunday School Class would actually go well? I know, shocking right? But it did go well and people began to believe in me, and that God could use me. And I began to believe it too. Other leaders in the Church, particularly my Pastor recognized and affirmed God’s call to ministry in my life.

#4 Preparation and Training

The final component that you’ll regularly hear from those who have been called to ministry is that they experience a period of training and development that prepares them for full time Christian work. For me this would mean going to college (that is after a short 2 year stop at Jr. College to get my grades up and my Associates Degree…I thought I had better things to do in High School than go to High School) getting a Christian education, formal biblical training, mentoring and internships.

Even though I didn’t list them here I’m interested in some verses or biblical suggestions that you’d recommend young leaders consider when trying discover if they’re called to ministry? I’d love your input so leave a comment!

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

3 Responses to “How do You Know if You’re Called to Ministry?”

  1. Ryan Lambros August 30, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Paul, I know that it is sprinkled within all the points you listed, but I feel like submitting another main point – Proven Character. Especially in young leaders, the passion will be there, the ministry experience will start happening, the church will recognize gifting, and the education will occur – but where I think a deep character assessment is needed before all that. I’ve seen many young leaders go through the “process” only to have their mentor find out there are some deep-rooted character issues that should be worked on before ministry is an option. I would love your thoughts and wisdom on this and where you feel character assessment should occur and how much throughout the process!

    Thanks man!

  2. Adam Collier September 2, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    really like this post,

    I would add leadership training to the formal training, including communication skills and how to run a healthy organization. Churches could stand to be more healthy and sometimes simple leadership ability could fix a lot of the toxicity we see in some churches today.

    thank you,

  3. Jeremiah Gibbs November 7, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    I’ve written extensively on how to discern calling to pastoral ministry and a host of other callings. I think my perspective is pretty consistent with yours.

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