If you ask people in ministry about their “calling” they give you the answer about what they now “do” for Jesus. You know what I mean. We are “called” to be youth pastors. However, I believe that “calling” is a far more transformational experience than any “one thing.”

I remember once having a conversation with the office manager in our ministry, “I don’t really get where this idea of calling comes from?  Everyone is always talking about it.  I can’t really say I know what it is.”  

This got me thinking about how often we categorize this idea. We often site God literally “calling out” to Samuel in the middle of the night to be a prophet or Jesus “calling” the disciples to follow Him as our Biblical examples of the concept. Therefore, it obviously has to do with being in the service of ministry. What is funny is that in both of these examples the “point” was that these men would be willing to be close to the Lord following Him where He goes.  In the process they would have words to speak and tasks to perform.

The problem of course is that we get caught up in the tyranny of the “or” instead of the grace of the “and.”  We think we have to be “called” to be one thing: Pastor OR Homeschooler OR Stay-At-Home Mom OR Missionary. The issue with this way of thinking is there lacks space for any “extras” that the Lord might have for us. We can ONLY be a part of this OR that.

I know what it doesn’t look like:

We wouldn’t be about miracles OR healing OR feeding people OR taking care of the broken. We wouldn’t be preaching in the church OR on the streets. We wouldn’t care about one people group OR another. We wouldn’t decide we have to be an evangelist OR a Mom OR a worker OR a this OR a that.

Instead, in being with Jesus we become willing to move with Him, realizing He uses each experience to transform us more into His likeness.  In my own journey I started out with the Lord showing me a generation of youth who did not know Him.  This led me to be a youth pastor in a rural setting then He brought me to the suburbs.  Then He walked me through the door of an inner city ministry and planted me there.  In the midst of this He sent me a partner in my husband.  He moved me from singly being with him to serving Him with another.  A little while later as we continued on He blessed us with children.  I thought this meant I had to choose my kids OR youth ministry.  Instead, He reminded me that my husband and children are part of the journey with Him.  He showed me how to not focus on them OR others. While this lesson was in process He called my family to move into the community we serve and be neighbors to the hurting and broken. As I reached out to the students He showed me that I couldn’t be about youth without caring about their parents. He showed me that I was believing that only “some” parents would truly engage with their children.  Along the way I realized the power of family ministry.  Now he challenges me with what the definition of family ministry is WHILE being a wife AND raising four kids AND being a part of a local church body AND learning to be closer to Him.  See what He did there?  Embracing my own calling is far more than any one “thing.”

Recently, someone asked me what I want to “do” next.  It was a hard question to answer.  I could tell them about my passions, and the cry of my heart. However, I realized that to fit these ideas into a job description was not my “calling” at all.  It’s about the willingness to be molded by the Lord as I go with Him it includes the word “and” far more often than the word “or.”

What about you?

How do you embrace YOUR calling?



Would You Wear This?

Tony Myles —  December 6, 2013 — 4 Comments

Imagine this picture was a pin…

or a t-shirt…

or a hat.

i-love-my-churchWould you honestly wear it?

Why? Why not?

And… does it matter if you love your church?

Just Believe

Josh Griffin —  April 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

article.2013.04.02This is the time of year many youth workers get disillusioned with their ministry. Another job opportunity piques interest or the thought of working a simple 9-5 becomes a little intoxicating to think about. The fun of the fall kickoff is in the rear view mirror; the big events have died down while students hunker down for the last couple months of the school year. The grass looks greener everywhere else, and you start to get down on yourself or look for a way out.

Feel familiar? If it does, read on and find some hope to fight the Spring-time itch:

Believe in your calling.
You are called to do ministry you are made for this! You stand shoulder to shoulder in the long line of incredible men and women God has used to further his kingdom. Satan is an expert at kicking us while we’re down, and he will also try to kick us during the down times of the ministry season.

I (Kurt) have found that the early spring is often the time of the year that I find myself a little frustrated in ministry; and it’s in these times Satan likes to kick me. Reminding myself of my calling and thanking God for allowing me to play a role in his kingdom is the best way to kick back.

Believe in your church.
You are called to your church maybe not for the rest of your life, but don’t let anyone else know that. Serve like you will be there for the rest of your life. When something happens to make you question that calling (maybe an unsupportive leader or discouraged pastor) make sure you get it all out on the table so it doesn’t fester inside and eventually cause damage. Maybe take some time today to reflect on the early days of hope and joy when you first started working with these students and believe again.

Believe in your people.
You have the right people in your church to build a great team of youth workers. Believe in them enough to value their time, encourage them well and train them for the challenges of working with students. Pray for your leadership team before you delete this email, and send them an encouraging note letting them know you did!

Believe in students.
Students are young and immature sometimes they say things quickly that sting or hurt you with their na’ve words, unaware of the verbal damage they have caused. There may need to be a confrontation or a challenge to maturity, but chances are they need a leader who will love them and be long-suffering in his/her guidance over the long haul. Believe God has given you the right students to change your community for him.

I (Josh) started a fantastic spring tradition in our ministry a few years ago: For five weeks in a row our students are in charge of every aspect of our church services. Seeing them rise to the occasion always renews my belief in the teenagers God has called me to serve.

Not sure what you’re facing this Spring or maybe we just needed to say some things to ourselves today. Just believe.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

What in the world am I doing here? I fumbled my way through the Sunday morning lesson while 50 teens chatted and ignored me completely. I couldn’t do this. Why would God put me here where I was obviously not wanted?

Three years after we left volunteer youth ministry, God called us back in. This time as the leaders.

Our church had been without a lead pastor for around six months, and now their beloved youth pastor was moving on. They needed someone to keep the youth ministry going until pastors could be hired. For some crazy reason, God called my husband and me.

It was one of the hardest, sweetest, trying, and tearful 14 months of my life. It was wonderful.

The world of youth ministry was not foreign to us, but the world of leading one was. Without the proper training, our education came from the trenches. Here’s a little of what we discovered:

Own your ministry.

When we came in, we miserably attempted to recreate all the activities that everyone was so fond of. Every single one of them bombed. After about two months we realized that we had to be who we were. Things went much more smoothly after that.

God will provide.

I was convinced that God had closed that door forever on working with teens, and being back was not really where my heart was. I asked God to give me a love for these students because I simply didn’t have it in me. He was faithful to pour that into me, so much so that as the weight of it came over me, I second guessed that desire!

Establish healthy boundaries.

It didn’t take long for ministry to take over many areas of our lives, blurring some of our boundaries and creating a mess. My husband and I had to learn to respect each other and our differences. We established stronger time boundaries which also helped us in our personal lives.

Youth ministry is hard.

Yes, you know that. But seriously, volunteer sponsors really have no idea! We spent hours and hours helping, working, and serving in youth ministry, but still had no idea how much harder it is to be the guy in charge! It’s extraordinarily hard. And every youth pastor/director should be given something really awesome, like ice cream.

Simple can be good.

With our lack of proper training, an existing full time job, and not as many volunteers as we would like (can I hear an amen?) our students had to fill in the gaps. The amazing thing about this was that they did. And they were awesome! They learned and grew right alongside us. They got to experience the difficulties and take ownership of their ministry.

The biggest thing I learned was that God is in control and working bigger and better things than I can ever imagine.

I am just thankful he let me have a part in it.

Melissa Duggan  just wrapped up a year of working as the Interim Youth Director at her church and is now (again) happily being the support guy in student ministry.

I don’t own a GPS, one because I’m too prideful to admit that I might not know where I am going and two because my car does not possess and such fancy-pants technology . I may not have one, but my dad does and he loves it because it is really helpful to get him to where he wants to go, and even better it helps him to get back on track when he missed a turn or deviates from the course.

Its November and for many of us, we had high hopes of what the year was going to look like, grand plans for new initiatives and excitement about what God was going to do this year. If you are anything like me, I had some goals and initiatives that were going to happen this fall and while many of them of have taken flight, others have not. The good news is, its only November and there is plenty of time to make the changes necessary and this is why I am asking myself a few questions this week:

1 – What direction were we supposed to be heading? It seems obvious, that if you don’t know where you are headed, its hard to tell you are lost. Thinking back to the meetings we had with students and leaders in the summer,where did we say we were going and what did we say we were going to start? What elements, events, opportunities did we have on our list as action intems this year? Which of those have we started, which have we not? While evaluating that, its important to first consider where God is leading you 2 months in and perhaps He is leading you in a totally different direction and perhaps that idea we never got off the ground is best left on the shelf for the season.

2 – How did we get off course? It could have been a lack of time to implement all we had hoped to, a lack of resources or just too many great ideas. There are all sorts of reasons that an idea might not have happened, but the question is now is: Should it have? If the answer is yes, then its time to figure out how. Distractions are abound in ministry and sometimes well meaning youth workers often meander and stray from what they are called to do, luckily its still not too late. At this time you can take a moment and lament if you must, but its time to shift gears and get things moving.

3 – How do we get back?  By November you are probably starting to see who you shining star leaders are, and perhaps one of them could be the one to help you help you get back on course with where the year was supposed to be heading. Empowering leaders to take on part of the ministry is a game changer and getting back on track might mean giving responsibility and authority to a member of your team. Getting back on track also may require a re-statement of vision, helping your volunteers and if necessary, students to help them understand the purpose and mission of the group.

The year has only begun and its not too late to get things back on track, these mid-season adjustments are a part of the life of a youth pastor. So embrace this opportunity to remind yourself of what God is calling your ministry to do this school year.

Geoff (Twitter)

Several years ago, as my wife and I were stepping into a new season of Ministry, one of my mentors asked me an incredible question. He said, “What are you consistently and deliberately praying for in your ministry?” At the time, I prayed for our ministry regularly, as I am sure you do as well, but I had never considered a consistent and deliberate prayer request.

In that season, I began to ask God to give me a clear prayer focus for the Student Ministry I led. In the first few years my requests were fairly normal… God help our ministry to do this… Help our kids to be that… I would wake up, and begin each day with prayer, making sure to include that request. In time, I watched God multiply the incredible things He was doing in our ministry (or at least increase my ability to see them).

As I sought this consistent and deliberate prayer focus at the beginning of last year God very clearly turned the attention of my prayer to my own heart. John Calvin once said, “The human heart is a factory of idols.” Powerfully true. You and I have the ability to turn basically anything into an idol. Now, we all know that some idols are easier to identify then others. I wasn’t bowing down in front of a golden calf, or anything, but God quickly revealed that I was beginning to make an idol out of my “ministry.”

Here’s the deal… I am a good Youth Pastor. I am not bragging, it’s just true. I am a good Youth Pastor, and I am sure you are too. In fact, you are probably much better at it then I am… But my concern is this: Some of us are probably better “Pastors” then we are followers of Jesus. As my friend Lance Witt accurately explains it; Jesus is the gift and ministry is simply the box by which we deliver the gift, yet some of us have switched the two.

It seems to me that some of us unintentionally slip into viewing what we get to do as our occupation rather than our calling. If I view my role as an occupation than I can do it, I can make it happen, I can figure it out on my own… If it is a calling, however, than I am in desperate need of the Holy Spirit to help me do what God has asked me to do. We forget that.

I had begun to try and “manufacture” ministry from my own spirit, in my own strength, and in my own direction. I was doing what I thought was best for our kids and our ministry… Some of us subtly believe that we can teach, preach, meet with families, recruit Ministry Partners, hang with kids, and host huge killer events with little to no reliance on the Holy Spirit. At least I did.
So my prayer became simply this: God, help me not try and manufacture ministry, but to be deliberately dependent on You. Praying this everyday of the year (sometimes several times a day) gave me life in ministry like I had never experienced before. It took the pressure off, because I was forced to remember that I am not the Holy Spirit (we all need that reminder sometimes). It restored my energy, and renewed my excitement to see what God was going to do next. It is teaching me to be more thankful. It is helping me to remain open and teachable. Most importantly, it is teaching me to stay out of the way of what God wants to do in and through our ministry.
This question has helped me, and maybe God will use it to help you: Am I trying to “manufacture” ministry, or am I being deliberately dependent on the Spirit of God for every step I take?

The reality is that God’s plans for our respective ministries are far greater than we could ever think or accomplish. The more we try to do in our own power the more we rob ourselves and our students of experiencing all that God has in store. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on anything God wants to do.

Consider seeking a consistent and deliberate prayer request for your ministry this year. You never know what God might want to teach you…

Ryan McDermott is the RP Director of Student Ministries at Christ Fellowship – Royal Palm, FL. Follow him @ryanmcdermott.

To all of you who have dreams, listen up. To all of you who have passions, pay attention. Basically, if your lungs require air on a daily basis, this blog is for you. You need to check out a little book called Arise. It’s by Clayton and Ellen Kershaw. You may already know about Clayton if you follow baseball. He’s to the Dodgers what Tebow is to the Broncos. Clayton and Ellen grew up in Texas and became best friends in high school, and soon started dating. Ellen made a trip to Zambia, Africa when she was 18 to minister to the orphans. She didn’t think she had much to offer, so going was a stretch and a huge step out of her comfort zone. But Zambia and the orphans who live there changed her. Meanwhile, Clayton, who later became her husband was advancing his baseball career and became the youngest pitcher for the Los Angels Dodgers before long. With a little creativity and effort this couple made their passions collide in a unique and beautiful way.

Some of you have different things you’d like to do. Or maybe there’s no money in the one thing you most desperately want to do. Have you ever watched the Food Network? If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching the Food Network it’s this: Food is great. But food is even better when it’s combined. And sometimes the most unusual combinations turn out to be the best. For instance, everyone knows that peanut butter and jelly go great together on a sandwich. And pasta shells and cheese make for great macaroni. But have you had cheese with an apple? Or fried chicken with waffles? Or, what my wife made for some dinner guests a few weeks ago: pizza with bacon, slices of strawberry and balsamic vinaigrette. Yeah, that’s right, it was amazing!

Here’s the point. You might feel like you have conflicting passions. Or you’re feeling yourself being torn in a bunch of different directions. This college or that college? Should I be a cop or join the Marines? Should I be a butcher or a veterinarian? There are all sorts of choices out there, and you may not be satisfied with just one. Maybe reading Kershaw’s story will challenge you to combine your passions in a creative way. The good news is if you have a heart for God, you can take that passion with you anywhere you go. There are always people around to be fed the Gospel.

Take my wife and me for example. We want to adopt a child. I want to write books. Now, in this digital world, book writing is a little shaky and won’t provide income nor funding for our adoption unless I think creatively. So I started a blog to promote my stories and books so that when I do get published someday, I will already have an audience waiting for my book’s arrival. In the process I have the chance to share Christ through my blog! It just can’t get any better than that. The blog is band new, and it could fail. But part of the Christian faith is taking risks. You’ll be faced with a lot of risks in your life, especially in the next few years. The question is, will you take them as long as your desire is to bring glory to God?

The Kershaws took risks by trying out for baseball, and traveling to Africa. The Bible is full of stories of people who took risks. We need these stories to help fuel our drive and give us courage. So check out Arise. It’s a great read for those of you coming out of high school or college, but not yet knowing what exactly to do with your lives. It’s also great for the dreamer and especially the pray-er. And for you baseball buffs, you’ll certainly get a good look behind the scenes of the famed Dodger Stadium. Above all, it will challenge you to go out and make a difference in this world, even if you feel insignificant or unworthy. Remember, if you feel really small, then that means you’ve got all sorts of room to grow!

This Guest Post was written by Andrew Toy – You can follow his blog here. 


I had such an incredible time at SYMC connecting with so many youth workers passionate about sharing Christ with the next generation. Of the countless people I connected with in Louisville there was one that stood out. He was a young ministry volunteer who was really excited about exploring the idea of going into vocational ministry one day and he was lucky enough to be brought to SYMC by the Pastor of the youth ministry he volunteered in. He was full of energy and a sense of calling to minister to High Schoolers and his gifting was obvious. I loved hearing his heart for students .

His Pastor on the other hand was another story… I asked if he was enjoying the conference and the he began to share is displeasure with many aspects of the conference especially how tired he was of some of the people teaching at it. He seemed so jaded and bitter toward many of aspects of Youth Ministry and the conference he had spent a lot of money to attend.

I had to ask myself, how does someone get to this place? Could my love and sense of calling turn into bitter resentment, could my desire to learn from educated experts turn into resentment by not being asked be one of them? Or worse, would my hard heart and frustrations become engrained in my ministry colleagues, volunteers and students and potentially taint their ministry experience?

It’s a really scary thought, so it begs the question. Where is your heart at this week?

Can I ask that together we guard are hearts from being hardened towards one another, to value the input that each of us can bring to the table from the unique contexts each of us are called to.  We need to encourage one another and affirm what we see God doing through one another but also to honor those that have given their lives to equipping us as youth leaders. To honor those leaders who care deeply to equip leaders, not to make much of themselves but to make much of the Christ.

Take time this week to encourage someone on your team, a few of your students, your pastor, your mentor or maybe someone who has no idea the impact they have had on your life or ministry. We are all working to build the same Kingdom.