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?



theCORE – essential values for new ministers

Session 1 – Establishing a healthy CORE.
I remember talking to a athletic trainer several years ago and one of the things he said was, “You have to establish your core before you can bulk up.” As young pastors we have grand visions of the future… big ministries… big churches… 1000s of people falling on their faces in repentance! But the reality of it all is there is no way we will ever experience these hopes until we establish a good core.

  • What do you believe are 4 essential CORE values for any young minister?
  • How do you think these 4 CORE values can shape your future ministry?

(C) Called… Not Convinced. When God called you into ministry he didn’t commit you to the funny farm. Although we might think at times, “God what are you doing!?” His call on your life is not a burden. Never treat it as such. What an honor.

Have you heard Gods call for ministry on your life? What was that like? How does a call defer from having to be convinced? Why does this matter?

There is a strong difference being called by God and being convinced. Being convinced is rooted in selfish motives. Whether we are convinced by the glitz and glamour of the rockstar minister or if one of your friend/ family members said you would be a great minister… either way someone convinced you. We need to be confident in His calling upon our lives because without this calling we would never be able to sustain this life long journey.

(O) Open to whatever. Develop a heart of surrender to the Call. Stay humble, stay on your knees. Your heart reflects your actions. Whatever God has is good… Perfect… And no the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence.

When was the last time you honestly heard Gods voice in your life? How have your responded in obedience to Him?

I believe authentic ministry happens when we are prompted by the Lord. When we stand before the Lord in our private lives in complete surrender, what it birthed in those moments lead to authentic ministry. What would happen if we began to worship with surrender? Preached from a heart of surrender? Left room for the Holy Spirit to prompt us and lead us.

To develop an attitude of surrender can only be known and established in time. Our faithfulness in the Word and prayer is where we honestly hear God’s voice. There is power and clarity when we are on our knees.

(R) Relationships are your job. Your life revolves around the people you are shepherding. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way, people are looking for their pastor to care. No matter what your gifts are, relationships matter. We’ll talk more later about how to deal with hurting people. We are in the business of relationships and connecting with people.
Share one good example of how relationships matter in ministry and one bad example.

***There is a trap here that must be addressed. We must be wise in having close friendships with the opposite sex. Have clear boundaries with the opposite sex is a must. Your integrity and character matter way too much for one incident to ruin what you have worked hard to protect. Establish strong, non-offensive boundaries with the women in your ministry/ team.

  • What are some practical boundaries you can set with the opposite sex in your ministry?

(E) Experience the joy of serving in the overflow. When we establish a good rhythm of getting in the Word, The Lord fills our cups. If there ever comes a time in your life when you have lost the time to intentionally read the Word for yourself… Do yourself and the people you shepherd a huge favor and take a vacation. Burn out pastors lead unhealthy churches.

  • Why is it so beneficial in your ministry to serve out of the overflow? How can you stay fresh in ministry?

Creating healthy spiritual rhythms in your life to allow the Spirit to fill. Get up early. Use cancelled appointments to read. Is there are time in your week for intentional Bible study? Not sermon prep… but intentional study. It’s during these times when the Lord reveals His heart for you… not your ministry. When we are satisfied in Him, He is most glorified in us… and the people in our ministries see it. (Quote from John Piper)

  • What are some spiritual rhythms in your life that keep you fresh?

Have you heard the phrase “leaders are readers?” Reading is one of the best things I’ve done in my ministry. The times when I’m in a good book, are the times when my mind is free to dream and allow the Lord to speak. Read books that have nothing to do with ministry. Read books that lead you toward Godliness. Read books that bring new perspectives to ministry. The point is to read. Different authors. Unique titles. Read about a hobby. Find a way in your week to simple sit and read.

  • What’s the latest book you’ve read? What truth or insight did you gain from it?

Over the years, I’ve missed these moments and my ministry has suffered because of it. It’s not fun to lead when your heart is dry. On the other hand, serving out of the overflow leads to fulfillment and joy. Who doesn’t want to experience that!? We all need to do our very best to fill the tank. It takes hard work, planning and discipline to allow the “filling” to happen.

  • Which one of these 4 CORE essentials resonated with you? Why?
  • How have your noticed some of these core values played out in your ministry context?

Action steps: we don’t progress in life until we take action steps. Thinking is one thing, doing is another.

  • spend some time this week seeking The Lord about your call to ministry.
  • look at your week, when can you honestly carve out intention time to get in the Word? Not to prepare a Bible study, but for your own personal health.
  • Find a good book to read. Goal: 4 books this year.
  • Brainstorm a healthy Spiritual rhythm for this year… a good vacation, weekly moments of intentional Bible Study and daily prayer moments.

Steve Spence is the Student Ministry Pastor at New Vision in Tennessee. He has created more than 10 great youth ministry resources and you can find him on Twitter right here!

Was talking to a youth worker this week about how I was personally called to youth ministry – and thought I would ask you to vote in today’s poll with the answer to how you were, too. If your experiences was one of the choices above select it and vote now – if not, tell us your experience in the comments!


I had the privilege of posting a couple of guest posts on some other great youth ministry blogs this past week. The first was on Josh Evans’ blog called Bloom Where You’re Planted:

These were some of the most powerful words ever said to me. It came at a time when I was looking around in frustration at my ministry, my eyes were wandering for more and I was always wishing for a bigger crowd in a sexier ministry. How selfish, naive and sad. God had called me to my church, but my brokenness inside was already thinking about next and more and bigger.

The second was on Brooklyn Lindsey’s blog called The Best Kept Secret in Your Church:

I recently realized that our youth ministry was one of the best kept secrets in the church. I walked around the adult services last week and read every word in the church bulletin – and found hardly a mention of our high school ministry. Now certainly in a megachuch with so much cooking you could explain away this news, but I know from my 7 years in a smaller church this happens everywhere.

Click the links above to read the whole articles – thanks for the opportunities to share, too!


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.

This week I was reminded of one of the most important things God has ever shown me in my life: my calling to youth ministry. I was reading the book of Joshua, and came into chapter 24 with more than a little expectation, seeing that my life verse (v15) is contained therein. As I read the chapter, something new and powerful stood out to me like never before. It was just what I needed to hear, especially in a season of being OK with being OK and honestly, coasting a little in ministry here at the end of the school year.

In the passage, God says, “I gave you Abraham (v2) … I gave you Isaac (v3) … I gave you Jacob and Esau (v4) … I gave you Moses and Aaron (v5) … and finally, I brought you (v8) … Joshua, to lead Israel.

In that moment, Joshua must have had this realization that HE is part of Israel’s incredible legacy. He looks at the past and realizes he doesn’t deserve to even be mentioned with those people, much less leading their followers. He gulps with humility at the weight of this realization.

God used all of these incredible people … and now He has chosen you, Joshua.

That’s what I needed to hear. God used all of these incredible people … and now He has chosen you, Joshua. When I look at the legacy of youth ministry at our church and across the world, I realize that I don’t deserve to be a footnote on their Wikipedia page. But God has made His choice. I’m supposed to lead. He’s prepared me for this moment. My job is to invite people to choose their path (v24) – to serve the gods of this world or to serve the God of the Universe. Every so often I seem to subconsciously test my calling to my church and test if God is finished with me in the place He last put me. I heard from Him loud and clear this week … I am CALLED. Even though there may be more wins than losses this past season (there have been). Even though I don’t always feel like being a pastor (which I have felt too much recently). Even when I screw things up and have to own it (did that, too). I. Am. Called.

And so are you. God has used amazing people in your church to lead students to Him. And now God has chosen you. You are the next person to carry the mantle of leadership to your people. He has called you. Don’t know what you might face this weekend or are battling in your spirit – but please realize you are CALLED by God to do His work. He could have chosen anyone! He chose you. He brought you to that church. He brought you here for this moment. He wants you to rise up and lead the people. Just like Joshua.

Honored to share in that amazing calling with you, my friends.


I don’t know what happened to me in the past few weeks, but its been really discouraging. Students and parents upset about the strangest and most inconsequential things, leaders struggling with life and their relationship with God. It just seems like when it rains it pours and in the midst of the rain, the enemy can stick his foot into the door and make it really hard to close. There is that moment where I am sure many of us have been, where doubt creeps in. Doubt that you are capable of leading, doubt that your decisions are the right choices and doubt that you are where God is calling you to be.

This time of uncertainty is filled with an overwhelming sense of spinning your wheels. Questioning things you have said, done or decisions you have made as well, it can become debilitating, to the point where you can’t seem to get anything done. That is where I was at for a few weeks, being held back by doubt, and feelings of inferiority and a general lack of vision.

Here are a few things God is teaching me and I think you need to know in times like this:

The right decision is not always the popular one: Leading by consensus is ineffective (and can make you popular for a season), but leading by vision will make you unpopular sometimes. Trust the direction God is showing you, He has bigger and better plans for the ministry than people know. Stand by the call you made, explain where necessary but you needn’t apologize for making the right call on something.

You represent a large group: Parents may be upset that you are not catering to their child, but the reality is that you are making decisions for the group as a whole, and when parents are upset with you, its often because things didn’t go their way or their child’s way. Giving in to that sets a dangerous precedent, but preferential treatment will breed unhealthy expectations.

Love them all, Trust a few: Be really mindful of whom you confide in, make sure that the people you bounce ideas, situations and issues with are people who have the best interests of you and the ministry in mind and are people of integrity. These people are harder to find, and in the Church context people will befriend you to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

You are Called!: This is number one, remembering that you are called to be where you are. You are the God appointed person for that ministry and those students and leaders are entrusted to you. The enemy will try and convince you that you are wrong, but it is the place you need to be. I have been praying that God would give me the strength kick the foot of doubt out of my door and regain the passion and vision that comes from leading and He is doing that. You are called to Lead, students, volunteers and parents, Lead with the confidence that it is God who placed you there, and equipped you for the battles.

I pray that none of you ever end up in a place where you question your leadership, but if you do, I pray that God gives you the strength to endure.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

This week I created a new team award – I called it Unforgettable Moments in HSM History.

We picked up this inexpensive plaque at a local trophy shop and announced the first winner at a recent meeting. I gave it to Chris Wohlers, new to the HSM team. We were doing a funny bit live on stage during the Air Guitar activity last week, and it involved a complicated dance move that ended up with me tackling him, ruining his new HSM shirt and even giving him a war injury.

So why the award? I want to create a culture, I want memories, and I want to invite others to help me create this environment to work in. We work hard, we give everything, we love students. And now there are 11 empty spots on this plaque for more moments that bond us together as a team and help us remember the fun we have serving Jesus in youth ministry.

Might be a fun idea to start with your volunteers at your next team meeting!