Buddy - Youth Minister

I was raised in a loving home with both birth parents. My mother made sure my sisters and I were in church EVERY TIME the church doors were open. I went to every night of the two week revivals, never missed a day of VBS, Sunday School, Sunday night church, Wednesday night services…and list goes on. I grew up in church and I was around quality ministers all my life.

As a young child, around six years old, I went forward, talked to the preacher, answered all the questions correctly, prayed a prayer and was baptized. I faithfully lived the life of a Christian, at least outwardly. At age 16, I started experiencing strong conviction regarding the sin in my life. Honestly, that had never really happened before. Finally, I surrendered all to Jesus. I prayed and asked for forgiveness and for God to come into my life and take over every part. It changed me.

Anytime a pastor or visiting evangelist would speak about a call to vocational ministry, I got very nervous and unsettled. It bothered me. It didn’t really draw me; it just made me uncomfortable. I did not realize this was the early stage of God stirring in me a call to work for Him as my life’s vocation. I would basically “tune out” at these times. During my senior year of high school, I got serious about praying and asking God what He wanted me to do with my life, college, major, vocation, etc. I kept praying, “Whatever you say, I’ll do it.” I was unconsciously lying. In truth, I was not open to a call from Him to vocational Christian service. I had other plans.

A few weeks after I graduated, I attended a Christian camp with the sole purpose of hearing from God regarding my life’s direction. God did not fail. In the middle of the week, He made me aware for the first time, that I had been closed to following Him in this area of my life. By the end of the week, due to the strong drawing power of the Holy Spirit alone, I completely and honestly surrendered my life to the Lord and whatever He wanted me to do. I did not know at that time it would be vocational ministry, but I suspected it was. I spoke a great deal with my youth minister. He seemed to see God’s hand on me and His call on my life much more and sooner than I did.

I have always said God led me into youth ministry through circumstances more than anything else. The next spring, my youth minister asked me to serve as the summer youth intern. I did and enjoyed it very much. In the fall, he left and the church asked me to serve as the interim youth minister. I did and everything seemed to fit. I love God, His Word, teenagers, sports, recreation, amusement parks, camp, and so on. All this seems pretty fitting for a youth minister. After that first summer, I never looked back. God confirmed in my spirit that this was what He wanted me to do. After two years of college in a state school, I transferred to Oklahoma Baptist University and eventually graduated from there. I have served as youth minister in four different churches since graduating in 1985. I do all the typical “youth minister” things serving in the local church.

My top three spiritual gifts are leadership, teaching, and administration. These have been clearly evident and useful throughout the course of my ministry. God gifts us all differently, but, these have served me very well in connection with the variety of responsibilities of a youth minister. As a young youth minister, I sometimes tried to be something that I am not. I would see how another minister “did things” and that they were ‘successful’, so I’d try to adapt to their way of doing things. Usually, that effort was met with frustration. God has freed me to be who I am, how I am. He made me this way on purpose and has specific situations for me to serve. Learning/accepting this reality was a breakthrough for me.

To those who feel God is leading them into vocational ministry, I would say, without getting too specific, “you better KNOW that God has DEFINITELY called you into vocational ministry, because there will be many times when difficult circumstances will lead you to question that call. In my own life, when opinions dropped, people opposed me and the enemy attacked, sometimes the only thing I had left to hang onto was the absolute certainty of God’s call on my life. God has confirmed my call repeatedly. God has used many people to bless me with their kind words and actions that have validated both me and my ministry efforts with youth and adults.

If Jesus and I are not “right,” nothing else matters. Success in ministry by any measure is empty if I am not walking in accord with my Lord. The most important call on my life is to my personal relationship with Christ. I know that. I strive to keep that priority in my life.

Right now, God is teaching me that it’s not about me, but about Jesus. God is continually humbling me…daily…moment by moment. In fact, I feel as if I am the powder in the bowl and God is grinding me out with a pestle to get out every last bit of pride. This has been very difficult to ‘get’. Everything revolves around Him! Nothing revolves around me. Any success is His, not mine. I know that better than I’ve ever known it before.

I would suggest to those exploring God’s call that you pray and ask God to clearly reveal His will to you. He is more than capable of communicating with you to a point where there is no doubt or question. God may speak through His Word, His Spirit, wise counsel, circumstance, gifting, desires of the heart, or any number of other ways. My point is that He can make sure you KNOW His will for you. Say ‘yes’ in advance to whatever He reveals, then let HIM make the choice. I always encourage students to get a concordance and to do a word study on the following words in the Bible: call, calling, minister, and ministry. Look up every single one. Read over them repeatedly. Ask God to stir your heart and let you know what it is that God intends for you.