I was brought up in a Baptist church, and, for the most part, I had a positive experience with church life throughout my grade school years. I thought of “church” as being an extended family that provided care. Through the ministry of caring Sunday school teachers and a caring family, I came to know the Lord at nine years old. Just before I became a teenager, our family went through some difficult times. Briefly put, during the next eight years, I struggled with “church” and life in general, though I was in church each Sunday morning. The church I attended at that time did not have a solid youth ministry, yet it was through some friends at church with whom I shared common interests that I finally began to re-evaluate my life and my relationship with God.
As a college freshman, after a lot of frustration with the direction that my life was going, I recommitted my life to the Lord. Strangely enough, during my college freshman year while God was dealing with me regarding the direction of my heart, He was also dealing with me about my vocation. Within two months after my recommitment, I surrendered to vocational ministry. At that time, since I had a desire to help my peers find a fulfilling experience with God and a purposeful life, I interpreted God’s call as being a call to youth ministry.
As I pursued God’s call, I would say that what influenced me most were meaningful relationships with peers who had a heart for God, who were authentic in their faith, and who genuinely cared for me as an individual. Other supportive relationships that guided my journey from that point on included friends and leaders from the Baptist Student Union and another church that provided discipleship and opportunities for involvement in evangelistic type ministries.
After spending my sophomore year in college growing and serving through the church and the BSU, I transferred colleges to pursue my undergrad in Religion. There were multiple opportunities for growth and service through the BSU and at church. These service opportunities were targeted primarily toward children and teenagers. During this time, God broadened my perspective regarding vocational ministry. It was at that time that I began to look beyond youth ministry to the ministry of education, though during and after seminary I served on two church staffs in the area of youth ministry.
After having spent five years in youth ministry, God led me into the ministry of education. Actually, it was through my youth ministry experience that my gifts in organization and administration came to light. While I related well one-on-one with youth, my heart was increasingly being drawn to the education ministry, primarily because I saw it as an opportunity to use my dominant gifts to make a broader impact in the lives of people.
My quiet times with the Lord give me perspective about the areas that should be priorities in my ministry. My relationship with God keeps me honest about my motives, helps effectively manage my time, and keeps me people-centered. To those just beginning to explore God’s call on their lives, I would say to give priority to your personal relationship with God. Expose yourself to various types of ministry opportunities in an effort to determine the areas of ministry that best fit you. Maximize your strengths in those areas. Always be a learner and always be who God created you to be.