In the church we talk a lot about being “called” to do things. Specifically we are identifying things God calls us to do. This can get mighty tricky. God doesn’t often call in an audible voice. Therefore, we have to piece together evidence of a call from God. There may be a supernatural event or dream that serves as a catalyst. But, the bulk of our call comes from conversations and mundane life events that end up pointing us in a direction.
In my work with youth ministers we talk a great deal about calling. The more sure the calling, the greater liklihood that the calling itself will sustain a person through difficult times. For instance, early in my career at the church to which I am still a member, a person on the personnel committee questioned my calling. In short, that person didn’t agree with a ministry decision I made involving her child. Without asking me the source of my call or my understanding of my calling, she raised the question in a committee meeting. To this day, I think I was nearly fired over HER perception of MY calling. Thankfully, I was sure of my calling. And, I made the decision if I lost my job because of this person’s opinion of me, I would go find a job in youth ministry elsewhere. I didn’t lose my job. I stayed another 15 years.
In a conversation recently I likened a calling to a compass. The compass is always true and points north, no matter what. We may choose different expressions of our calling. But, those expressions always points to the same call. For example, a person called to youth ministry may be a counselor, a teacher or rec center director therefore allowing their vocation to honor their calling. A person may also work in an occupation not connected to thier call (a job to pay the bills), yet their volunteer hours are spent working with teenagers in various capacities. This also honors a call to youth ministry.
However, sometimes we can get stuck. I have counseled many who are in the middle of a career crisis wondering if what they spent the first part of their life doing was somehow disconnected from their calling. Did they misinterpret God? Or, did they fail to listen to God early in their life? Being stuck in an unsure calling is like paying $15 to go see a seemingly bad movie. One isn’t really sure whether to leave before the movie is over or to stick it out to see if the ending somehow redeems the show thereby making the investment of time and money worth it.
So, how does one know if one is called or stuck?
- Check the compass. Dig deep to discover the foundation of the calling. What are the events and the conversations that led to the call in the first place? Pray for clarity. Figure out the direction the compass is pointing and reorient towards that direction.
- If you leave, leave on an upswing. Most people want to quit their job when it gets tough. People learn more about themselves when things are difficult compared to when things are going well. Use this period of questioning to sharpen skills and increase aptitudes. It will help in the next job. But, more importantly, effectiveness will increase in this job. Don’t quit until things are going well.
- Pray that God will make the next steps obvious! My wife and I have used this prayer in all of our major decisions. Don’t guess about God’s calling. Be sure. Read the Bible. God always makes God’s self known (see burning bush, Jonah’s fish friend, road to Damascus, etc., etc.).
Difficulty and adversity are not very good indicators of whether God’s calling exists or not. If that were true, Jesus and the early apostles would have all quit. Recall the uncertainty of Jesus’ disciples shortly after his death and resurrection. They were hiding and unsure of what to do. Like a light switch, their calling became sure, embolding them to do things beyond their known skill set. The surety of our calling can do this for us. We develop bold confidence and begin to accomplish things we previous thought were not possible.
God calls all of us to something. Have confidence that God has called you.
Steve Schneeberger is the Executive Director of the Youth Ministry Institute. Beginning in 1985, Steve began a vocation as a youth minister serving churches in Kansas and Florida. He is a 1981 graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park, Kansas, has a business degree from Baker University (1985) and a law degree from the University of Kansas (1988). He is married to Carol, an elementary school teacher and former counselor. They have three children. Steve consults, coaches and teaches Visioning, Organizing and Planning for Success, Budgeting, Helping Youth Over Developmental Hurdles, Beginning Leadership – Mastering the Core Competencies, Conflict Resolution and Expecting Great Behavior for the Youth Ministry Institute.