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How do I know if I’m called to youth ministry?

Help Wanted! Or, how do I know if I’m called to youth ministry?

Calling is a strange concept, and men and women far wiser than I have tried to tackle to subject. And the methods we see in scripture used to call men and women to Kingdom action often make our efforts to figure it out even tougher! For me there was no burning bush. I didn’t lay a fleece out and make a deal with God concerning moisture. I didn’t get knocked on the ground (or more specifically off my feet) by a blinding light.

So those amazing moments in history haven’t helped me discern my calling into youth ministry. Yet here I am…here you are…serving the teenagers the best way we know how. And when frustrations, failure and fatigue set in, we often ask, “How do I know if I’m really called into youth ministry?”

Jesus, as he often does for me, makes the confusing conversation about “calling” much clearer when he says,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2)

It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Hey guys, there is a lot of work to be done, and our heavenly Father has put out a ‘Help Wanted’ sign.Who’s in? And who can you bring along?”help_wanted

I’m a youth pastor, not a theologian. There’s a reason I’ve never been asked to help with a Bible translation project.  But I think the idea of a “Help Wanted” sign is in-bounds enough to not be complete heresy!

You’re probably like me. Your youth ministry journey most likely didn’t begin with an obvious sign from God.

My hunch is, though, that you saw the “Help Wanted” sign…and you knew you could help.  Add to that a fondness for teenagers, a spiritual gift or two and a servant’s heart and you were off and running.

Some reading this will want a checklist; a way to quantify a calling to work with teenagers.  Okay, here you go:

  • Are you a follower of Jesus?
  • Do you like teenagers?
  • Do you have any sort of gift or talent…any at all?
  • Do you see that “Help Wanted” sign?
  • Wanna help?
  • Congratulations, you are called to youth ministry!

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Who’s in?  Who can you bring along?

– Kurt

13 thoughts on “How do I know if I’m called to youth ministry?

  1. Avatar

    Been in youth ministry for 22 years and i totally agree. Living example of God equipping those who say YES and jump in the Gap on behalf of students and their families. There is planning, eval, and prep, but we jest need to follow the Spirit be obedient and watch God do His mighty work in the lives of people. He is going to build His church and we get to be apart of it! Sweeeeeet

  2. Avatar
    Paula Ritter

    If a church waits until they find the “perfect” youth group leader, short of Jesus, they will never have a youth group! In my opinion, 90% of the calling is in the willingness to do it! If you stay a week or two ahead of your group, you will succeed! Pick out some games, do a little research, make a list of all the things you want to accomplish during the year (like a service project, participation in a church service, special youth events for holidays, taking the group to a Christian movie, play, or Christian music concert, and a lock-in or 2 during the year, etc.), plug the dates for those events into the calendar and you are OFF!! You can fill in the rest of the calendar as you go along. We also watch a short video from a video series each week and discuss it. During the regular meetings it helps the leader to follow a theme – makes it easier to plan and gives the lessons some cohesion. During our summer sessions, we had 10 meetings during the summer and we used “Fruits of the Spirit” as our theme: 9 weeks with a “fruit” theme for each meeting (1st meeting was Love; 2nd meeting was Joy; 3rd was Peace, and so on), and the 10th and final meeting was a summary of all of them. I am starting my third year and I am 61 years old and if I can do it, you can do it! Takes some energy, a little flexibility, some planning and lots of love for the youth but if you pray for it, God will give it to you!

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    Thanks Kurt, I needed to hear these words today

  4. Avatar

    I’ve been waiting for my sign and here it is! Thanks Kurt, God Bless!

  5. Avatar

    I agree with you that the workers are few in the area of youth ministry and that we definitely need more people to pray about this direction and pursue youth ministry more. However, when are we going to break down the stigma that a youth minister only needs to like teenagers and have the ability to stay up for a lock in? Youth ministers are by far the most versatile and busiest young people I have had the privilege to work with. They have to deal with students who are struggling with problems these days that were hardly mentioned 15-20 years ago. Suicide, cutting, depression, premartial sex and teen pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, and battling world religions being pressed on them in their schools. There’s far more expected out of youth ministers. They need good training and investment from senior ministers and elders to help them grow into being successful at raising disciples, communicating to parents, organizing trips, creating calendars, overseeing events, writing lesson plans, and truly building relationships with families. They attend lunches with their students, go to games, dance recitals, performances and so much more. Not to mention when school is out they turn on the busiest schedule ever with attending summer camps and youth conferences like CIY or SITS. Yes, a love for students is definitely the root of where this calling can bud from, but let’s try and help shed light on how much these young men and women really do and how big of an impact they really can have on the next generation. Yes, the workers are few and not many want to take on this big job for so little pay, but the rewards are great!

    • Avatar

      Couldn’t agree more, Jamie!
      The heart of the post was to try to de-mystify what it means to be called into youth ministry. I think people tend to over-think it; to question if they are “called” to kingdom work simply because they didn’t have a super-natural, “ah ha” moment.

  6. Avatar

    I agree with what you wrote. I think we sometimes make this more difficult than it has to be. When we see a need in the church and we have the ability to do something about it – that should be calling enough to get involved and do something. I think many of us (myself included) think we need to go for special training at a Christian college or seminary before we can be effective in youth ministry. I have been working with young people for 20 plus years in one capacity or other. It has been my observation that young people really don’t care about our training or whatever degree we have. They just want someone to love them and show interest. Anyone can do that.

  7. Avatar

    All of the above are great. I can especially retlae to Phillip’s first one. It is amazes me how the words that I believe I am speaking and even writing can be heard or read so much differently than I intended them. But I guess the thing that I was least prepared for is how lonely this job can be. Maybe it’s just me, I really hope so, but I just don’t seem to have to many folks that I can let my guard down around or that will let their guard down around me. Often times I feel alone in a crowd.

  8. Avatar

    Thanks! This article is just what I needed today!

  9. Avatar

    Saved this to read and I am just getting to this. Thank you for writing this. I love it and totally agree. We over complicate being ‘called’ too often. Love love love this!

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How do I know if I’m called to youth ...

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