I’m not really big on celebrating birthdays. No real reason why, it just isn’t my thing. This year is different though. It is somewhat of a mile stone. Today I turn 50! While some might lament, I’m actually trying to make the most of it. After all, you only turn 50 once.
It also gives me a chance to look back and reflect on some things. Yes, if I had to do it all over again, I would definitely do some things different, but through it all, God has been with me.
I think back to about 30 years ago when I was looking at entering full time ministry and someone assigned to me to be an under-shepherd to help guide me gave me some pretty interesting advice. Some of which I didn’t understand at the time, but now I do, and I would give it to anyone today. Here are three things we discussed:
1) He asked what I felt my calling was and I told him children and youth. He told me that I would probably grow out of it and at the time, the denomination I was a part of did not normally ordain youth ministers. Well, as you can tell, I have not grown out of my passion to reach children and youth for Jesus. In that regard he was incorrect. Then he gave me advise I share with others seeking to serve in ministry…
2) He told me that if I could get out of ministry to do it. I thought that was odd, but now I realize that if you can get out of ministry, then you probably are not called to it. I am drawn to serve, I cannot get away from it. It is a passion and a burden that God has given to me to minister to children. He has made me a “big kid”, being able to relate to children in a unique way. So I would encourage you, if you can get out of ministry, do it. And finally….
3) I keep thinking that I should be serving full time somewhere. A lot of that is because of the network of children’s pastors that I associate with online and in person as well as wondering how much more of an impact that could be made if I could devote more time to ministry. But something else that we discussed was education. I had just graduated from a Bible College with a Bachelors degree in Bible and Pastoral Studies and I was being encouraged to attend the denomination’s seminary. I shared about my concern entering ministry with educational debt and I was told that they could probably place me in a church that could pay “scale” and help cover those costs (Note: I am not minimizing seminaries or education to prepare for ministry). Growing up in a small church, that I’m not sure ever had their own full-time pastor, I wondered about the small church that couldn’t afford to pay scale, or a full-time person, should they be neglected because they couldn’t pay “scale”? Who would minister to them? And that is where I find myself today, serving in a small church that cannot afford a second full-time staff person.
I think serving FT would be awesome, but that is not where God has me now. He has me in a church, that when it began 8 years ago, wanted to be sure it had a strong children’s ministry, and I got the call (well actually an e-mail). Today children make up about 30% or more of Sunday morning attendees in this church. God is using me in the small church and with most of the churches in America with an average attendance under 100 (like ours), these churches need people called to serve. So don’t be discouraged in a small church, God can do amazing things through you there.
As I look back at 30+ years of ministry, I am amazed at how God has used me, and continues to do so.
I look forward to the years ahead to see what God has prepared for me.