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Creating a Clearly-Defined Path

Here are five necessary steps in creating a clearly-defined path to participating in missio Dei–the mission of God. I encourage you to ponder these as you develop a process for helping those discerning their vocation.

1. Modeling

This is probably the most understated step of the entire process, which is why I begin with it. If you are a pastor, you can most likely articulate your calling easily. And if you wear a clerical collar, others recognize your calling without you having to say a word. However, no matter what your leadership role, you should be able to state clearly and succinctly your call to ministry and how you came to understand it. If you can’t do this, how can you expect others to discover, name, and live out their own vocation? If you as a leader are not modeling the value of living your true vocation, you are sacrificing integrity and influence.  Beware: imposters are almost always found out!

2. Discovery

I’ve written much about discovery and the critical role it plays in equipping people for ministry. Bottom line, most folks need some guidance in uncovering the myriad ways God has been equipping them for their role in his mission.

  • Be a companion on their journey–the guide, not just the map-seller.
  • Choose a holistic method so that those who are intimidated by the concept of spiritual gifts have something else to identify.
  • Help put the pieces together–what is obvious to you as an objective observer may not be nearly as obvious to the person trying to understand their unique design for ministry.

3. Exploration/Application

Exploration and application can easily be the most frustrating part of navigating the path into ministry! We can help those on the journey by creating non-threatening opportunities to experiment with ministry. A former colleague of mine called this the “no rings, no strings” approach. A potential volunteer minister is invited to shadow an experienced volunteer minister for a season, then debrief that experience with the ministry team leader. The ability to actually experience that ministry without being married to it or in any other way committed to continue goes a long way in avoiding the frustration of a ministry mis-match.

Moving from task-based to life-based ministry, you might ask, “What does it mean to apply your  unique design for ministry to your everyday life?” This is the real application of the fruit from the discovery process!

4. Reflection

Reflection is another oft-ignored step in defining a clear path to ministry. Most extraverts need to process their experience out loud, but even the most introverted among us benefit from some well-formed questions to guide their thinking about their ministry experience. Reflection is not just a one-time conversation, but one that needs to be repeated on a regular basis, particularly at times of transition into/out of ministry roles. If we don’t stop to see what God is doing in and through our lives, we risk losing our energy and enthusiasm for ministry. In addition, we miss the stories that God would have us share about how and where he is showing up and showing off!

5. Celebration

The popularity of Hallmark, Dayspring, and American Greetings clearly communicates the value of  appreciating and celebrating others! This is especially true of anyone engaged in ministry. If we are to be honest, ministry is not always fun. It is often hard work, occasionally frustrating, and sometimes heart-wrenching. Taking the step to celebrate serving is critical to a clearly-defined ministry path. Let people know that they are appreciated for who they are, not just for what they do. Send a hand-written note, offer a sincere “thank you” for a task well done, affirm one’s unique design, throw a party after a particularly eventful season of ministry…get creative and celebrate ministry in all its various forms!

These are the steps I’ve found helpful; you may discover others that you would add. But the charge is this: the path must be clearly defined if we expect people to live into God’s invitation and call to true vocation!


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