First things first

Before the institution (read clergy-centric church) can be transformed, the individual must be transformed.

Equipping ministry is about people first, then the institution. Investing in the individual requires more of us as leaders, but it is the only way to transform the church into the missio Dei she is intended to be.

bible study


First things first.






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!


I got it already! … Really?

My last few posts have been aimed at laying a foundation for thinking, talking, teaching, and preaching about true vocation–that is, the call of God on every believer to participate in missio Dei. I hope you are saying, “I got it already! Now what do I do about it?” Wise question. Helping people understand that they are called to ministry is only the beginning. The next step is to establish a clearly defined pathway that leads them to understand and step into their true vocation.

In Luke 10:1-24,  Jesus provides a model from which we can learn.

  • Cast the vision: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…”
  • Give directions: “Pray earnestly…carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road…remain in the house where you find a person of peace, eating and drinking whatever they provide…heal the sick and proclaim the nearness of the kingdom”
  • Provide companionship for the journey: “…the Lord sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”
  • Prepare for failure: “…whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you…shake the dust of that town from your feet”
  • Rejoice over success: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! … In that same hour, He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit…”
  • Give thanks: “I thank you, Father…”

For the next couple of weeks, I will address necessary steps to provide a clearly defined path for your people to step into ministry. Whether you are serving a large congregation or a small one, it is absolutely essential that people can easily identify where the journey of discovery begins as well as the steps along the way.

Larger churches often have an established a process by which people get “plugged into ministry.” Usually the volume of people makes this a necessity. The problems that often arise, however, are due to gaps in the process where people get lost. For example, a common gap is to confuse pointing with directing. Another is to ignore the follow-up.

Smaller congregations have their own set of problems. They often make the mistake of thinking that, because they are small, it’s easy for people to see how to “plug in.” After all, there’s always a lot to do and not very many people to get it all done! The attitude can be, “Just do whatever needs doing!” This approach is haphazard and often leads to unsatisfying ministry experiences.

So, no matter the size of the church you are leading, a clearly defined path is critical.

Hold on… There’s a bigger problem with the examples I just gave than gaps in process and assuming it’s obvious. Did you catch it? If not, you’ve missed a critical first step: the paradigm shift from ministry as avocation to ministry as vocation. (If you need a refresher, read this.) This change in paradigm is absolutely critical to developing a clearly defined path to participation in missio Dei! Get that right and you are ready for the next steps!