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The following was written by Jonathan Altman, 2nd year M.Div. student. Thank you for sharing this with us Jonathan!

 

It has been almost three years since I accepted a call to ministry, three years of joy, frustration, waiting, growth, questions, and (some) answers. At that pivotal moment in January of 2007, I did not know where to turn other than to God. Who could help me unravel and understand such a humbling and monumental time? There are probably many books available for one seeking to discern his or her call to ministry, but I am going offer a meager list of things I would want someone accepting a call to ministry to know.

1. Stop and breathe. Soak in every moment. For some unknown reason God has chosen you to serve in a special capacity for his people. You are not any better than others, but you are on the cusp of a high and holy calling. Enjoy those butterflies. Dream of what God may do through you. Praise and thank him. Soak in the moment.

2. Do not worry yourself with second-guessing your call or gifts for ministry. You are a unique person, and if God has called you, bank on his word. Do not try to be another person, but ask God to help you grow in him. Ask to be shaped and molded into the servant he desires you to be.

3. Seek to learn of various roles within the ministry. In the past I mistakingly placed the the pastoral role above others. This is not the case. There are numerous roles in Christian ministry, and each has its place.

4. Build relationships. Learn how to “put yourself out there” and talk to others. Seek to live a life of love. Be relational.

5. Talk to your pastor or some other minister for guidance. Ask her about her acceptance of the call to ministry. What was it like? What happened? Develop a strong relationship with a wise mentor. It seems that most ministers love to help individuals understand their calling.

6. If your mentor seems to disaffirm your calling for some reason, whether it be for theological or other differences, do not take his or her voice as God's. Follow the Holy Spirit's leading. Pray and seek for a mentor to encourage you and open the door for more experiences.

7. With the previous in mind, prayerfully listen to wise counsel. Don't be a renegade vying for your own honor. Respect those who have gone before you and listen to their advice, but above all, listen to God.

8. Read, read, read. Read the Bible through. Read classical theological texts (e.g. Augustine, Aquinas, Edwards, Wesley, etc.) Devotional materials have their place, but don't feast on those alone. You need to worship God with your mind, as well as your heart.

9. Get involved in your church if you are not already. Lend a hand with the youth group. Teach a Sunday School class. You may not be in your ideal place of ministry, but you are ministering. This is essential.

10. Ask your pastor or mentor to help you find opportunities to minister. You may not yet know what your ministry role will be in the future, but take chances. If given the opportunity to preach, do so. Trying new things may help you discern where your gifts lie. Don't be afraid. Congregations are much more understanding of new ministers' sermons than you might think. Most individuals want to encourage you, not tear you down.

11. Keep some kind of journal of your experience as the call to ministry unfolds. It is wonderful to look back on how God has guided your life.

12. Visit other churches, traditions, and denominations. Notice how they do church. What kind of symbolism is present in their worship? What does it mean? What do these individuals believe? Do you have assumptions about certain traditions that are inaccurate?

13. Consider graduate theological education. I cannot emphasize this enough. My experience in divinity school has been an amazing time of learning, encouragement, and growth. Your Christian tradition may not be one that typically encourages going to seminary, but prayerfully consider it. What do you have to lose? Yes, the Master of Divinity is typically a 90-hour program, but you need not be a theological genius to graduate. It may be possible to learn many of the same concepts without going to seminary, but it is much more efficient if you attend.

14. To elaborate on number 12, choose an ATS accredited seminary. You may learn many valuable things at a non-accredited school, but accreditation offers you the opportunity to earn future degrees (ThM, Dmin, ThD, PhD, etc.) from reputable institutions. ATS accreditation is a rigorous process, and attending an ATS accredited school is essentially a verification that your money, mind, and time will be well-spent.

15. As you study, seek God's leading in developing your theology. While denominational stances and confessions of belief have their place, seek what God would have you to believe instead of solely relying on another's view. Statements of belief are not inspired texts, but the Bible is.

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