An Open Letter to the Recent Grad who Desires to Be in Vocational Ministry,
Congrats on the accomplishment of your education!
After 14 years of ministry, I have soaked on this question for the last eleven years, both inside and outside of Christian higher education, primarily on the practitioner side.
Here are my bullet points from which I talk everyday all day about, blogging, coaching, pleading, and preaching to others:
// YOU ARE NEEDED. Church leaders at advancing churches (those where the Gospel is being advanced - they’re not just getting bigger in size) They are looking for a version of you 6 years from now. Seems like every day I hear a version of, “We are looking for someone who is 29-32 with 6 or 7 years of experience having built a ministry and led some stuff…”
Which is somewhat like looking for an almost extinct tiger.
// YOU NEED A VISION for what your contribution might be in the Kingdom in six or seven years. I’m not saying everyone needs to be a mega church pastor, or have a record deal, but what could your maximum effectiveness look like deployed at a local church seven years from?
// HOW CAN YOU GET TO THAT POINT? Let’s work backward from seven years from now. Approximately, you are about thirty years of age at that time.
// YOUR BEST/NEXT STEP is a two-year experience on staff at a church that is advancing.
No matter the denomination, theological viewpoint, or area of the country, you need to be serving in and around the type of ministry that interests you. You need to be barely in over your head, but within arms-reach of a gifted leader who is willing to coach you and/or has a track record of developing leaders. And by that, I mean, vocational ministry leadership. I’m all for YWAM and other gap-year programs; I’ve helped fund many, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I am talking about the developmental/coaching plan for who you could be two years from now…
// AT THE END OF THOSE TWO YEARS you will be hirable and potentially will be employed by that same church. It’s vital to choose wisely where you’d want to do this two-year experience. More than likely, this church won’t let you walk if they can avoid it. You are one of them; they’ve already deeply invested in you.
// SPEND 3-5 YEARS in full-time ministry. So, whether you stay at the church where you did your residency, or you choose to move on with a great reference from people who wish you weren’t leaving them, it is your decision. At this point you are approximately 6 years in. You have become the rare white tiger that is so difficult to find.
There are not many, and The Kingdom needs you to do this.
I really hope you could give God a couple of decades of servant leadership in the local church. That seems like stewarding back the gift of the amazing education, mentoring, prayer, coaching, and counseling that you’ve received from the Kingdom. We’re all in this. We’re all rooting for you.
You may begin this as an undergraduate, online college student, post-seminary graduate, or one with no education at all. I’m less and less confident that it matters. What does matter is that you submit to someone who can develop leaders, and who wants to see you become this for the Kingdom. And give it two years.
My experience has been that anyone who wants to do this with his or her life is going to have opportunities if he/she walks this road. There are thousands of churches looking right now for a version of you that is six years away. They are big, small, urban, rural, plants, mega-churches, progressive, stuck, reformed, charismatic, uptight—all of them that are advancing are looking.
From what we read, there are about 20,000 churches that are advancing amongst the other quarter million that are in decline. I sure hope you choose to give a couple decades to one that is advancing. That’s where we need the best leaders we can find in the Kingdom.
I’ve also seen many allow student debt, life experiences, hardheadedness, parental pressure, zip code, and poor advice from those that don’t fully understand this scenario drive potential church leaders toward a different path. These are the ones who leak out of the pipeline on their way to becoming a church leader with 6 to 7 years of experience. They went to the wrong place and quit, or they got fired, hate the church, and think it’s useless. I have friends like this, and I’ll bet you already do, as well. Just last week a pastor told me he was the only one left from his class of 60+ in 2005. No wonder seasoned leaders are as rare as an endangered species.
So, man, that’s my most passionate pitch. We could close with a power song from the 80’s or a clip from my favorite movie to inspire you onward, but I’ll do all I can to help you achieve what you believe God has for you. I just see God at work in what I describe above.
Might your phone ring in the next 37 seconds with the perfect God-ordained opportunity? Yes. And might he choose to do all sorts of things to guide your path in a miraculous way? Yes. From where I sit that is exactly what He’s doing, because the journey of my last 25 years around this stuff is a miracle, and I’d love to help in any way I can..
If this resonates with you, hit our website and complete the application, and let’s see where it takes us. Most will pay you a stipend and help you find housing in a host home (we coach them, too).