Vocation 101

Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let us just go ahead and be what we were made to be. (Romans 12:5 Msg)

“On the count of 3…” SPLASH!  As I watched the kids around the pool scatter in anticipation of my revenge I couldn’t help but think, “I love my job.”

Later that evening, the youth and I gathered in a circle reflecting back on the past seven days and how we saw God work through and around us.  I was impacted to see Rob share his faith with that one homeless guy… I couldn’t believe that Natalie and Kirk were passing out flyers in the 116 degree heat… I was moved to see God work through each one of them.  Then as the tears were flowing and more celebration moments were being shared Tom said, “I can’t believe they pay Derek to do this.”  I knew exactly what Tom was saying.

Later that evening I had the opportunity to follow up with Tom.  I had watched Tom for the past two years grow and mature in his faith and had seen his young leadership skills grow.  He was one of 18 youth whom I believed might have the gifts and abilities to be a church worker.  As Tom and I talked, it was clear that he wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.  It was at this point that our dialogue began, “So Tom, have you ever thought about church work?”

Today, I use a four-step approach to raise an interest in youth for possible church work careers.  The first and most important thing is to love what God has called you to do.  If you don’t enjoy your job and find fulfillment and joy in it, why would you want to encourage others to do it?  When we use the gifts God has given us, we find joy in serving.  My youth hear me say that I have one of the most rewarding careers, not because those words are great recruitment tools, but because I truly believe them.

The next step is not to position yourself as a martyr. The ministry does require sacrifice, including, at times, long hours and a lack of appreciation. That should be overshadowed by the opportunity to impact the lives of people for an eternal difference.  We have been given an incredible trust in caring for people and walking with them at some of the most critical times in their lives.  Do your students see the joy and rewards of your service or do they see and hear the voice of a sacrificial victim?

Each year the adult leaders in my congregation and I go through our data list and reflect on the youth whom we believe may have the gifts to be church workers.  I do two things with that list, which lead to steps 3 and 4.  I start by sending each of them an affirmation card noting some of the gifts I see in them that ends with this question: Have you ever thought God might be calling you into a church career?  I am amazed at the incredible honor that many of them feel at that moment.  This card has engaged several students and me into a journey of questions, uncertainty and struggle to find God’s call for their lives.

I learned a costly lesson during my 3rd year as a DCE implementing this step.  During that year, I felt a great sense of pride that one of my students wanted to follow in my path.  I used this pride to make a constant example out of him.  Later, as he questioned whether this was a right career for him, he didn’t feel like he could back out because he might disappoint me.  The key is to raise the question and support the student’s struggle, without adding pressure to perform.

The last thing I do is surround the person with support.  I inform the parent(s), small group leader, closely related staff and our local Concordia church work recruiter who gets a list of students from me every fall.

God has so richly blessed me through my work and I can’t imagine doing anything different as a career.  He gave me the incredible opportunity to influence the lives of young people by helping them experience the love of the true Martyr.  It is not about preserving my legacy, but modeling the joy I receive in serving.  I find great joy in my current dialogue with Tom, exploring God’s call in His life and the possibility of the blessing he may have serving God as a church worker.

I pray you find this joy as well.

About the author

Derek is an Associate Pastor with an emphasis on Senior High Ministry at Woodbury Lutheran Church in Woodbury, MN. He enjoys the variation of Youth Ministry and creating caring community inside and outside of the church walls. He loves spending time with his wife and three kids, playing most sports and sitting on his deck with a good book. One of Derek's great joys is having coffee with people talking about life and our walk with Jesus.
View more from Derek

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