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TRANSCRIPT: What if I feel called away from my current ministry?

human dignity

Hello, this is Russell Moore, and this is Questions and Ethics, the program where we take your situations and your dilemmas and try to apply the gospel to them. And today I have a question that came to me from a young man, let’s call him Justin, who is a youth minister, middle school minister in a large church. He says it’s a really well-led church. He is learning much from the other pastors in that congregation. He is doing youth ministry. But he says that he is increasingly burdened by political and mercy and cultural engagement sorts of issues in ministries, and he just doesn’t know whether or not he ought to leave and to try to pursue those directions and those things in terms of his ministry. And so he wrote to me and said you know you were a youth minister at one time, and he says he would really like to be doing the sorts of things that I’m doing now and so what would my counsel be to him.

Here’s my word to you, Justin. Obviously, if you are in a situation where you would say I have not been called to do this sort of ministry at all, or my gifts are not able to be used adequately in this sort of a situation, then leave it. Don’t do it. Just leave. But it doesn’t sound to me like that is what is going on. It sounds to me like you are saying I’m actually enjoying and engaged and the Lord is working in youth ministry, but I see myself long-term doing something else. Here’s what I would say: there are some people that God has called and equipped to be youth ministers all of their lives. They retire as student ministers somewhere. But that’s a rare group of people. The more typical situation is someone who serves in youth ministry or student ministry early on and then later serves in any number of ministries—maybe it’s senior pastor, maybe it’s worship pastor, maybe it’s campus minister, maybe it’s who knows what.

So, what I would say to you, the biggest arena of cultural engagement that you are going to have is in terms of youth ministry. People will say to me sometimes what do you think prepared you the most to do what you are doing right now? and my answer to that is always it was being a youth minister. And I’m not joking. It really is, because when you are dealing with students you are dealing with the most significant time in people’s lives in terms of setting the trajectory for their futures. And you are dealing with a constant barrage of cultural issues that you are having to address in the lives of these teenagers from who do I date? then later who do I marry? to issues of substance abuse and issues of pornography and combating that and issues of often broken family structures and how do I deal with the fact that my parents are divorced and they hate each other and I have to go back and forth to each of their homes? and so forth. I mean there are so many different issues that are right at the front lines in terms of youth ministry.

So I would say be faithful in that ministry where you are and say to God, God I am going to follow your direction providentially in terms of where you would have me later on. And if you are faithful and open to following the will of the Lord, one of the things that I’ve found is that you can look back on your life and you can see how all of the pieces of your ministry fit together in ways that you would never have seen or planned beforehand. I mean I can testify to that in my own life. There are all sorts of things in my ministry where at the time I thought I was in a kind of detour off of the trajectory of my ministry. Later on I would say, ah, I was working in politics for so long before I sensed again this call to ministry and I went to seminary and that was kind of a detour from what I was doing. Now, I see how those two things flow together, and I can see how God was training me in all sorts of ways as a youth minister and in all of the different things that God has had me doing. And those are just the things I can see. There are all sorts of other things in my life I can’t see and I don’t know, but I know that God is preparing us for the ministries he has for us. So, I would say pour yourself into those teenagers right now and recognize that God is going to use that in terms of whatever it is that he has for you later on. Your interests, the things that you are interested in are often going to give you a sense of the direction that God is going to take you, but in the mean time you can apply those interests into the ministry where God has put you right now.

So, that’s my two cents. This isn’t a sin issue or a righteousness issue. It’s just a help me to follow wisdom issue, and I would say that youth ministry is a critically important cultural engagement ministry.

This is Russell Moore. This is Questions and Ethics. What’s your question that you have? Let me know. Go to our website at or send me an email at [email protected]. Until next time this is Questions and Ethics and this is Russell Moore.

human dignity

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