5 Ways to Create a Positive Environment for Students Called to Ministry – Greg Addison
In today’s culture, there is a lot of conversation about the struggles of ministry. We point out the crisis of pastors leaving the ministry, the rate of terminations, and the decline of churches. There are aspects of these trends to which we must pay attention. However, in lamenting these trends, we are unintentionally casting a negative light on ministry for the next generation.
While the calling on a student’s life is obviously a work of the Lord, it cannot be dismissed that some churches see lots of gifted young people surrender to ministry but others do not. So what are we to do?
Scripture casts ministry in a very positive light, and the pastor is THE key leader to cast a different vision of ministry. Pastors play a leading role in creating a fertile church culture for students to be called to ministry. It is the pastor who tills the soil and prepares the ground so the hearts of young people are receptive.
Here are five ways a pastor can create a positive environment in the church to help students explore a call to ministry in a more receptive light.
Cast a positive vision of ministry.
This may be the single most important factor. The pastor is unquestionably the most visible picture of ministry to any student. If the pastor loves the Lord and is authentically filled with joy and a belief in the church, students will see ministry in a positive light.
Tell your church how much you love them and love serving them. Share consistently how much you love being a pastor. Allow the joy and honor of being called to serve the body of Christ to flow out of your life.
Share your “calling testimony” on a consistent basis.
We know testimonies are powerful. They are authentic and show the journey of a real person in real life. In this way, they connect to students and answer real questions.
Opening your life in this way allows a student to see and feel what it looks and sounds like when God speaks to the heart of a pastor and calls them to serve. Include stories about answers to prayer and your mentors and students will be more likely to model these actions when exploring their call.
Include a call to ministry appeal in the invitation on a consistent basis.
The invitation is in place to remind everyone that the truth of God’s Word calls us all—not just the lost—to respond to Jesus. When we leave we are different from who we were when we came into the service.
By including this call, you are specifically challenging students to respond to the Lord’s stirring in their hearts. It includes them by reminding them that they are responsible to obey in this matter just like when they were called to faith in Jesus. It also casts a strong vision that God is still calling people to ministry and will do so until Jesus returns.
Be responsive when a student discusses exploring a call to ministry.
It is important for a pastor to immediately invest in a student during this time. Affirm their desire to be obedient to the Lord. Affirm their spiritual life so they can recognize when God speaks to them and stirs their heart. Give a positive word about ministry.
Often, a student’s parents might cast a fearful or negative word about this journey. Someone needs to be affirming. Give them the freedom to explore a call without committing unless God’s call is patently clear. Sometimes it can simply be a passion to grow, but the exploration itself should be positively confirmed.
Encourage students to serve and give them platforms of service.
One of the best affirmations of God’s call is bearing fruit in ministry. Students can see and feel God’s hand on their lives when they bear fruit in service. A student can hear God’s affirmation clearly when they are seeing Him use them. Be intentional and focused about ways to do this in your church.
Again, it is undoubtedly the work of God to call young men and women to vocational service. However, it is a vital part of a pastor’s ministry to create an environment in which students would be open to and positive about God’s call. A positive view of ministry and the church will open the eyes of many in the next generation to genuinely and obediently explore a call to ministry.
Written by Greg Addison, Associate Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention