When I was doing youth ministry in the US, I saw numerous students who felt God’s call to vocational ministry or missions. On some occasions this call seemed to be cemented at a camp, a retreat, or some other event that created space for serious introspection. Other times the call just sort of gradually worked itself out over time. In each case, our ministry staff was ecstatic at the thought that the next generation would surrender their vocations to God, committed to carrying on the call to grow the Kingdom. But there was another side to engaging with these students . . .

While we were super-excited, we found that following-up with these students with regards to this specific decision presented some unique challenges.

Thinking back on it, I think there are quite a few variables that made this so. Maybe some of it was the unknown, the fact that we can’t hear the call with or even for students. So, to really be intentional about what and where they are called to requires some real “fleshing it out” with them.

Maybe it’s because depending on how old students are and what God has revealed to them, the actual realization of the call can be pretty far off. Students may have, and need, years to grow into this decision. There’s a certain element of letting the specific nature of the call work itself out over time.

Maybe it’s because it was a shock! Certainly there are those students whom we probably saw the “call” coming before they did. But others . . . Well, honestly, there might be some that we never saw coming. (Which is super cool.)

Maybe it’s because some of us have a hard time explaining how we grew into our own vocational call; it’s tough to know how to guide others through this unknown, very personal, and Spirit-led place.

Since working through a call to vocational ministry and missions myself, I’ve found that asking hard questions and continuing to process in thought and prayer has helped me see God’s activity in my call.

In that vein, here are 6 things to do to help “called” students in your ministry.

1. Ask questions
Help students work through questions such as these:

  • Describe the “call.” What has God said, how long have you felt God leading you here? What have you felt, heard, sensed?
  • What Scripture passages have spoken to you and affirmed this direction?
  • Who in your life has affirmed God’s call to vocational ministry/missions, and what have he or she said?
  • What’s motivating you to submit to this call?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice for this “call?” How do you feel about potentially giving up where you live, how close you are to your family, financial and physical comfort, the “American Dream,” independence, etc.? Have you thought about these the idea of sacrifice?
  • What questions do you have? What are you asking of God? What are your bold prayers?

2. Encourage accountability
Have a family meeting. If a student is going to be thinking and planning for a future in ministry or missions, it’s going to be a journey for the entire family.

3. Focus your follow-up
Consider meeting with the student once a month or once a quarter. Give specialized attention and accountability to growth in Christ and in the continued fleshing out of their vocational call.

4. Challenge their growth
Empower students to grow. Challenge them to embrace spiritual disciplines. Hold them accountable. Consider going through a book or study with them (I love Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline.) Do what you can to journey with them toward knowing and loving Christ more.

5. Give them a chance to practice
Let students use their gifts in your ministry. The more they experience God’s work in the details of ministry, the more they’ll know where God has gifted them and where He could be leading them to serve in the future.

6. Show them the time to act is now, not later
Being called to vocational ministry/missions is a unique and special conversation with the Lord. But of course we know all Christ-followers are called to grow God’s Kingdom each and every day of their life, right here, right now. Point out to students their current ministry opportunities (school, work, family, sports, your youth ministry, etc.) and encourage them to work out their calling now!

These are just a few things I’ve learned in the past.

What have you done in your ministry to help students flesh out a call to serving God with their vocations?