Many times in my life, people have imagined that I am the
son of a preacher. I’m not. Dad was a scientist. Mom was a special education teacher. I guess they thought that because I started
expressing a desire to be a minister at the age of 13. I started accepting invitations to speak in
youth groups and churches as a teenager and was always focused on that as my
Parents, maybe more than anyone else in a person’s life,
have the greatest capacity to encourage their children in pursuing a calling to
vocational ministry. They also have the ability
to crush their children’s aspirations or to seriously hamper and derail the
journey to serving in the ministry.
Below are a few of the most important things you can do for a child who
is expressing a sense of calling to ministry.
- Affirm. Even if you think your child could never
make it as a pastor or missionary or whatever kind of calling they are
expressing, do all you can to affirm to your child that you believe God has
spoken. Many of my colleagues have
expressed to me how the doubt of their parents or the discouragement of a
father or mother was an obstacle that almost stopped them. Don’t point to an alternative career. Don’t suggest that maybe they can pursue that
after some other alternative educational or professional training is over. Instead, affirm that you want to do
everything you can to help them prepare themselves for that future.
on education. Going into the
ministry—no matter if it is as a youth pastor or a missionary—will require
specialized education. One of the most
helpful things my own parents did in sending me to Evangel University in
Springfield, Missouri, was to encourage me to pursue a double major while
preparing for the ministry. In my case,
I got degrees in English and in Biblical Studies. This not only gave me additional skills that
would serve me well in my ministry as a pastor and missionary, but it also gave
me a degree outside of working in the church in case I ever needed to support
myself with secular employment. A friend
of mine whose children are planning to become pastors is encouraging them to
pursue education in business along with theology, as he knows there are many
essential skills for ministry to be found in an MBA. Whatever you do, don’t tell your child they
don’t need to pursue schooling to minister to others. Part of proclaiming that God is calling you
is being ready to pay the price for preparation.
them to a mentor. One of the
greatest things that happened in my life as a teenager is that my parents let
me spend a lot of time with ministers and their families. Not only did I make some lifelong friends,
but I was able to witness firsthand so much of what went on in a minister’s
private life and public ministry. This
gave me a great foundation and helped me become clearer and clearer about the
kind of minister I wanted to be. So,
give your child ample time to spend with a minister or a minister’s family that
will help them find the way to their own future. Exceedingly important here, of course, is
that the mentor is someone who will both be a great example and take an active
interest in the person’s calling.
the conversation going. A person
changes a great deal, especially through the journey of adolescence. Your daughter or son who expressed a call to
ministry at camp at 8 may feel totally differently at 19 and that’s OK. However, if you never talk about it or ask
about what they are feeling and thinking and feeling about that calling you
will also lose opportunities to affirm and help them cultivate their lives for
a future in the ministry.
your own heart open. A life in the
ministry will likely mean a life of change or moving. Few people end of up ministering successfully
in the same context in which they grew up.
Some parents do not encourage a sense of calling because they fear that
it means their children will move far away.
Others dread a missionary as a son or daughter because they think it
means they will never see them or their eventual grandchildren again. Mom and Dad—keep your eye on the fact that
you want your child to follow God to the end.
Far be it from you to keep a son or daughter from following the call
that God has for them because of your own dreams. Keep your own heart open.
honest with your child. The realities of life as a pastor or missionary or
whatever area of ministry your child feels a calling to need to be voiced to
your son or daughter regularly. My own
father would remind me often, for example, that most pastors were not
financially well off. Spending time with
the pastors that I did showed me the realities of time and hard work that the
ministry required. If you don’t know
much about what life in the ministry means, go talk to a minister about it
yourself. So many people drop out of the
ministry in the first five years because they were unprepared for the
challenges they faced. Whatever you can
do to help your child understand that a life in the ministry will involve
significant and regular sacrifices along with exciting, fulfilling work will
help to prepare them.
A child of mine was recently expressing a sense of calling
to my wife and me.
We took time to
remind them that it is not always easy, may involve significant sacrifice and
may be work that is not recognized by others.
Still, he said, “God told me, so I need to do it.”
That’s a sense of calling I need to
If you’re reading this because
you’ve got a son or daughter with the same sense of direction from God, you
need to nourish it too!
Know that if God has called your child, he has not called
him to a life of frustration and constant difficulty.
God will give your child an abundant life
serving others through the vocation of ministry.
Labels: calling, discipleship, family, ministry preparation, parenting, River City Leadership College