I dont know what stirs great passion and restlessness in my soul. How does one figure it out? This question, from Bobbie's heart to my inbox, is a question that keeps many a church member firmly planted in their pews when a call for volunteers is put forth.
In ministry, we need to find strategies to help our volunteer force discover their callings. If we don't, the result will be unhappy volunteers, people serving in ministry areas that drain them, others feeling as though they don't fit anywhere, and a general lack of passion throughout the church.
I once listened to a friend espouse the merits of serving in children's ministry. She spoke of the fun, the connecting, the joy of being a part of a child's faith walk. She concluded her passionate monologue with the words, "As far as I'm concerned, children's ministry is the most important ministry of the church! Without it, we are nothing." By the time she finished, my heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty, and I was fired up! I was nanoseconds away from signing myself up to teach Sunday school. That woman - she had found her calling! (Thankfully, I stopped and asked God before I jumped in the boat with her. Because children's ministry - while arguable the most vital of all aspects of the church - is so not my calling.)
Unfortunately, the majority of people in the church do not know where their calling lies as this friend did. As leaders in the church, we have a responsibility to help these wandering souls find their passions. Not only to fill all those gaping volunteer holes, but to get the body fully functioning in the way it was intended to.
So, how do we know what we're called to do?!
#1 - What gets you fired up?
Is there a cause that you cannot help but champion? Is there a people group that makes your heart swell with love? What topics of discussion inevitably draw you into debate?
In my college years, no matter how liberal the thinking surrounding me, I was never able to sit quietly while others discussed abortion. It usually came around to, "What about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain and suffering that those women will endure for the rest of their lives as a result of the decision to abort?" It always brought debate, sometimes heated, but I could not stop myself! The belief that women who underwent an abortion would suffer beyond their comprehension broke my heart. (Still does.)
I volunteered at our local Pregnancy Care Centre for several years - first as a peer counsellor, then on the crisis line, and later as a parenting coach for young and disadvantaged moms. (Can anyone say "women's ministry?")
#2 - What kinds of things are you good at?
Are there certain tasks you really enjoy? A particular type of work? When in a crowd, do you find yourself stepping up as a leader? Offering creative ideas? More willing to go with the flow? Wanting to be hands on? Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
I remember a science project in seventh grade... We were put in pairs and encouraged to come up with anything we wanted. More than half the class created homemade volcanoes. But I wanted to do something different, something unique, revolutionary even. We (okay, mostly I) created a huge maze and trained my hamster to go through it. Along with one other pair, we won scholarships to attend the provincial science fair.
I recall a sixth grade writing project... There had been an earthquake somewhere in the world. We were to write a short story about an earthquake in our town. I went to my mom's workplace after school for weeks, typing out my story on the receptionist's typewriter. The result was a 10-page work of fiction that jumped scenes akin to a soap opera.
I never was satisfied with just doing "enough." I disdained the idea of simply doing what everyone else was doing. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could have possibly found contentment in following someone else's lead. And, there was that minor discovery about how much I completely loved writing...
#3 - What are your spiritual gifts?
Spiritual gifts are more than just personality type, communication style, talents, or abilities. (Although, discovering those things about yourself will also really help in figuring out your calling!) Spiritual gifts are unique to those belonging to God's family. When we accept Christ, He gives us gifts that fit our callings, through His Holy Spirit. Many of those gifts are fitting with the skills and interests we already have, but some of those gifts we will see develop over time, as we grow in our relationship with God.
Even as a young child, I was considered the mother hen of the group. I think that was their nice way of telling me I was bossy! But I simply loved organizing things and people and schedules. I would help my friends sort their binders and choose their course options. My administrative gifts were evident early on.
You know that bossy thing, though? It was a problem (at least for other people). But my motives were well-intentioned. I wanted everyone to be their best, to do their best, to give their all. It made me mad when people didn't. It has only been in the past few years that I learned new ways - better ways - to encourage people. It was through practice and experience that my gift of exhortation was discovered.
#4 - What are your experiences?
God does not waste our pain and struggles. Not ever. If we let Him, He will use every difficult thing we have ever walked through to draw others to Him.
Is there something in your life, something that you have survived, that you just know in your gut must have a purpose?! Chances are, it does.
Those who run women's shelters are often women who were previously abused. If you are walking through a difficult marriage or painful divorce, chances are the only people you really want to talk to about it are others who have been on that same path. Support groups and recovery groups are usually led by those who share that experience. Without the willingness of those people, we would have nowhere to turn when life's trials begin to beat us down.
Perhaps God is calling you to be willing...
#5 - Sometimes you just gotta try!
There is no perfect formula to uncovering the work that God has called you to. Some people just know. Other have no clue! While I believe it is vitally important for us to serve within our gifts (that is to say, serve in ways that use our gifts and fuel our passions), sometimes the only way to figure it out is by trial and error.
Those things you find joy in, you feel challenged but not overwhelmed in, and you look forward to - they are probably bringing you closer to that calling. Those things that drain you, make you feel discouraged and disgruntled, that you dread - they are not likely to be taking you in the right direction. It's okay to try something and, when you realize it's not where you should be, to let it go.
I'm hoping my mom will share her story of "just trying" something out in the comments. (Hint, hint.)
Do you know what your calling is/ where your passions lie? If not, are you ready to find out?
* Pretty much this whole post has its basis in 1 Corinthians 12, so check it out.