Friday, December 10, 2010

What's Your Calling?

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.


  1. My passion is sharing what God is teaching me with others so that they experience transformation to be more like Christ and their relationship to God grows deeper and stronger. I think it starts with how we think. Ro 12 tells us that when our minds are renewed we will be able to test and approve the will of God.

    I especially like speaking to women, but I am equally willing to speak to kids, youth, men.

    Anyway, thanks friend for helping me process that stuff. I get tangled up in other things and forget to take the things God has gifted me in and fired me up about to use for Him!

  2. Okay, I'll jump - but just because I was invited. While I did do the children's ministry for many years - and did enjoy it, as I gained my own grandchildren I really wasn't finding joy in it anymore. So, for a couple of years I sat in the pews and did nothing. Not that my heart didn't want to - everytime I heard about a need I thought, "I can do that." "I should sign up." But my intentions were much higher than my actions. My wise daughter was leading our Women's Ministry at that time and I was her sounding board, prayer back up, etc., yet I still kept mentally leaping at all these opportunities. Finally one day as we were in conversation - I shared this aspect of my personality with her - did I already say she is wise. Well, in our conversation I questioned how a person really 'knows' what their calling is...and her answer, "sometimes you just have to jump in and do something."

    That fall I started attending Bible study because I identified a need for Christian fellowship in my life and within weeks - I was the leader. I'm still not really sure how that happened but I lept in where there was a gap and 5 years later I'm still doing it. Actually - not just doing it - I think it is an area of gifting. I show up, invite God to attend - and then I just facilitate the rest - and it works. God gives me words to encourage, to challenge, to pray. And somehow, through God, I have the opportunity to bless others - all because I was challenged to jump in. (thanks daughter)

    By the way - will I always be here? I doubt it. I think God places us in roles for a season and I hope to be faithful in this season but to also have the discernment when He moves me somewhere else. It's really all about Him.

  3. Okay, I'll bite. What is my closest friends probably have a better idea than I do. Right Tyler!

    I'm a problem solver by nature, a little black and white. When I see something that doesn't work I investigate and because I am also a rule girl I then go back to the beginning, instructions, rules whatever. It's vague, I know. Here is my example:

    I have been a part of women's ministries in part or in whole for over 13 years. I started as a nonbeliever, and have since just stepped away from being a part of the leadership team and small group facilitator. I believe that my experience of women's needs at the beginning stage all the way to mature Christian gives me quite a bit of knowledge and wisdom regarding meeting other women's needs. When I see women whose needs are not being met, I get fired up! Why aren't they being met? What were they searching for that they couldn't find? How can I help? I go back to what worked and what didn't, changes that worked a little bit but done incorrectly. I had a friend point out that "I was sure fired up" about this issue...otherwise I might have skipped this question.

    Good at? I don't think I'm good at anything. I am more like a Jen of all trades but master of none. I can do a little of this and a little of that. But people tell me that I am a good leader, teacher, and friend. I am adaptable.

    Spiritual gifts...all women have wisdom, I think mine might be a little less common and for a different purpose I haven't quite figured out yet. If I go by the test Tyler put on her blog a while back I top the charts at teaching, hospitality, prophecy, discernment and faith. What for? Still working on it.

    I think I covered my experiences in question one. But a new thing I tried was volunteering for Operation Christmas Child. I did not go willingly, I was pulled in by my feet by heavenly hosts. It is a struggle daily, but I am trusting in God's plan for having me there. All is not as it appears.

    So building authentic relationship with women, community, discipleship...oh I'm sure more will come to me.

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  5. I feel like Jen.... what am I good at? I do it all.

    I like organization, I have the gift of encouragement, helping and giving. I think part of my job in life is to make as much money as possible so I can give generously to the church, those in need, and missionaries. People seek me out for advice, help, and mentoring in many different areas. I am productive and operate well within clear guidelines. I need a list to check off daily or nothing gets done. People always tell me I am like deep water, very calm. people tell me I am kind and have a pleasant disposition. However, I dont feel like I am good at anything. I mostly feel tired, and easily overwhelmed and ineffective.

    do a part two where you tell us what you think these traits are pointing to? I think you have truly found your calling and your area and it has been exciting to watch you blossom in it! Its been good to think about these things.

  6. I like your wise words that "It's okay to try something and, when you realize it's not where you should be, to let it go."

    I'm big on experimenting--sometimes things seem so huge we never try OR we feel trapped.

    One time I was asked to serve on a women's leadership team. "How long is the commitment?" I asked.

    "Two years."

    "Two years?!" I exclaimed. "I don't even know what I'm having for dinner tomorrow night--I'm sorry, but I can't make a two-year commitment. I can, however, make a three-month commitment...can I just come on temporarily and see how it goes?"

    They didn't even flinch. "Sure, I don't see why not!"

    So I did it for three months, extended it to six and then nine months--eventually to a year, then I let them know that I couldn't continue. And they thanked me for being on the team and found someone else.

    This was such a great experience that taught me to be sure to ask--you never know how flexible people can be until you ask!

    And then I could experiment and try it out. I discovered in that year that it wasn't my calling or passion, though I was happy to help out during the time that I served on the team.

  7. If you are interested in the notion of "calling" you should visit the website where you can view videos of both religious and secular people discussing their ideas about calling.


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