One of my favorite things to do each summer is visit Super Summer Arkansas on the night of Explore Your Call! It happens on Thursday night of high school camp. Each year the room is filled with students sensing a call to ministry.
One thought kept coming to my mind at this year’s Super Summer Explore Your Call. “God still saves.” “God still calls.” “God still moves.” The week of Super Summer recorded 189 students placing their faith in Christ and 222 students surrendering to ministry. All I can say is, “Praise God!”
That night as my eyes scanned the room, I noticed two things. The room was packed! I mean, there were so many students. My heart was stirred as I thought about the potential housed in that room for the glory of God. I love how one step of obedience leads to the next step of obedience. I thought about the ministry paths each person would take and how God would use a simple step of faith, like walking into that room, in powerful and life-changing ways. I also noticed that almost half of the students in the room were young women.
Shari Edwards and I met with a group of girls sensing a call to women’s ministry. We started by sharing our call-to-ministry stories. I was one of those people who ran from my calling. I was 16 when the Lord first laid it on my heart to surrender to ministry. I didn’t tell a soul! At 18, the Lord laid it on my heart again during a Sunday night service. I felt so uncomfortable during the service that I got out of my church as quickly as possible. A week later, I could not get the sense of calling out of my head (or off my heart). So, I decided to share my situation with my pastor, hoping that if I shared it, I could check it off my list and move on with my life. My pastor’s response was not what I expected. “I know, Andrea, the Lord laid that message on my heart for you!”
Each time I share that story, I am reminded of the grace of God. I can testify to his patience and love. Unfortunately, I continued running from God and did not surrender to vocational ministry until many years later. I finally surrendered to the call on my life, and that landed me at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention every Monday for three years, where I attended seminary classes through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). To my surprise, I earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education and landed in vocational service in local churches, women’s ministry speaking and writing, and denominational work. Twenty years of serving as a woman in ministry have flown by!
Every step of the way, Arkansas Baptist churches, pastors, lay leaders, and church members provided encouragement and opportunities for me. They loved me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and provided meaningful ways to be involved. So, when I stand before a group of young women, I am excited and honored to share my story with them. I want them to know there is a place for them in ministry. I also want them to have a meaningful experience in their leadership journey as they interact with churches, leaders, and ministry opportunities. In short, I want them to know that their service to the Lord matters and makes a Kingdom impact for the glory of God!
As a woman serving in ministry, I want to share from my experience some practical ways that churches, leaders, and members can encourage the next generation- especially young women sensing a call to ministry.
- Call out the called. Like my pastor, be praying and watching for God’s move in the lives of others. Share the gifting you see in others and how that gifting can be used for Kingdom impact. Knowing that God gifts men and women for various roles in the church, include both men and women in the process. Often, we fall into the trap of saying “brothers” in conversations like these. Make a point to include the sisters too. Everyone needs encouragement, and churches are healthy when they value and provide meaningful ways for everyone to work together for Kingdom impact.
- Provide tangible ways to serve. The local church is the perfect place to work through a sense of calling. Giving opportunities for meaningful ministry experience across the life of the church is healthy and helpful. When I meet with a young woman sensing a call to ministry, I encourage her to get involved at the local church level. I also make it a point to share how she can serve the Lord. Just a few examples from my ministry life include serving on local church staff in education/administration and women’s ministry, speaking at women’s conferences, writing books and columns, hosting a podcast, hosting a radio show, serving in denominational work at the local, state, national, and international levels. Added to these is a long list of ways I have been honored to serve in lay leadership in the local church.
- Be a mentor. The next generation wants real people to walk alongside them and invest in their lives. This is especially true and needed because of the influencer culture that portrays everything in life as perfect or fast or easy. Real relationships in the context of real ministry opportunities produce meaningful ministry experiences that help clarify the calling process.
- Encourage trust in God. Ministry is hard. No one should go into the process thinking they can control or manage their way through it. There will be bumps. There will be disappointments. Trust in God is key to longevity. God is willing and able to move. We should trust God and His plan no matter what our ministry landscape looks like. The earlier this lesson is learned, the better!
- Focus on the prize. Living for the glory of God and the furtherance of his Kingdom models a healthy ministry mindset. We must remember we are called to live for Jesus as we lead and serve. I remind myself each day. “Eyes on the prize. Live for the well done!” We are called to serve in ministry for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel. Keeping this truth front and center helps us stay focused so we can invest in others.
Brothers and sisters, God still saves. God still calls. God still moves! Let’s join arms with the next generation and encourage them as we model hearts fully devoted to Jesus Christ.