Enter Ministry or Go to Seminary : What Should a Young 20-Something Do First?
October 1, 2013 12 Comments
My ministry students are primarily 18-22 years old. They are the traditional, undergraduate college years. They left home after graduating high school a few years back and hopefully after attaining their four year degree, they are ready to launch into the real world of ministry prepared and equipped.
Let me repeat, my graduating students are 22 years old, maybe 23 at the oldest. Would your church hire a 23 year old to serve on your church staff?
If you were on a Personnel Team or a church staff search team, would a resume of a 23 year old college graduate jump out at you as being a top-notch choice? They would have a basic theological education. They might have completed a summer or semester internship working in some sort of ministry. They are probably going to be single and dating or possibly engaged, but rarely married.
My question to you is: Would they be a top-tier candidate? If not, why not?
I get calls and emails every week from churches looking for staff members in youth, children, discipleship, worship, and many for lead pastors. But when I explain that my students are usually not older than 23 and mostly single, they decide to look elsewhere. It would be fine for these young adults to serve as an intern or even as a ministry assistant, but not in significant leadership. The opinion is that they are just too young. The searching church wants someone with extensive experience, but only willing to pay the bare minimum.
So what do I advise my graduating college seniors? I encourage them to go to graduate school or seminary. Another year or two is only going to help them enter into church staff positions with more theological education and hopefully more experience in a part-time ministry setting, and possibly even a significant other in tow.
It is sad to think we need to delay them 2 or 3 years before we will consider them “ready for service.” We don’t say that about 18-19 year olds in the US military or a 22 year old teaching high school in the public school system. So why do we think this way in church ministry?
I believe we need to embrace these young adults. I believe we need to give them a shot to enter into ministry at 22 or 23 and see what God might bring to our churches through them. I think we need to listen to them and give them a fair shake.
I was 26 years old when a church finally gave me a full-time chance to serve as their Associate Pastor. I had been part-time youth minister for 4 years and completed two seminary degrees. I was married, but had no children. I sent my ministry resume to over 100 churches from NY to FL and every state in-between. Not one gave me a call or an interview.
But a single church with no posted vacancy, no budgeted salary, and not even a search team in place invited me to come and serve with them. It was one of the best ministry opportunities of my life thus far. I wonder if that same place would have given me a shot 4 years earlier as a college graduate with no experience and no wife. I bet they would have, because it was (and still is) that kind of place. But they are rare.
Would your church be willing to take a shot on a 22 year old in full-time ministry? I hope so. They have a lot to offer the kingdom of God. They might even teach you something new.