So there are a lot of thoughts that are jumbled up in my head, that I am going to try to process here. I think it might be hard to translate them in such a way that makes sense to those not inside my head, but I'll try. Here goes:
I just got in from playing a large game of dodgeball with some of the seminary kids. I had a GREAT time. Interacting with youth is something that comes extremely natural to me. I love doing it and I seem to be pretty good at it.
Now, with my first call coming up (VERY SOON!!), I need to really start thinking about what kind of ministry I feel called to. If you asked me before these past couple of weeks, I would have told you youth ministry, no doubt. I thought my ideal first call would have been as an associate pastor with youth ministry responsibilities. It made sense because it is where I am comfortable.
However, as the senior class at the mothership begins to start the thought process about first call and filling out the forms that go along with that, I've gotten into discussions with many of my classmates about where we feel we are called. There have been several of my classmates and friends who have called me onto the carpet for all of the ways I discount and minimize my gifts. It is much easier for me to acknowledge the gifts of others, and I tend to think that I share none of those gifts with them. Last night, a group of us were at a local mexican restaurant imbibing in margaritas and beer and chips and salsa and queso. Somehow the conversation turned into how I discount my gifts, at which point one of them said, "Whoever think Mark discounts his gifts, raise your hand!" Every person at the table raised their hand. Dag, yo!
In discussion with a good friend of mine lately, she has told me repeatedly (most often through knowing looks or comments such as, "Remember what I told you!") that I need to realize the gifts I bring and the gift that I am. She has told me that she thinks that I want to settle into a youth ministry position because that is where I am comfortable. She thinks I might be a bit uneasy or afraid of the thought of taking on responsibility of a congregation outside of youth ministry. If it was one person, I might be able to discount what was said, but everyone at the table at the time she said it agreed. She has said that if I take a first call that is a youth ministry position that she will be very angry with me. The others at the table agreed with that statement, too.
So, that has got me thinking. I know that I have gifts in youth ministry. It is something I enjoy. But, does that mean that it should encompass my entire calling? I admit that that I feel much more comfortable doing youth ministry than some of the other responsibilities that fall under a pastor's umbrella. But, as I saw on internship, I have gifts outside of youth ministry it's just a matter of claiming them and using them.
When I fill out my paperwork, then, do I say that I want the focus of my ministry to be youth? Or do I just put that as an interest/ability that I have? I'm one of the first people to say that the youth of our churches deserve to be served by gifted and talented and called people. Often times the youth programs at churches get the straight out of college-I have no idea what I'm doing-type of people (I can say that, because I was once one of them). These people have a low retention rate and a high burnout rate. To accept a call as a youth pastor is NOT a bad thing or a waste of my gifts. But am I really called to solely youth ministry, or is it a comfort level thing?
I guess I have a lot of thinking to do...