If you are sensing a call to ministry, the best advice I can give you is to go minister.”Emily Katherine Johnson
This moment happened again. A moment that I hate how familiar it’s become. I was standing outside a room I had just spoken in, taking off my mic when a girl walked up. She shared some things we had in common from what I had talked on and then I could tell she was ready to really ask me what she was scared to ask. “I feel called to ministry,” she explained, “But I’m not sure where or how and my parents are telling me I’ll never have a job. What do I major in? Did you go to seminary? Was it hard finding a job? Should I just be a teacher?” The questions flooded, and rightfully so.
I remember feeling called to ministry but having absolutely no clue what it would look like. I remembered watching my friends go have lunch with people who were in their field of interest- doctors, lawyers, educators, and veterinarians. They seemed to have a clear path of pertinent college degrees, postgraduate education, and many jobs available to them in every city, all of which were a worthy investment of the educational cost they were about to take on. I, thankfully, attended a large church with a couple women on staff and I clung to them. I asked them to go to lunch and asked question after question- what does this mean for my marriage? What do I major in? What do I wear?
There just wasn’t a script for me, but there were people who told me they saw God’s call on my life. There were people who told me areas I was gifted in and areas where I needed to grow. There were ministers who encouraged me with practical advice, there were people who told me to make sure I was educated in something else to have a fallback job…but then there was one conversation.
I was talking with a mentor about my current job and where I saw myself. I shared with her my fears about the dreams, security, singleness, and seminary relating to ministry.
I was praying big prayers, while also wondering how bills would be paid. She looked at me and said, “Emily Katherine, I said yes to Jesus and I have never been without a job and I have never interviewed for one.” Never even interviewed. The realist in me pushed this away at first, thinking she is different or unique and that should in no way make me feel more secure. But, seven years later, I looked at this girl who came to me with all her questions and said the exact same thing. I said yes to Jesus, and I have never gone without a job, nor have I even interviewed.
I realize this isn’t everyone’s story, but hear me- there are jobs for you as a woman in ministry.
So here are the next steps I recommend.
- Tell your people.
Process the thoughts you are having and the calling you are feeling with the people who know you. Listen to their responses. I have had many hard days in ministry when I have wanted to give up and remembered kind words of Sunday School teachers and coaches saying, “Of course you are going into ministry.” Or “I knew all along but watching you find out has been so fun!” Telling your people invites them in to witness what you are hearing from God and invites them to pray for you as you listen to God’s call.
- Think about what you are gifted and interested in.
Ministry is so multifaceted. For some, ministry looks like being on staff at a church or with a college ministry. For others, it looks like tutoring students in math in an after-school program, teaching horseback riding at a camp, or working as a nurse in an emergency room. In 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6, we are reminded that God uses our gifts to serve in different ministries, 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6, 4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God works all of them in each person. As you are discerning a call to ministry, don’t push your interests and passions to the side, look at them and ask, how can I bring about the Kingdom through ______?
- Talk to a woman in ministry.
Having women who have gone before me in ministry has been invaluable to me. Reach out to someone and ask to go to lunch. Ask her your questions and don’t be shy. I promise she will LOVE the opportunity to hear what you are thinking and share her experience.
- Consider higher education.
If you are pursuing a career in vocational ministry (meaning working for a Christian organization is your job, not just where you volunteer) consider pursuing higher education like seminary.
The beautiful thing about working in ministry is there are weekly, if not daily “on the job” training opportunities. When I first felt called to ministry, I reached out to our children’s minister and asked to help with a 6th grade event. Next, I asked our youth staff if extra counselors were needed for junior high camp. These led to great opportunities to intern in my church and learn experientially what aspects of ministry I loved as well as learning where God not was calling me.
Each of these are great next steps to take upon feeling God’s call to ministry, but the most important advice I can give is to simply be faithful. Over and over again in Scripture God calls shepherds. He sends people and angels to go look for them exactly where shepherds should be – in the field with their sheep. Unfortunately, within the past 5-10 years, some of the biggest examples in ministry we have seen elevated are Christians and ministers who have become “famous”. Saying yes to Jesus is very different than running hard after a blue check mark next to your name on social media. If you are sensing a call to ministry, the best advice I can give you is to go minister. Be amongst God’s people. Love them, serve them, point them to Jesus, pray for them, and learn from them. Take the trash out, make the Walmart run, make crafts with the preschoolers, help make copies, and all the while, be faithful.
Emily Katherine Johnson lives in Rome, GA serving as the Coordinator of Discipleship Programming with the WinShape College Program and just married her best friend, Emery! EmK fell in love with girls ministry in her own student ministry in Spartanburg, SC and still enjoys mentoring middle and high school girls. Emily Katherine has a Masters of Divinity in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and she recently released a book on authenticity and grief entitled, Let’s Be Real!