Sometimes, teens who are gifted in particular areas never consider pursuing vocational ministry, while other times, those with such a desire are discouraged from doing so. Often, even those who are encouraged on their way to serving God in this unique way have flawed expectations that cause frustration or even abandonment of this good work (1 Timothy 3:1). Regardless of whether you’re in vocational ministry yourself, if you’re a follower of Christ, you possess the resources needed to biblically counsel a teen regarding this topic.
It Is Good
As Paul points out to Timothy, desiring vocational ministry — and pastoral ministry, in particular — is a good thing. That certainly doesn’t mean all other career paths are evil, but it’s a shame for a believer who has a desire to focus his or her life toward church or parachurch ministry to be unnecessarily diverted from fulfilling that desire. Various reasons some might try to dissuade a young person from pursuing such a path may have to do with concern for his or her financial security or spiritual immaturity. The qualifications of a pastor or elder include the concepts of not being a “novice” or “greedy,” so those issues certainly need to be addressed; at the same time, dealing with those weaknesses can be part of sanctification.
Another reason some young people are seen as unfit for some ministries has to do with moral failures. While many argue that the phrase “husband of one wife” precludes a divorcee from being an elder, there are still other ministry outlets available to those with all kinds of backgrounds. In fact, in some ways, they are more equipped to minister in various situations.
It Is Imperfect
Sometimes young people pursue vocational ministry with a star-studded view of what it will look like. They expect to be lauded by other believers and appreciated by those they serve. As one pastor points out, they can also have seemingly reasonable expectations about salary that can go unmet in our difficult economy and spiritually receding world. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels or Pauline Epistles clearly reveals that even the likes of Paul or Christ Himself were not appreciated or paid well. Expectations go both ways, of course. Many people make unrealistically high or particular assumptions about those in vocational ministry, and those can be difficult for mere mortals to encounter.
It Is Less Important
Many who have attended Bible colleges or seminaries know fellow classmates who have not only pursued non-ministry careers after completing their training but who now fail to serve the Lord in any capacity. Perhaps these individuals have been disillusioned by ministry or have lacked the support and mentorship needed to be able to endure difficulties. Some may simply be unable to find a suitable position.
The point is not where you get your pay check, but where your heart and priorities lie. For those with ministry training, it seems that God expects more, not less, service (Luke 12:48). Faithfulness and devotion are heart issues, and they’re far more important to Him than a 40-hour-a-week commitment will ever be.