Ask a YCW: Discernment Edition

Post Author: Askie

Dear Askie,

I’m currently a senior in college, trying to figure out what I’m going to do next. I think I might be called into ministry, but I’m not really sure. How do I know if God is really calling me or not? If I am called, what are the steps I need to take? What advice do you have for me?


A future Young Clergy Woman?

Dear possible future YCW,

First of all, I want to say with total certainty that yes, God is calling you. You are a beloved child of God called to live and to love and to serve in Christ. In your baptism you were called to love God and to love your neighbor as you continually grow in grace and faith. You are called. Have no doubt about that.

Now . . . are you called specifically to pastoral ministry and/or ordination? That’s the more difficult question, and one that takes time to discern. While God calls each of us as Christians to serve in the Church and the world, our particular acts of service can look quite different. We each have different gifts and abilities needed in the Body of Christ.

The first step I’d recommend, of course, is prayer. My guess is you saw that one coming. Develop your own personal prayer life, asking God for wisdom and guidance, and ask some other trusted folks to pray for you as well. Prayer should be a continual part of your discernment process.

Second, get involved in a local church. If you’re away at college, get involved in a church near campus even if you have another church back home. Go to worship, join a Bible study, volunteer to work with kids or visit the elderly or participate in a mission project. A call to ministry is not a private thing just between you and God—it’s also a communal discernment process with the wider church. Pick a congregation and put down some roots. You’ll want and need the support of a community of faith to help you through this discernment and ordination process.

Third, think about your gifts and passions. What makes you “light up?” What are the things you are great at doing? What kind of work and service bring you joy? Being involved in a local church will help you with this as well. Ask people who know you well—people at church as well as your family and friends—to talk to you about the gifts they see in your life. If God is calling you to ordination, it’s likely that others have noticed the Spirit at work. In fact, you may find that other people have just been waiting for you to figure out what they realized a long time ago!

Fourth, talk to your pastor, priest, or someone from your denomination about how the ordination process works. Denominations vary widely, and for some the process may take several years, so it may be appropriate to enter the process right away, even if you’re not sure yet. In most denominations, the first stage of the process is an “inquiry” or “discernment” stage, which is where it sounds like you are. Even if you discern that God’s calling for you is a different kind of work or ministry and you don’t pursue ordination, being in that process can help open up some church and denominational resources to help you discern. Askie has known some folks who didn’t enter the process until they were halfway through seminary, and then got “stuck,” unable to look for a call because their theological studies were completed but they still had a year or two of denominational “hoops” to jump through. Start the process early—it’s almost always easier to slow things down if you need more time than it is to speed them up when you want to be done.

Finally, enjoy the journey. It will likely take you a while to figure out what your life’s work will be. It may not be just one thing. Take the opportunities that present themselves to learn, to grow, to deepen your faith and your knowledge and your relationships. A big part of being a good minister is being a healthy person. Make sure that you take the time to care for your body, mind, and spirit—establish good habits of self-care now that will nourish you throughout your life.

Blessings on your journey, and know that if you do find yourself in ordained ministry, TYCWP will be thrilled to have you.


Image by: kvrkchowdari
Used with permission
1 reply
  1. Kelly says:

    This is something that drives me nuts–we’re so terrible as church at helping all people see their work as part of their call. And young people who feel a desire to commit, dive deep, learn, grow in faith, connect to others, etc., often see ordained ministry as the only possibility! We need to be creating opportunities for those things outside of the ordered ministry streams… I know people who went into ministry out of this broader desire, spent a bunch of money on an MDiv that isn’t that useful outside of congregational ministry, and ended up either not enjoying ministry at all, or not being successful at finding a call because of not being well-suited to ministry. Let’s make space for real discernment, real deepening faith, real commitment, outside of the structure of ordained/ordered ministry!


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