Preparing for Ministry when You Don’t Know Your Calling

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BJU ministry student studying in the library

How do you prepare yourself for ministry, especially if you are not certain what that may look like in the future? Over the years, I have been a pastor in a cross-cultural environment, a missions agency administrator, and a university professor. In each situation, I have considered myself to be in the ministry. But I did not pursue these ministries. They came in the pathway of serving.

I say that, not because there is anything wrong with pursuing a specific ministry, but because no one really knows what the future holds. It may be that you have a general passion for ministry. You believe that God’s will for you definitely involves some kind of ministry engagement, but you are not sure how or where that will come together. So what can you be doing now to get ready?

Here are some general ways to prepare for ministry that will help you remain focused as you wait for God’s specific leading for the future.

Guard your heart.

First, guard your heart. The single biggest enemy you face every day is yourself. Learn to live out the Gospel by faith. Learn what it is to walk in the Spirit and to be filled with grace. Make your own spiritual development your single highest priority. You may not have as much talent or charisma or education or refinement as others around you, but only you can affect the depth of your walk with God. He has promised that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

All ministry is merely an extension of your personal relationship with God, so make that the most important focus of your life. There’s no secret to spiritual maturity—die to self, study the Scriptures, pray without ceasing, memorize and meditate on Bible passages, and share your faith. Do these things, and you will grow spiritually. Cast yourself every day on the Lord with joy because He deigns to love and use you. Learn to exercise faith that His grace is sufficient in every circumstance. Make His presence your constant delight!

Be consistent.

Second, be consistent with the first point. Most of us are like yo-yo toys. We’re up and down. We get excited about God and about ministry, and then we grow cold. Spiritual vitality simply takes work. Seek the Lord especially on those days when you don’t feel like it.

Be a learner.

Third, be a learner. Ask lots of questions from others who are doing ministry. Ask them why and how questions. Learn from biographies, podcasts, and every other avenue that you can find to gain perspective from others who are around you or who have come before you.

Embrace every opportunity.

Fourth, embrace every opportunity to minister. Don’t think of ministry as only those activities that are public and appreciated. Most ministry occurs when we are just being Christ-like in our day-to-day routine.

I made it a practice in my formative years to say yes to every ministry opportunity, whether it was helping a senior citizen with work around his house, teaching Sunday school for three year olds, or preaching in a church service. I said yes when I was 15 to ride along with an ancient man from my church as he drove a few miles away to read a Sunday school lesson in a tiny church that had not had regular services for years. A group of dear old saints gathered every Sunday, and Brother Mike C. would read a lesson for them. After that they would go home. When I asked them why they didn’t have singing and preaching, they said, “We have no one to lead us; will you lead us?” Remember, I was 15 and couldn’t even drive, but I said yes. That led to two years of preaching and leading services at the little Jonesville Gospel Tabernacle. I still can’t sing. And I hate to imagine what some of those sermons were like, but saying yes opened doors to great ministry experiences.

Learn to say yes first and then figure out how in the world you will do the requested ministry later, at least at this stage of your development. This will give you a variety of ministry experiences—many of which may be failures—but you will learn about yourself, about God and about people. You will learn how to minister and how God can use you.


This article was originally published on the CGO blog.


Dr. Mark Vowels is a faculty member in BJU’s School of Religion and the director for the Center for Global Opportunities at BJU.