Responding to God’s Call | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
October 2017

Responding to God’s Call

By Jeremy Steele

When we discern a call from God, we must respond. This lesson from the Explore Calling church-wide resource guides students through a response to the call of God on their lives.

And Then…

You are going to create a story as a group. First, you need to select the most random person in the group. This is the person who says random things when it comes to discussions that may or may not always relate to the question. Their job is to come up with a very weird beginning to the story. After they say two or three sentences, the person to their right will pick up where they left of by saying, “and then…” Go around until the first person gets to finish the story.

Doing Nothing is Not an Option

We are ending back where we started because where we started will help us know what needs to happen next.

Read 1 Peter 2:9 again

Simply put, you have been called. You have been called into ministry, and whether or not someone ends up referring to you as “Reverend” some day, God has called you to minister wherever you are. In fact, those who are called to become “Reverends” are really called to a type of the ministry God asks every Christian to be involved in (more on that in a second).

Before we talk about “what you want to be when you grow up,” we need to explore one more Scripture.

Read Matthew 4:18-22

There is something very surprising about this passage. Jesus walks up to grown men working at their job and says, “Follow me,” and they straight leave everything right then. They don’t sell of their boats, they don’t take a couple weeks to pack up their stuff. They drop everything and follow Jesus.

That is huge because students often think of their “call” to be something that will happen in the future after they finish schooling or do an apprenticeship or something. But, this scripture is very clear. When God calls you, the call is for now not later.

So, it’s time for you to drop out of school and move to Africa, right? Not really. Right now part of your calling is likely related to school. Before we talk about what it is, let’s ask the opposite, what is it not? What in your life are things you cannot drop now?

That is helpful. Now let’s talk about right now. What is your “and then…” at this point in your life? What is the next step for you to minister right where you are? How can you minister at school?

How can you minister at home?

How can you minister at church?

The reality is that God may be calling you into ministry as a career or as part of your career. A lot of people assume that means becoming the senior pastor of a church, but there are many forms of ministry in addition to being a senior pastor that god may be calling you to. Let’s look at some of those.

There is a lot more information at

An Ordained Elder

What the job usually looks like: Most Ordained elders are the senior pastor of a church or an associate pastor. They preach, teach, offer serve communion, celebrate baptisms, perform marriages and burials, visit people in the hospital, and do pastoral counseling.

What is required: In general, ordained elders have completed an advanced theological degree (masters or above) usually a Master of Divinity. In addition, they have submitted to an intentional discernment process with Church committees that help them clarify their call, and been through a residency period.

An Ordained Deacon

What the job usually looks like: Deacons are ordained to serve all people, particularly the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, and to equip and lead the laity (not ordained Christians) in ministries of compassion, justice, and service in the world. They can do this in a church, but also may choose to work in another setting like hospitals, social-service agencies, mission agencies, schools, etc.

What is required: In general, ordained deacons have completed the educations required for their particular field (like a degree in counseling, etc) as well as specific graduate courses in theology. In addition, they have submitted to an intentional discernment process with Church committees that help them clarify their call.

Licensed Local Pastors

What the Job Usually Looks Like: Local pastors are not ordained but are licensed to preach and conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor. They will usually serve a local church (often in a part-time status) as the primary pastor.

What is required: In general, local pastors have gone to licensing school (a several-day training in the basics of being a pastor) and completed the course of study (a five-year process that involves attending some day-long or weekend-long courses and implementing what you learn in the local church setting).

Lay Minster

What the Job Usually Looks Like: These individuals are not ordained, but serve in a leadership role (often on staff) in a particular area of ministry. Many youth pastor, children’s ministers, and music ministers are engaged in this form of ministry.

What is required: The requirements vary widely and are determined by the leadership of each individual church that hire lay people as ministers. The United Methodist Church offers certifications in many areas (like youth, children, camps, etc) in recognition that an individual has been called, made a commitment to serve, and has fulfilled the required standards for academic training, experience, and continuing study to serve with excellence in an area of specialized ministry.

Commissioned Missionary

What the job usually looks like: Missionaries witness and serve in dramatically different locales and cultures and engage in a range of professions and activities. These commissioned persons are usually (not always) called to serve outside their country of origin, as pastors, teachers, doctors, nurses (or in other healing ministries), social workers, church planters, evangelists, and in a variety of other ways through various forms of denominational or ecumenical ministries.

What is required: Because of the many varieties of particular roles missionaries fill, the requirements vary widely depending on the particular type of mission work. However, those commissioned submit to a discernment and training process as a part of their commissioning work in addition to the particular requirements in their fields. There are several ways particularly designed for young adults to engage in this role. That information is available at

After looking at all those ways people serve in ministry as a career, are there any of those that you think you may be called to? Which ones?

What about the others? Who in your group do you see fitting in those areas?

The first step in all of these roles is talking to a pastor and beginning to pray together about the future, but as we discovered before. God’s call is about now.

My Discernment

What is your next step in responding to God’s call? If you are feeling a calling into ordained ministry, one good next step would be to talk to a pastor.

When will you take it and who will you allow to remind you about it?

Take a moment to write a couple sentences that describe what you learned during this study… write it in a story form:

Now, write the next part:

And then…

When he's not playing with his four children with his wonderful wife, Jeremy is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, CA. Jeremy has spent over twenty years working in youth and children's ministry and continues to train children and youth workers as well as writing and speaking extensively in that field. His most recent book is the "All the Best Questions." You can find a list of all his books, articles, and resources for churches at