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Discerning Ministry with Teens: Part 1

by Jenifer C. Gamber

As teenagers graduate high school and go on to work, college, or both, we can prepare them in their journey of being Christ’s hands and feet in the world by helping them see that all that they do – not just at church or in youth group – is ministry.  The choices they make about the jobs they apply to, their major, social activities can all be made with the lens of faith and their baptismal promises.

Seeing all that we do as ministry means that we need to do some work to determine what is that ministry. This work can be framed by two questions:

1. What are my gifts for ministry?

2. What are God’s desires for the world?

These two questions are based on this insight by Frederick Buechner in the book Wishful Thinking.

“The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

So, between now and the end of the academic year, set aside time for your youth to gather and talk about ministry. The first half of the exercise is to determine one’s gifts.

In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (12:4-10) assures us that there are a variety of gifts—wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. In his letter to the Romans (12:6-8) he lists these: ministry, teaching, exhortation, generosity, diligence, and cheerfulness.

So, which of these, or others, are my gifts? Below are three steps to begin that discernment. Begin by giving each youth a sheet of paper and pencil and asking them to divide the paper lengthwise. Title the first column “What I Do Now” and the second column “What I’d Like To Do.” In the first column:

  1. List all their the activities—courses, sports, acting, singing, working at a nursing home, waitering at a restaurant, and so on. In the second column, list activities that they dream of doing either in the next year or next five years.
  2. Checkmark the top 5 activities in each column—those that bring you deep and sustained happiness.
  3. Swap papers with another person. The second person adds attributes they see in their friend in the first column and pass the sheet back to its original owner These are possible gifts Take a look at the list. Do any surprise you?

The reason to have a second youth write the attributes is that we often overlook our own gifts. You might ask the youth to do one further task–look at just the list of attributes or talents and brainstorm all the possible courses, jobs, or activities that come to mind. There might be some activities in this list they’ve never even considered.

The second half of the exercise is to consider the world’s deepest hunger. We’ll consider this question and put the two together in tomorrow’s post.

© 2013. Jenifer Gamber has been involved in Christian formation since she began teaching Sunday school as a teenager.  The author of My Faith, My Life and Your Faith, Your Life for adults, she is a popular speaker on the topics of spirituality, prayer, and teen faith formation. Her website, offers a wealth of resources for adults who work with youth. Her most recent book is Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People.

One Response to “Discerning Ministry with Teens: Part 1”

  1. […] In yesterday’s post we explored one’s deep gladness. Today is an exercise to explore the world’s deep hunger and compare the two. […]

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