Leadership Scholars / young Baptists

Lessons Learned

By John DeWitt

I have been called to ministry since I was in high school. I accepted my calling as an 11th grader and never looked back. I interned as a college student at four churches in two different countries and I loved every second of it.

John DeWitt

I was eagerly anticipating my first call, I thought that it would change my life in ginormous ways I could not foresee. I had an expectation on my first call to complete me, after all, it was the missing piece I had been anticipating for years.

When I arrived at my church as the children and youth pastor, I felt my life stayed largely the same. I did not feel completed, I did not feel like a pastor, and I felt a little disappointed. I remember a conversation with my parents early on in my call where I said, I don’t feel like a children and youth pastor, I just feel like John.

The unrealistic and (of course) unmet expectation of my life being complete when I took a pastoral role hurt me. I had a very difficult first three months of ministry. I remember not thinking that this is what I wanted to do because it was not what I anticipated. I remember doubting my calling. I remember thinking that maybe another church would be better and I would feel the way that I “should” there. I remember wondering why I would have had such a profound call experience to this church if it was not going to meet my expectations.

I don’t know if I am the only person with this problem, I very well could be, but my experience in a Christian undergraduate program tell me that I am not the only one who was set up to feel this way.

The culture in undergrad focused on two main things: ministry and marriage. These two Ms were supposed to complete the young Christian’s life. Young Christians may hear about how ministry is hard and how marriage is hard, but I fear these warnings may fall on deaf ears.

Young Christians can get too caught up in the “Instagram” ideas of what ministry is supposed to look like. They may follow certain mega churches with life groups instead of Sunday School, perfect stages instead of pulpits, and full baptismals. The young Christian could see all of these things and think that their ministry is going to look exactly like that.

When these expectations were not met, I became discouraged. Looking back, it is kind of silly to think that the ministry at a small Baptist church in rural North Carolina would look anything like something other than ministry at a small Baptist church in North Carolina. 

God is growing me in my role as a Children and Youth Pastor and I am so grateful for it. God is shaping me to be someone who responds to God’s call instead of responding to unmet, unrealistic expectations.

John DeWitt serves as the Children and Youth Pastor at Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. He is a CBF Leadership Scholar pursuing his M.Div, at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C.

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