So, this week I start working at Panera Bread. I realized this afternoon that this is my first job outside of a specifically Christian environment since I was 16. Even that job was a restaurant owned and made up of a majority of Dutch Christian Reformed folks and was closed on Sunday. Since then I've either worked with all Christians in a business owned by members of my church, at a Christian college or at my church itself.
This wasn't the plan.
I went to Moody so that I could work in youth ministry. I'm going to seminary so that I can work in youth ministry more effectively. There's a part of me that feels like working at Panera isn't fulfilling that calling very well. It feels like a misuse of stewardship of gifting. Misstewardship?
Things don't always go to plan though. Actually, it seems they rarely do.
What this job at Panera is, if I actually step back and look at it, is a blessing. I will be able to work well in an environment that isn't made up completely of believers. This can only put me in a better place to do evangelism, of building relationships with people and hopefully, by the grace of God, point people closer to knowing Christ. It is a job. It will bring in money. And I really love the broccoli cheddar soup. Especially with a discount.
The real issue that this raises is what to do about ministry? The beautiful thing is that God has called all believers to be ministers, not just the ones paid to do it. I'm still waiting on a church to get back to me about a position but at this point I'd rather deal with the situation I have than hypothetical situations in the future. The opportunity then to, after spending a few years doing youth ministry, after completing a degree in youth ministry, go into a youth ministry setting and not be "the boss" that I was applying to be presents some unique benefits:
1. It's God's ministry, not mine.
One of the biggest traps that someone in vocational ministry can fall into is when they start to think of a ministry as "theirs." Don't get me wrong, a pastor has responsibility for care for those under him. The danger of thinking of a ministry as our own is that it makes it seems as any of the fruit, any of the growth is our doing. Faith is a gift from God and so although it is an honor to be a tool in the process of seeing people come to Christ, we are not the ones that brought them there. The humbling experience of going and continuing to work under someone else in youth ministry will hopefully amplify these truths in my life.
2. If I stick in youth ministry, I'll always have a boss. (besides God)
Youth Pastors, by the nature of the job, are not the ones in charge. They are almost always working under a senior/lead pastor who has the final word on most big decisions. The senior/lead pastor has others that he is (hopefully) responsible to but the youth pastor (and other pastoral staff) have the specific responsibility to submit to the senior/lead pastor's leadership. This trait of submission is hopefully something that will continue to be cultivated in my life as I continue to submit to another youth pastor's leadership.
3. If I ask for God's leading, I need to be willing to be led.
I often pray for God's leading. I believe that God has ordained the steps that I'm taking but I want to be taking them in obedience. It's funny that a lot of times I'm really consistent about praying for God to lead me in His paths and then I am angry/grumpy about the paths that He seems to be leading me down. I'm not actually praying for God's leading, I'm praying for God to implement my leading. The plan was to find a youth ministry position. For reasons that are clear to God and not to me, He sent me to Panera instead. I pray that I will learn to submit more fully to God's plans and that I'll look for the opportunities and relationships that He is sending in my life both at Panera and at whatever youth ministry I start volunteering for.