5 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Leaving Full-Time Ministry

I still remember it quite well. I had recently come to faith in Christ and everything was electric; everything in my young world was radically changing. I was a new creation and I knew it.

Our church’s youth group had a great youth pastor and a great youth staff. We had recently experienced some sort of revival, if you will, amongst the teenagers that took our mediocre size of about 40 kids – most of which were not interested in God at all – and put a fire in our bones that propelled us to reach out to our peers. Within a few short months, 40 turned into more than 120 and we were all running around excited for Jesus.

Those were good times. Great times, actually. And, to this day, perhaps the only truly authentic “move of God” that I have ever been a part of.

But something else was going on in those early days as well. Something I remember so clearly. A lot of the young people in our group were suddenly seeking God about “the call” that He had on our lives and, even more, whether or not we had a “call to full time ministry.”

I certainly wanted know what God – this amazing God I had recently come to know – had planned for my life. I remember going forward in church one fateful morning, getting on my knees, and saying something very close to these words: Lord, they say you have a call on my life and, if that’s true, I guess you had better tell me what that is because I want to do what you want me to do. Amen.

I waited a there a moment and then began to stand up. But before I even fully stood up, a woman – whom I didn’t know – came up to me and said, “God just told me to tell you that you are called and that call is to full time ministry. When you want to know more, come and find me.”

And then she walked off.

Needless to say, I was stunned. I had never seen or heard of such a quick and obvious answer to prayer in my entire – albeit short – spiritual life. After the initial shock settled down, I surveyed the room, located the woman, and set out directly for her. Walking up to her with energy in my step and excitement in my voice I said, “I want to know more NOW!”

This sincere woman shared a vision with me that she had at the same moment I was praying for God to show me what to do with my life. And I listened to every word with intensity. I felt like my life’s story was being written by the words rolling off her lips. As she finished, I managed to say “thank you” and then sat down to consider what had just been said.

Soon after, I stood up, walked up to my pastor and peers and declared that “I had just been called to ministry!” And with that, my heart and mind was made up. I felt it in the depths of my being and nothing else mattered.

I was called to serve God in full time ministry and that was exactly what I would do.

My journey from that point, to eventually entering full time vocational ministry, was herky-jerky but I did end up accepting my first full time youth pastor position at the ripe age of 26. I remember how I excited I was and how accomplished I felt.

I moved my family 6 hours from Portland to LaGrande, Oregon. There was an old farmhouse behind the church that was converted into a parsonage, which my family and I moved in to, and I quickly settled into my new life as a full-time pastor.

It was about my seventh day on the job when I walked into my office at the church and sat down, looked around at my books, my computer, and my hands and said out loud, “What am I supposed to with myself all day every day?”

This was “ministry” and I was being paid for it. I was confused.

POSTED ON October 29, 2013
  • Great post and great wisdom. I am taking with someone who could use these exact words. I will be sharing it with him.

  • Jered Odegard

    These five lessons resonate so loudly for me. Wise and candid words here.

  • Anthony

    You should do an article explaining how a new pastor can deal with the pain that he and his family experience when he is dismissed unjustly.

  • Simplify Everything. Thanks for sharing. What a great reminder on how to truly honor God.

  • Tracie Reinhart

    Thank you, you have no idea how much I needed to read this today as I try to grieve through the loss of full time ministry after 20 years. I was a youth minister for 16 and Director of Religious Ed. for 4. It has only been 7 months. The part about ministry not defining who we are helps the most. I am more than a minister in fact my primary ministry is as wife and mother and as a child of God and that needs to be enough for now. Blessings

Jake Ray is a former Pastor and Church leader. Today he is a father, friend, consultant, coach and entrepreneur. He loves CrossFit, live music, Roller Derby and bacon.