For college and seminary students, the semester is quickly drawing to a close, and for those graduating, spring is the season of searching, the time to look for that first full-time ministry placement. Spring might well be the season of searching for seasoned ministers as well. 

For six years now, I have spent my spring time sitting by, listening to, constructing pro-con lists with, and advising ministry job seekers, and along the way, I have learned a few lessons that I hope have been and will be helpful to those in the search mode.  In the next few months, my blog posts will be devoted to those lessons learned. I welcome your feedback, suggestions, and ideas. So here goes: Finding a Ministry Position, Part 1.

The first and perhaps most important step in finding a ministry position is discernment. I know, discernment seems like a given, one that shouldn’t even have to be mentioned. After all, ministers and soon-to-be ministers “live” in the discernment mode, right? Our reality, however, is that our lives are often fast-paced and hectic. Sometimes there seems to be little time in our day or our week to pray, to seek God’s leadership. Because of how busy we are, too often we initiate a ministry position search without taking time to do the hard work of discerning.

Sending out resumes or applications without discernment is like writing a sermon without first reading the biblical text, taking an exam without studying, running a marathon without training, or building a house without laying the foundation. None of these scenarios will end well! Rushing to the end without preparation leaves us with poor sermons, bad grades, pulled muscles, and collapsed houses, and rushing to the end in the search for a ministry position results in poor judgments and bad fits.

While there is no one-size fits all with regard to discernment, here are a few of the truths that I have learned along the way:

  • Discernment is opening oneself to the spirit of God, seeking direction, listening for guidance, striving to hear and to follow.
  • Discernment takes time. Seeking God often requires an investment of hours or days, maybe even weeks or months. Few folks that I know receive instantaneous insight or spontaneous answers to the hard questions of life.
  • Discernment requires quietness and perhaps even periods of solitude. Listening is always easier when there are fewer distractions, less noise.
  • Discernment also requires conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and mentors. Hearing from God happens for many of us in community. We hear God best when we are listening to our wisest of friends and mentors.
  • Discernment is an intentional spiritual discipline. Discernment does not just happen to us or for us. It requires thoughtfulness, a good-faith effort, and spiritual, emotional, and physical energy.

As you enter this season of searching, pray, listen, ponder, talk, sit in silence, rest, absorb: discern. Discernment is the starting place, the first step, the foundation.

Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.