All Christians are called to lives of service. We are instructed in Galatians 5:13 to serve one another in love. What does this service, or ministry, look like today? It depends. The Bible explains that just as a body is made up of many parts working together to accomplish anything, so it is in the Body of Christ. Each person following Jesus becomes part of the Body of Christ, and each has a different role to play.
Some people are called to serve the Lord where they already are. The elderly lady in the church who invites a young single woman over to share a family meal is ministering. The young man with an ability to fix cars who volunteers to change the oil for someone else is also ministering in love. These types of service fall into a category called lay ministry. The only requirement is an awareness of needs one can fill along with the desire to serve others.
There are also Bible schools, usually one year undergraduate level specialized schools, which prepare lay people to serve within the church. Students study the Bible in depth and are offered opportunities to serve in ministry situations. If the school is located in the inner city, they might serve in a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen or in a youth ministry program. In the country, they might raise crops or livestock that will be used to feed others.
For those who sense a call to full-time ministry, the picture looks significantly different. Denominations have unique requirements for those who wish to serve in ministry. Ministry schools, or seminaries, are schools designed to prepare for service those who believe they are called to full-time ministry. Seminaries are usually at the Master’s level and require a combination of academic work and hands-on service in ministry internships.
Seminary level academic learning focuses on everything from church history to learning how to read the original language of the Old and New Testaments. Some classes will prepare students to preach. Others will demonstrate effective evangelism methods. At least one year is usually spent in an internship matching as closely as possible the type of ministry the student has sensed a call to work in. Most seminaries will require a short clinical pastoral education session in a local hospital. During this time, students serve as chaplains in the hospital. With the help of a mentor, students will be given the chance to pray with those facing crisis situations with loved ones.
Ministry jobs are available throughout the United States and around the world. These opportunities offer a great deal of challenge for those willing to commit to serving others in whatever way the Lord wants. Once time in seminary is through, each denomination will help the new graduate go through the call, or placement, process. Unlike a regular school, which helps graduates prepare a resume and practice interviewing skills while they search for employment, a seminary hands the students over to their department of ministry.
Some ministry jobs involve a superintendent of a district appointing them to a position within a church. In other denominations, churches ask the department of ministry for profile forms of available pastors. The members of the congregation then decide who to interview and subsequently call to serve in their church.
Ministry is probably the most challenging job available on the face of the earth. Those wanting a large paycheck should most likely seek employment elsewhere. Ministry jobs, however, are among the most fulfilling positions available this side of heaven. Ministry work means that those called to serve are around at the highest and lowest points in the lives of others. Ministers celebrate births, dedicate and baptize Christians, marry those who fall in love, and help their families say goodbye when the journey ends. No matter what one faces in ministry, “on the mountain of the Lord, it shall be provided.”