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My commissioning today, August 30, 2015, as a Stephen minister for my congregation (I’m smiling at my excited family in the second row, in case you’re wondering)

My commissioning today, August 30, 2015, as a Stephen minister for my congregation (I’m second from the left in both photos)

As ministry workers, we all have a calling from the Lord on our lives that we deeply sense. It motivates our work, which can be really demanding and discouraging at times. It would make such a difference in our work to hear that our ministries are making a positive impact in the lives of people we serve.

Sometimes, we need to ask for a public affirmation of our roles. At other times, our churches will offer that to us. For example, I was commissioned today to be a Stephen minister for our congregation. During the services (all four of them!), I felt encouraged, humbled, and ready to serve in this capacity.

Which do you need more right now as a ministry worker:

  • to sense a more specific calling in a ministry role from the Lord?
  • to be affirmed in your work by a congregational commissioning?
  • or to be ordained as a preacher?

I have found through my book interviews that ministry workers seek affirmation in their callings in different ways. Many times it depends on the denomination of church they attend.

Besides for these three ways—calling, commissioning, and ordaining—ministry workers also seek a “word of wisdom” or being prayed over to confirm their spiritual gifts in some churches.

Let’s define these three main ways. These terms can mean different things in the Church* (and sometimes different things in different churches). I am using definitions given by various ministry leaders.

  • calling: a strong inclination, either from one’s self or from the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life, to pursue vocational ministry
  • commissioning: authority granted for a ministry role within a particular church
  • ordaining: to confer ministerial authority for preaching throughout a denomination or throughout the Christian Church

I have found that there is a denominational edge to these terms as well. In the Lutheran church, where I’ve been for the past year, our congregation likes to talk about “calls” and “commissions.”

But the women I’ve interviewed in Pentecostal churches have all been ordained. Some of them preach. Some of them pastor a church with their husbands. Some of them don’t want a physical pulpit, but they do want the affirmation and approval they sense an ordination gives them for ministry work.

How about your ministry? Maybe it’s time to reach out for affirmation of your spiritual gifts. Maybe you lead a ministry that has been largely forgotten by your church. Or maybe you are beginning a speaking ministry and need the encouragement to get out there.

Here are some ways to achieve that:

  1. Decide on what you need from your congregation and your pastor. Realize that some congregations are not going to support ordination for you without certain credentials. However, they may commission you. Be aware of your denominational specifics, and ask for recognition with humility.
  2. If your ministry goes wider than a specific church, think about who could recognize your gifts. Maybe your prayer team could hold a short service and pray over you, “sending” you out to the greater world. Or your pastor would be willing to do a private commissioning.
  3. Ask someone to take a photo of the moment. Put it somewhere you will see it every day, like on your desktop wallpaper. Remind yourself daily of your calling in God’s family:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1Corinthians 12:4-7).

May the Lord bless you as you perform the work He gives you—


* I capitalize “Church” when I am referring to the Christian Church in general and throughout the world. Individual churches get the small “c.”