I’ve heard the Live-for-Christ mantra repeated often in pulpits across the country, as well as from the mouths of youth workers everywhere. The notion that following Christ is more than a Sunday thing has been a favorite theme for us to address for years; it’s a good message. Our individual relationships with Christ should impact everything we do 24/7. However, does simply encouraging students to live for Christ really help them? To minister holistically, we need to address the entire 24 hours of students’ lives.
I first began noticing how lacking the 24/7-message is when I was at summer camp one year. I was inviting students to respond after an evening message and gave them an opportunity to respond to a call to full-time ministry, a call to which I had responded at summer camp between my sophomore and junior years. I began thinking about all the men and women I’ve met through the years who were mismatched for vocational ministry yet had responded to a similar call. I also became keenly aware that vocational ministry may be the least effective way to live our kingdom values and wondered what was missing.
This struggle was reinforced further after spending a day with a donor. I realized how creative and influential he was in the broader culture, but he was not really what one might call a philanthropist. He was generous, giving money to many causes, but he didn’t live to give. I asked him if any minister ever encouraged him to use his money to implement his own ideas for kingdom work. A tear ran down his cheek, and he said, “No, they just ask me to support what they are doing in ministry.”
Imagine that…a successful man in his 60s, whose only encouragement in life has been to write checks to fund the ministry dreams of other people. No one’s ever invited him to use his creativity, resources and influence to create the passion God had placed in him.
What most youth workers mean when they say people should live whole lives devoted to God is that we all are to support fully and show up for what the church is doing, as well as what we are doing in the church as career ministers. Rarely is the average congregant invited to imagine how to live the kingdom ways in his or her place of vocation.
As youth workers, perhaps there are two important things we do for students. First, we can help them find their vocational callings. Second, we can help them foster an imagination around how a particular vocation can be lived to restore life on earth as it is in heaven. Doing this would give teens and younger adults a true vision of how their vocational lives can be devoted fully to God. This kind of living goes beyond evangelism of fellow employees. It leverages their gifts, passions, abilities and careers so much more for the glory of God.
That’s a tough thing for many of us to do. Many of us never have had a career or vocation outside full-time ministry. We’ve rarely had to be creative in the workplace, outside ministry. There is a difference, and the vast majority of us are myopic. Career ministry is all we have known.
The call to encourage students to live for Christ 24/7 is lacking, limited and does not encourage students to live effectively into who God made them to be. It’s foolish for youth ministers not to be working harder to assist in this aspect of a teen’s life. If holistic, 24/7 discipleship is expected, it’s time for youth workers to reconsider who they really are: missional career counselors. Yeah, that’s a 24/7-calling.