Ministerial Identity

The term vocation (Lat. vocare – to call) is often used to describe a person’s sense of having been called into ministry to serve in a special way. In the GST, we believe that all people share a calling to serve alongside the Creator as his agents of compassion and redemption in the world. Furthermore, we recognize that every Christian has been especially commissioned to follow a vocation of discipleship as Christ’s servant (Lat. minister) in the world. Every disciple is Christ’s chosen minister, commissioned through baptism by the Holy Spirit to fulfill that vocation in all of life’s arenas. However, scripture and the Christian tradition also recognize that some disciples acquire a sense of ministerial identity by which they are led to commit themselves to roles of ministerial leadership in extraordinary ways. The GST exists largely to assist in the formation of such leadership.

As part of its aim to equip men and women for effective missional leadership for ministry in all its forms, the GST seeks to help students discern and gain clarity on their ministerial identities.

The Challenge

Your program will challenge you continually to reflect on your sense of ministerial identity, your capacity for ministerial leadership, and the choices you make in preparation for future service. In your first year, you will be required to draft a statement that presents and explicates a coherent understanding of your ministerial identity. This statement goes into your Portfolio. As you gain further insights through your personal growth, your interaction with others, and your experiences in different contexts, subsequent years will afford you the opportunity to revise and deepen this statement. At the end of the first year of your program, your Reflection on Ministerial Identity will provide crucial material for consideration during your review.

The Assignment

You will initiate your Reflection paper as part of the Foundations class requirements. Revised papers should go into your Portfolios prior to each Portfolio review. Your Portfolio should retain your original statement and each formal revision as you progress through the program.

First draft (Foundations class). In a paper of 8–10 pages, present and explicate a coherent understanding of your ministerial identity. Account for the fact that you are in this program, what it is you believe will be its result for you, and why. Take time to reflect carefully on the questions listed below, as well as any other considerations you deem pertinent. Do not simply answer the questions, but let them guide you as your organize your own, coherent account. Utilize all your resources—scripture, personal experience, the results of self-examination, the feedback and counsel of others, etc. Do not presume that the Faculty want to see particular answers. Do not be afraid to admit shortcomings, acknowledge doubts, or admit that you do not yet know the answers to some key questions. Honesty and integrity are essential.

Revisions. During your program, certain experiences or insights may transform, deepen, or challenge your sense of ministerial identity. When this happens, these may be ideal times to revise your Reflection statement. Place your revised statement into your Portfolio, prior to that year’s review. It is to be expected that the revisions will be somewhat longer than earlier versions—but they should not simply be expanded or edited versions of the former. Your experiences and growth inside and outside of class should produce deeper, more sophisticated, and more carefully nuanced Reflections. You may build on your earlier statements, but do so in fresh and thoughtful ways as you revisit the questions posed below from the original vantage points of your ongoing progress. The paper may grow as you revise it (up to 12 pages), but revisions should not be the result of adding material so much as deepening and maturing reflections.

Inward Factors

  • What has motivated me to submit to a formal process of ministerial formation? How do I perceive God to be active within those thoughts or feelings?
  • How have my past and my personal experiences shaped my sense of ministerial identity?
  • Is my sense of ministerial identity recent or a long-lived, sustained experience?
  • What is it about the overall direction of my life that suggests this trajectory? Or does it represent a change in direction? If so, what accounts for the change?
  • What gifts and capacities for ministry do I have? What leadership abilities do I have?
  • What is the source or cause of my desires for leadership? What are my motives?
  • What liabilities, pitfalls, and vulnerabilities do I perceive within myself, that might impede my ability to serve in ministry?
  • Do I have doubts about my ministerial identity? Am I over-confident?
  • How do I see myself and my ministerial identity fitting into God’s purposes in the world?
  • What aspects of ministry thrill or renew me? What aspects frighten, bore, or frustrate me? Why?
  • What aspects of the training and preparation process seem most rewarding? What aspects least so? Why?

Outward Factors

  • What role has the counsel of others played in shaping my sense of ministerial identity?
  • How have others confirmed my ministerial gifts? How have they challenged or questioned them?
  • How have others confirmed or discouraged this direction for my life?
  • How do I perceive God to be active in the outward factors shaping my sense of ministerial identity?
  • What have been my patterns of response to the feedback, encouragement, criticism, and guidance of others?
  • How have my experiences in the church shaped my sense of ministerial identity?
  • How do I perceive my place in relation to the Christian tradition? Why?
  • How do I understand my role in relation to an ecclesial context? Why?

General Considerations

  • What theologies of self, work, vocation, community, God’s purposes, and salvation underlie my sense of ministerial identity?
  • What passages of scripture most inform my understanding of my ministerial identity?
  • What metaphor/s best capture/s my sense of ministerial identity?
  • What impediments and temptations most threaten to compromise the integrity of my ministerial identity?