When You’re Called to Ministry Later in Life: Six Questions

January 30, 2019

The call to vocational ministry later in life is both exciting and challenging. It is exciting to know God is preparing you for another path and, perhaps, another place. It’s challenging because of issues related to family, finances, and training.

We often receive questions at Church Answers from those going into vocational ministry for the first time in their 40s and 50s, and even in their 60s. As we try to guide them toward next steps, we ask them a series of questions. These are the six most common questions:

  1. Will you stay in your secular vocation for now? The answer to that question obviously has financial implications. But it also allows the minister to be a marketplace pastor, or worship leader, or executive pastor, or any other position.
  2. Is your family supportive of your moving in this direction? This question is one that is obviously important at any phase of life or decision-making. It has profound implications when you are older. The change is often dramatic and life-altering for the entire family.
  3. How will I train for ministry? Can you work in your current church in an internship or as a volunteer staff person? Will you go to seminary online? Are you and your family willing to relocate?
  4. Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you moving toward a full-time vocational position? Or are you called and content to be a marketplace minister?
  5. Where will you find opportunities to preach? This question, of course, is specifically directed toward those who sense God’s call to pastoral and/or preaching ministries. Where can you begin to fill a pulpit? Will it be in those situations where the pastor is out for a week or two? Or can you find an interim or part-time position at a smaller church in the area?
  6. Do you have a mentor? This question is extremely important. You need someone to guide you in this new phase of life. You need someone to ask you questions. You need someone to hold you accountable. Is there a pastor you know who would be happy to walk alongside you? If not, we have mentors at Church Answers who will be glad to walk with you in this journey.

It is an exciting time to be called into vocational ministry. It is an especially exciting time when it happens later in life. God has used older leaders and ministers for hundreds of years. He certainly can and will use you.

You have my prayers as you embark on this exciting journey.

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31 Comments

  • Love this site and your topics are always relevant and helpful. I accepted God’s call to the ministry in my early 50’s. Since 1996 I have been worship leader, Bible teacher, Pastor, church planter, CEO of a missionary org, and Announcer on Christian radio. It was a bit frightening and yet, has been the most exciting time of my life. I truly believe if our Sovereign God has called you, He has already made the necessary preparations. There were many twists and turns in the journey but God continually brought to my memory Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” I have learned several things throughout this journey. 1) God always keeps His promised. Ha has never forsake me (Hebrews 13:5, 6). 2) God will always provide, no matter the amount nor material (Philippians 4:19). 3) God gave you your spouse for many reasons, but most especially to be your helpmate (Partner). I have found over the years that I should never make a decision without her input. Many times God has used her to make me aware of some insight I needed or some mistake I was getting ready to make (or had already made 🙂 ). And finally, you can and must pray about every situation, but you can receive advice from every trusted friend and mentor that you have, you can verify and analyze all the gifts and desires you have, but sometimes, you just have to step out on faith. “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan…” (Joshua 3:1-17) (Also see Joshua 1:9; James 1:5-7; Isaiah 42:16; Deut 6:1-8; Jeremiah 1:8; Rom 8:28).

  • Strange that I am one of those older ones studying for ministry. In my devotional I read recently these words. If you are considering a vocation, you should ask three questions. What makes me happy? Am I good at it? and is there a need for it in the world?Keep up the good work everyone. Blessings

  • Inez Thomas says on

    I am so glad this topic has come up. I was called into ministry when I was in my twenties. I finally answered the call in my fifties after my mother went to be with the Lord. God let me know He had to take away something that I love for me to answer the call. After much praying and fasting, I decided to go forth and do what God had called me to do, which was to spread His word and use my talents to help others know this God of Creation. I had a very long talk with God at first. I made all kinds of excuses why I could not go forth. I told God I was too old, but God would not accept that. My mentor reminded me of how old Moses was and others that were called by God. My mentor was very helpful, and I thank God for sending him in my life. My mentor, the Rev. Dr. Frederick Hooper, told me to enroll in a seminary, which I did.
    I was in class every day; I burnt a lot of midnight oil studying. My seminary experience was awesome! I believe this was God’s choosing and doing; it could not have been any better than what I experienced. (God provided finances for all my seminary courses, glory be to God) My family have been very supportive, one of my sons has been the Minister of music for thirteen years. Thank God for that!
    Just before I graduated, the domination that I belonged to ordained me. I am a little older, and I still feel like I am too old to be here after teaching for thirty-eight and a half years in the education field. I get plenty of chances to preach in my home church, where I am the associate minister. I also get plenty of engagements to speak at other churches and events. I am holding a few positions in my church, the Sunday school Superintendent, director of the Media ministry, which I started, visiting the sick and giving communion to those in the hospital, nursing homes and the shut-in is my passion.
    My biggest fear is pastoring, which the Bishop have considered me. I prayed so hard that it would not come to past for that time and that year I did not get a church. Getting a pulpit is not a problem for me. I am in the pulpit helping every Sunday morning. All my Pastor has to do on a Sunday morning is preach/teach, give the benediction and occasionally make an announcement, this is what he chooses to do. I have the task of caring out the entire service, I preach and teach several times during the year. I enjoy helping my home pastor, who always tell me I have a way of getting people involved in ministry, which he says amazes him. Getting people involved is exciting to me, it’s not me it’s God! I like creating ways for people to participate in whatever is going on in the church and the building of God’s Kingdom, and helping people to become disciples of Christ. (I am an IT techie) However, my age is forever before me. I regret not answering the call in my twenties. I have so many gifts I want to use and pass on, and there is so much to do. Each day, I struggle with my age even more after celebrating another birthday early this year. How do you deal with the age problem? This the question.
    This blog has given me some relief, and I am praying to dispel my age problem and focus on God’s purpose for me! Need all the prayers and encouragement, which I welcome with gratitude!

    • Minister of Music says on

      Brother Inez Thomas,
      what can be better than what your doing? God is using you in a very mighty way and for you to be helping people in your church find their own calling of the Lord is what it’s all about. God bless you brother and keep on keeping on trusting God as he is always preparing us for something bigger and better than what we’ve ever accomplished before. Our greatest work is always before us and the Good Lord leads us Amen? You know that man of many talents

      • Inez Thomas a woman wearing many church hats. says on

        Thank you for those encouraging words. Once again I am reminded that God will and can use you at any age and at any season of your life. I get so much joy seeing God people blessed when God uses me as His child to bless others. I often wish I was younger. I am so grateful to be used by God so He can get the increase.

  • This may be my denominational bias speaking but regarding #5, I understand interim ministry as a different type of calling. One who helps lead a transition from one head pastor to another. That’s not the job for an inexperienced minister. I assume you meant what can be referred to in some circles as a supply clergy – one who serves for a limited duration in one location. But maybe I’m wrong.

  • I have been involved in bi-vocational ministry since I was called in my late 40’s learning and trusting in the timing of the Lord as to when to move to full time. Being a Pastor and an Executive, both at the same time, is tough to do and into days workplace, the pressures to compromise your faith are virtually inexorable. It is this unwillingness to compromise that has cost me my full time job, yet the Lord is faithful and He has not changed my calling. Time for additional training beyond Bible School, while prepping the mid-week study and doing other ministry, on top of the 50+ hours of work per week, simply did not exist. I am confident of His calling, but have have now found out that the willingness to place me full time, which was discussed with no issues in depth for over five years, in the place where I have been serving over 10 years is now non-existent. I guess my learned lesson is this, as you move forward with the Lord in a calling later in life, be prepared to be disappointed by those who you thought had your back. Only the Lord has your back, not man, not staff. It is incredibly tough on the ego, to be looking for a position in where I believe I am called, but now over 60 years of age. I continue to be encouraged by the fact that Moses was called when he was 80.

    • Minister of Music says on

      Don’t compromise !! Stay true to the Lord.
      Keep up your serving him brother, and don’t quit trusting he’s always going to work things out.
      Like Oh Dave Ramsey says too ! Better than we all deserve. Your the man God has called !

  • I am one of these pastors, a market place pastor called later in life. Specifically at 38, I am now 55. Since beginning ministry I have completed Seminary up to and including a Ph.D. in Theology while pastoring a marketplace church and holding a full time secular job. I’m thankful that experience ended in 2008. It is rewarding and challenging to both the pastor and the pastors family. Family has been my greatest issue, I have grown children and my wife is very supportive as well as my mother. Yet, both of them struggle at times to deal with church stresses. Especially as the pastor must deal with critics and unhappy members or peers. Finding a mentor has been an ordeal for me. Only once have I found someone with a true heart to mentor, he has moved away now. Others have hurt me badly, turning into gossips. Be careful selecting a mentor to share your deepest issues and concerns with. I realize this comment isn’t very encouraging but it does describe my experiences in my area. Serving the Lord is something I will never walk away from but it does have obstacles and challenges. Remember each other in prayer.

  • What about a late late bloomer ? I’m now 73 but I seem to really be catching on fire.

  • The Lord called me to the ministry at the age of 40. My family and I moved away to seminary for a year. We moved back to our home state and I took online courses for another year. Once we moved back to our home state, I fell back into my old career in education to make a living. We have moved a couple of more times since returning from seminary and the opportunity for full-time pastoral ministry still has not come to fruition. It can often be frustrating because I don’t feel like I am doing what God has called me to do. I am making a living instead of following my calling. However, my wife and I know that God is the one that opens and closes doors and He will open the right door for me in His timing. We are trying to remain faithful in the “waiting”. Prayers are appreciated.

    • Mark Smih says on

      I here you Ryan. I am in a similar place. I realize that the Lord opens doors… but it is amazing how many doors open for 25 years olds with no ministry experience that never open for 46 year olds with no ministry experience. Is that really the Lord????

    • Mark Smith says on

      I here you Ryan. I am in a similar place. I realize that the Lord opens doors… but it is amazing how many doors open for 25 years olds with no ministry experience that never open for 46 year olds with no ministry experience. Is that really the Lord????

    • DAVID BRYAN FROST says on

      I have been where you are. You may not be doing what you want to be doing or as you termed it what you feel God has called you to do. In actual fact you are doing what God wants you to do.You are supporting your family as God would have you to do. Also this time of waiting may be a part of God’s training you for what you will face in the future. Hang in there and don’t give up. God is still at work even though you may not be fully aware of what He’s doing.

      • Minister of Music says on

        Fantastic , David Bryan Frost!
        Couldn’t agree any better !

        Let God use you right where you are and you might be suprised how quick things might change but don’t be expecting them to 1

  • Mark Smith says on

    Thanks for addressing this Thom!

    One question: what is a marketplace pastor? Is that new lingo for bi-vocational?

  • Great insights as always Thom!

    I would say #1 and #6 are the most pressing on this list initially.

    #1-Do not let the intoxication of full-time vocational ministry pull you out of a good thing. There are MANY, MANY more positives to being a market place pastor than a full time pastor. Because of you getting to this late in life, you are most likely going to be serving as a pastor or staff minister at a small church in need of revitalization. Being able to care for yourself financially to the point where you do not need the church’s money will automatically give you authority in the church. When the power people know that you do not need them to survive and that you can leave at anytime, then they lose a lot of their negative influence over you and your leadership.

    #6-Mentors are wonderful and everyone should have their insight and guidance at different seasons of life. But might I add hiring a Christian Life Coach that can help flesh out the specifics of your calling, your giftings, your talents, your personality traits, etc. A CLC is invaluable to understanding your life purpose and seeking opportunities where you can live out of the flow of that life purpose.

    Marketplace ministry is the wave of the future, don’t discount it because it seems all the “big-time” ministry influencers are mega-church pastors. There is a time coming when even mega-churches will demand their staff pastor be marketplace pastor; out of the necessity for budgeting and most importantly, out of relevance from contextualization in the marketplace.

    And this is coming from a guy who spent 17 years in vocational ministry in small to large churches. Full-time vocational ministry is not as effective at touching real people as marketplace ministry, and that is a reality that is only going to get clearer in the next two decades.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Very wise words, Josh. Thank you.

    • Your insights are good ones. I hear many people in the marketplace say they want to go into ministry because they want to do something significant for God. There is a mythical attraction to church work which is not based in reality. I have been a pastor and started two businesses. There are so many “ministry” opportunities in the marketplace. Rather than looking for a call to ministry, realize you already have a call where you are. Trust that our providential Father will direct us without us having to push a door open.

  • R. Engler says on

    I have been a lay leader for years. I teach Bible and lead Men’s group, and church school classes as well. I felt the strong call to “get out of the boat” and completed a Master’s degree from a Seminary.
    Now the problem Church may say that have a growing need for pastors but only want ones that have multiple years experience in churches that are larger than the one I presently serve as a volunteer that preaches approx. 6 -8 times a year while the Sr. Pastor vacations etc.
    I answer to God is Yes but where is the where?

    • Mr. Engler,
      Have you considered the opportunity to serve overseas through the International Mission Board? I had the privilege to serve in a Career position from 1994-2015 and am happy to help with any questions you might have.

      • R. Engler says on

        Thanks for your response. Your suggestion would require much prayer and communication with spouse and family. It would be a possibility to look into.

    • Minister of Music says on

      Right where you are !!!! Why not try starting right where you are? Every opportunity