discernment, career & future

Helping Others Determine Their Next Step

Blake Holmes, Director of Dallas Campus Ministries & The Watermark Institute, joins the podcast to help millennials — and those serving them — in discerning their next step. Blake has mentored many 20-somethings through The Watermark Institute, a program to raise up the next generation of pastors and Christian leaders. We hope this podcast gives those facing big decisions more clarity and purpose in discerning God’s will.

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Introduction (1:06)

Whether you’re a millennial or helping millennials, this question, “What’s next for me?” is a regular one. Blake has this conversation all of the time with the residents and fellows who go through the Watermark Institute.

The Four “P”s of Discerning Your Next Step

  • Passion (2:17)
  • Purpose (10:26)
  • People (18:00)
  • Pathway (33:58)

Passion (2:17)

Any time Blake meets with someone who has this question, he first tells them to relax. Many people are hoping to find the perfect job, but as a young adult, those jobs rarely exist. They’re looking for a unicorn. Try to think of God’s will as more like a circle than a dot. This reminder often helps take the pressure off of people trying to find the ideal job immediately.

His next advice is to start with their passions. What would they be willing to do for free? What are the problems they want to work to solve?

Often, people become paralyzed with this question because they are passionate about everything. Blake felt this way when he was in seminary as well. However, with time and engagement, he started to narrow in his passions. For leaders ministering to someone asking these questions, it’s important to not make the decision for them. Your role is to act as a guide by listening to and observing them.

John encourages young adults to see themselves at the top of a funnel. They won’t stay there forever and as experiences and affirmations continue, they will narrow in on their gifts and role. It’s a process of elimination. People in their late 50’s or 60’s who say they knew exactly what they wanted to do at an early age often aren’t remembering correctly. Future ministry leaders should try to say “yes” to every opportunities they can. This will help move the needle in discovering passions and gifts. Adam reminds people to stop thinking about a 10 year plan. Instead, think in 12 month increments of what would be life-giving.

Purpose (10:26)

“God needed to work in me before He worked through me.” - John McGee

Following that passion will ultimately lead to purpose. Every believer’s first and foremost purpose is to love God, love others, and be faithful. In time and with faithfulness, a more specific purpose often becomes clear. For John, he never started out with a passion for working with marriage, despite his previous role in marriage ministry. He found out by accident that he wanted to help marriages. He had always been interested in helping other churches, but as a young 20-something, he wasn’t ready. God needed to work in him before He worked through him. It’s also important for people to pay attention to what motivates them and record it. He recommended writing down every experience that gives you life and energy.

When Blake was first hired on staff at Watermark, he discovered his passion and gift for teaching by saying yes to random tasks. He was asked to teach a few classes and within a year, he moved to the equipping ministry. Living out your gifts still means hard work and failure, although it’s often things you find easier to do than others.

People (18:00)

God’s people are extremely helpful in discerning your gifts. Every believer has been gifted and God’s church can affirm those gifts. It’s important to ask yourself who else has those same passions? Who are the innovators in this area? Once you know those people, pursue a meeting with them. If you are talking with people asking these questions, think of who you could connect them with. John encouraged people to ask leaders in the industry what path they took to get there. If you see someone doing something you think you’d be interested in, ask them what steps they took to get there? Everyone’s journey is unique, but the answer to that question can give you a place to start.

When Adam was contemplating coming on Watermark staff, he was told what a bad day would look like. That information was priceless for Adam so he didn’t have confirmation bias and ignore the hard parts of the job. It’s important to identify the problems of the job to see if you’d be able to manage. Blake enjoys the problems he has to solve, both theological ones and those involving people. Although no job is perfect, knowing it’s problems will help you discern if it’s in your passions.

For leaders who want to delegate tasks, pay attention to your team. If someone gets energized by solving a specific problem, connect the dots and position them to do more of that.

Job-hunters and ministry-seekers should stay proactive and not get into a rut. The best way to get a meeting with someone is to be specific. People who email him with a specific challenge they’re facing; three questions they’d like to ask; and a designated allotment of time are far more likely to get a meeting with Blake than someone who just wants to pick his brain. A handwritten thank you note afterwards goes a long way, too. In these meetings, it’s important to remember that no one is going to know the specifics of your next step. Adam realized in his mid-to-late 30’s that he had to take responsibility for the stewardship of his gifts.

Leaders should also be careful when talking with younger, future leaders to not manipulate them. Telling someone they know the exact plan for their life is not helpful and dangerous. Surrounding yourself with truth-tellers is also vital in making next step decisions. Bring together a community of people at one time and explain the situation. Don’t have a lot of “one-off” conversations where you can easily hide information or make a compelling case in one direction.

Pathway (33:58)

When you’ve started to narrow down your passions, just get on the bus. Find organizations or businesses that line up with your purpose and get in any way that you reasonably can. Just say “yes” and get experience. Ask yourself if you can do something for just a year. If you can, get on board and you’ll be amazed at how doors open. Don’t sit around waiting for the one perfect job. People further along in their ministry journey rarely end up where they think they would. Put in a lot of days, weeks, months, and years of faithfulness and one day, you’ll wake up knowing this was the right path for you.

Trust in the Lord with all their heart. He will make your paths straight. There’s no such thing as the perfect job and so we can trust in the sovereignty of God. Don’t worry about tomorrow; be faithful today.

For questions or comments, email us at clp@watermark.org.

Resources Mentioned:

What Color Is My Parachute?

Should I? (Part 1)

Should I? (Part 2)