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What Responsibilities Should I Accept? 6 Helpful Discernment Questions

There’s a funny video of me as a kid on a serious mission to collect all the rocks on a trail in Oregon (not the Oregon Trail, mind you). I stuffed so many rocks in the pockets of my overalls that I eventually fell over. In my shock, I started crying, and my mom picked me up to comfort me.

In many ways, I’m still that same kid. Once I think that there’s something I ought to do, I do it with such intense focus that I surprise myself when I suddenly collapse, wondering, How’d that happen? Why couldn’t I pick up every rock? Surely, I should’ve been able to.

Although I chuckle at my stubborn determination and self-imposed sense of responsibility, I’m still learning that some rocks weren’t meant for me to carry. With so many people hurting right now, I want to be available to everyone. I want to care for every person in my small group and respond to every invitation on Instagram to do what’s right and good. I want to write A-plus papers and excel at my work. I want to suffer with those who suffer and hold their pain close to my heart.

But I’ll never be able to hold all that responsibility in my tiny little pockets. Jesus never asked me to.

Instead, I hear echoes of Matthew 11:28–30 as Jesus says, “Kelly, let’s pick out a few rocks together for you to hold onto, but let me be the one to hold you and this entire mountain.”

Questions to Talk through with God

So how do we practically discern which rocks to carry, when to say yes or no to opportunities for doing good? Jesus was frequently surrounded by hurting people, but he had only a few short years of ministry to activate systemic change. In order to focus and be effective, he regularly interacted with the Father to receive clarity of vision and direction (Mk 1:35–38).

We can follow Jesus’ example by discerning with God which responsibilities he’s asking us to hold and which ones to release. Here are some questions to aid you in that conversation:

1. What’s motivating my need to be responsible?

Before taking on an added responsibility, ask yourself what’s motivating you. Is it a need to feel in control, secure, loved, or worthy? Might there be something lurking underneath what appears to be honorable? Check those things and bring them to Jesus.

2. What is God up to, and how can I partner with him?

As young leaders, we often want to know God’s 10-year vision for our lives and how exactly we’ll become world changers. That’s a lot of pressure! Jesus is the one changing the world. Our job is to partner with him and trust that he will use us. Ask yourself, “What story has Jesus already been writing? Who’s the main character?”

3. Who might I be overlooking in my immediate proximity?

Jesus was aware of his long-term goals, but he also was present with those who were right in front of him (Mk 5:25–34). My church small group spent a night discerning how we could serve our city. It soon became clear that we didn’t need to go searching for service projects because a couple members of our small group were really suffering. Sometimes the people Jesus is calling us to serve are already in our midst.

4. How can I get some coaching to discern my vocational call?

In the last couple years, a coach has helped me succinctly articulate my vocational call: “My call is to teach, train, and coach so that young leaders thrive in their lives with Jesus.” That vision statement now serves as a filter for everything I do: Is it an opportunity to teach, train, and coach young leaders? Then I’ll say yes. If not, I need to think twice. If you’ve never had a coach help you discern your vocational call, I highly recommend it! (To find a certified coach, reach out to a campus minister near you to help you.)

5. What am I actually responsible for? What responsibilities am I assigning myself?

Regardless of whether you’re certain of your vocational call right now, seek clarity on your current job description or leadership expectations. As young leaders, so many of us burn out because we feel responsible for things no one is asking us to do. Be on the same page with your supervisor or campus minister about what is and is not your responsibility. It will save you a lot of pain. If you hate your job description or leadership expectations, are their opportunities to change it? Obviously, that’s not always possible, but it’s worth asking the question.

6. Who can partner with me? Who else can do this?

Before you commit to an invitation to serve, pause to ask, “Would someone else be better at this? Who can share the load with me?” As you partner with Jesus, you’re partnering with the whole body of Christ! Remember that you aren’t alone.

I still struggle with carrying too many rocks. But when I fall, Jesus comes to comfort me. He reminds me that I’m going to be okay, that my determination won’t save me. I can trust him when he says it’s okay to say no.

What rocks have you picked up in this season? Which of them has Jesus asked you to carry, and which have you picked up by your own determination? Of the questions above, which can help you discern which rocks to pick up or put down in the future? What else has been helpful to you in your discernment?

Adapted from kellyaalseth.com/2020/10/19/too-much-to-carry and kellyaalseth.com/2020/11/10/5-discernment-questions-for-responsible-people/

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