Monday, March 5, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: Joel Wilke

Camp Horizon Director, Joel Wilke and Fam.

During March, I will be interviewing four persons who entered into vocational ministry under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years.   

My prayer is that their stories will encourage you who are hearing the faint whispers of the Holy Spirit. And if you are currently in the tough trenches of ministerial work, know that The Call will sustain you--no matter what! You got this because God's got this! 💪✌❤

I want to thank Kelly Lindsley for naming this month's blog series. He is the husband of my favorite teacher, Catherine Lindsley. He is an amazing contemporary Christain artist, and his lyrics are nearly sacramental. (Can I say that?😆)

Camp Horizon Director, Joel Wilke, has served in this ministerial position for eight years. Joel is a rare breed of servant leader for he is both a dreamer and a doer. (Say what?!) I gleaned much from this interview and I hope you do as well, friend.

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions? 

No, I wouldn’t say it is weird.  You have to get used to working with people your parent’s age, but that is the case in lots of professions when you are in your 20’s.  However, I did quickly learn in this profession that people perceive you differently when you tell them you work in ministry. My first year on the job as a youth minister, I had a friend of my wife’s come over to talk about her marriage with us because she basically considered me to be a “pastor” or at least “close enough to God” that I would know stuff.  When people hear I’m in ministry, it can elicit all sorts of feelings about people’s history (good and bad) regarding the Church because I somehow represent the entire church!  Funny things people do around me: 1) Apologize for cussing 2) Hesitate to have alcohol around 3)Awkwardly look at me to pray before any meal gathering.

What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct? 

It’s a year-round gig!  Ministry never stops and sometimes people assume there are times of the year with not much going on, but in my experience, people working in ministry are always too busy.  Ministry is relational, and relationships are organic and take constant upkeep: funerals, weddings, hospital visits, people in crisis, people who need a listening ear...ministry plays a vital role in all of these settings, and they are not easily or consistently “penciled in” or added to schedules.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? What parts were most in line with your gifts/talents? 

I’ve always felt called to serve children and youth. I love being outdoors, and I love the variety of tasks surrounding camp life.  On any given day I might spend the morning working on financial reports and the afternoon testing out slip n slides for summer camp! Camp is a form of ministry that changed my life and strengthened my faith, and it motivates me to keep this ministry strong for others.

By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place? 

My role has not shifted much in the eight years I have been in my position.  The things that brought me to camp are still what I’m doing today.  However, this job has definitely matured me in profound ways.  I was always the funny risk-taker, but I quickly realized I had lives, jobs, and budgets at stake.  I still take risks, but they are calculated and well-planned with board member and conference approval, ha!  The nuts and bolts of running a nonprofit can sometimes overshadow the ministry components, and you have to find ways to keep a pulse on what brought you to the job in the first place and where the Spirit is moving.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I had a whole group of mentors that helped me with the various aspects of running a camp.  What made them great was their support and trust in me, even at a young age.   I knew that I could be honest with them, and they created a safe space for me to ask questions without feeling dumb. Many of these mentors came from my site council; I had amazing board members who were invested in the camp and wanted to see both the camp and me thrive.  Also, my entire Wilke family… :)

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now?  

It hasn’t changed much, I’ve always made it a priority to carve out time for rest and time with family.  The camp schedule changes a lot from week to week, so you have to be flexible to take your breaks in the middle of the week sometimes when you have a lot of groups coming on weekends and holidays.  Because I live on site, if I’m not careful I can go weeks without leaving camp and it starts to affect me, so I’ve learned I have to be intentional.  It doesn’t hurt that I have a beautiful disc golf course right outside my door!

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred?  

I have never considered quitting in the time I’ve been here.  However, times when I feel like I’ve reached my limit usually come after I have taken on too much.  At one point in time, we were trying to start new programming, trying to streamline office procedures, starting a capital campaign, working on major grounds/facilities improvements, and trying to attend several major conferences all at the same time.  I was running in too many directions and lost track of vision, clarity and purpose.  This is the moment when I have too many balls in the air.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling? 

Whenever I get overwhelmed or stressed, I try to keep in perspective that in the big scheme of things, all I am asked to do is to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8. I’m not in this alone.  This isn’t the first crisis, and it won’t be the last.

Life and the camp will keep going without me.  At the end of the day, I’m just one little ministry, on one little planet, in one crazy vast universe.  And while I know God can do BIG things through us, I also know that all he asks of us is daily righteousness.  The big picture humbles me and restores me.

What lesson(s) did you learn from the experience above? 

Keep the main thing, the main thing.  In ministry, there are so many different ways to do our work, and the temptation is to try them all.  I am continually refocusing on what is at the core of our ministry and letting go of everything else.

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Take some leadership, business and communications courses – in whatever field you choose, a strong ability to work with others, write, speak and review financial reports will serve you well! You can have all the theological training in the world, but if you can’t work and communicate with teams of people, ministry is going to be rough!

Find a couple of great mentors - it can help to have someone who knows your world well, and it also helps to have someone completely separate from your world who can hear things with an unbiased filter.  Both have their importance.

Get out there and try things – God often opens doors through our relationships.  Internships and volunteering are great ways to meet people who can help connect you to ministry settings you are passionate about.

To know more about Joel's work with the formative ministry of Camp Horizon in Ark City, Kansas, click here