The Most Powerful Tool In Ministry

I have found the greatest tool to use in ministry. It’s better than any blog, book, curriculum, podcast, website, or electronic device.

It’s so important that I literally cannot imagine my life without it. I sometimes wonder how others can live without this tool.

What is it?

When I graduated from college, I had 3 ministry job offers in 3 very different locations. All were in the field of youth ministry doing similar work. I was offered a position in Los Angeles, San Jose, and Hawaii.

As graduation was nearing, I had a decision to make. Where was I going to work and live?

I spent a couple weeks after graduation thinking through the decision I had to make. I made a list of pro’s and con’s for each position. I spoke with trusted mentors and advisors to get their feedback. I also took the decision to prayer to see what God had in store for me.

In the end, I decided to take the position in San Jose.

Actually, I guess it is more accurate to say that I discerned to take the position in San Jose.

The process I just described is all part of the discernment process.

Discernment is the most important tool I use in my ministry and life.

I once said to my spiritual director, “How do people make big decisions without discernment? I truly can’t imagine my life without it.”

Having been strongly influenced by the Jesuit spirituality, I learned about discernment and how to apply it in my own life when it comes to the decisions I have to make. For me, discernment consists of 4 very important elements. These are in no particular order:

  • Make a list of Pro’s and Con’s: I literally make a list of pro’s and con’s for each option in my discernment process. I believe that facts aid God in communicating the right path for me to take. Facts make things clearer for me and assist God in showing me the way.
  • Listen to Advisors: Discernment is not something that takes place in a vacuum. God uses the wisdom of mentors to communicate truth to me. The community of friends and family help make clear what God is communicating to me around a particular decision. Discernment must include talking to others that you trust to hear their wisdom.
  • Listening to God: Just as discernment takes place in the community, it also takes place in solitude and quiet. Removing myself from the distractions of everything around me allows God to communicate with me more clearly.
  • Live in the Decision: Pretend for 24 hours that you made a certain decision. How does that make you feel? Are you at peace and ease, or, are you feeling agitated, uncomfortable, and uneasy? Now, take the next 24 hours to pretend you made the other choice. Ask yourself the same questions. If a certain decision is of God, there should be a sense of peace and ease. If you are feeling otherwise, that needs to be taken into account and might possibly be the wrong decision to make. God speaks through my emotions and this has served to be a powerful aspect of the discernment process for me.

I consider each of these as an essential part of my prayer experience. Each of these aspects of discernment are prayer.

What’s next?

That leads me to some discernment I have going on right now in my life. This season in my life has brought tremendous change and transition. I have completed my 4-year term on a board of directors and have successfully graduated with my doctorate. It is this change that has opened my spirit up to what is next.

In my discernment process, I have determined to take a break during the 2013 summer months in my blogging efforts here at My goal during this summer is to spend a bit more time listening to God’s will to discern what God is leading me towards in terms of my online ministry. The outcome is unknown.

I ask for your prayers during this summer as I take a break in my blogging efforts. REAL Ministry will remain live during these months and I plan to share archived posts via social media.

Question: What does your discernment process look like?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.

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