10 Reasons I Love the Ministery

Recently I have seen lists of ten reasons why people are quitting the ministry.  (Here and Here) As I read these lists I can understand some of them.  I can relate because I have been there personally too.  There are others I don’t understand because I have not had that personal experience.  Now I know there are many clergy out there that are ready to call it quits, to lay down their stoles and walk away.  My prayers are with you.
I have struggled in my years in ministry but I constantly have to remind myself why I also love ministry.  Here are my top ten reasons why ministry is a great career/calling/life!
1.       Intimate Moments in Life:  As clergy you are invited into the rare moments of life many don’t see.  You are called when people are struggling or when tragedy strikes.  You are invited to share in good times, celebrations, anniversaries, and new births too.  No other person, besides friends and family, are invited into those moments in people’s life.  I see this as something special and I’m honored every time I am invited.  It is in these precious moments where we can witness God at work in these people’s lives and our presence calls attention to it.
2.       Vessel of God: As clergy we are vessels God uses to teach, reach, minister, and love his children.  We are broken.  We are imperfect.  We are sinful.  Yet, God uses us anyway.  That is simply amazing and humbling. 
3.       Baptizing: Every time I read the Baptismal Liturgy I am reminded about the grace that God bestows on us and the promise he gives each one of us.  Whether it is an infant or an adult God is there in that water and his grace is real in that person’s life.  I am in awe that the water that represents this gift gets to run through my fingers.
4.       Communion: The most intimate moment in my relationship with my congregation is when I hand each one of them a piece of bread and say, “The body of Christ broken for you.”  THE MOST INTIMATE and God filled moment is found there in that sacrament.
5.       Leading Worship: When we think about other events we attend during our week, there is nothing like worship.  To join together in a community, sing together (where do you do that ever?), pray for each other and together, hear the Word of God read and proclaimed, and offer ourselves in service to God.  The fact that I get a chance to lead a group of people through that every week is incredible and I walk away blessed each week (even during those low attended, crappy sermon, and draining services that occur).
6.       Creativity:  Each week I get the chance to be creative in my sermon, in my teachings, in my children’s time and in my communications.  Each week I can be allowed to think about God’s Word in a way that is different from the last.  There is joy in that.  There is an everlasting and endless source of possibilities.  How great is it to have a job/career that allows you to do that week in and week out.
7.       Read & Write & Think: To keep on top of my profession I am asked to read and push my boundaries and comfort zones.  I am asked to keep pushing myself in order to be able to push my congregation into the place God is calling them.  I do so by reading, writing and thinking.  For my introverted self, this is a joy and a delight. 
8.       People:  Yes, church people can be draining, at times horribly insensitive, rude, cruel, and for lack of a better phrase, a pain in the ass.  Yes, I understand that and have experienced it from time to time.  But people also can be loving, accepting, understanding, caring, compassionate, fun and exciting to be around.  For every church person that is a pain there are five to ten more that are wonderful to have around.  May we look at the five to ten more than the one.
9.       Love:  I am called to love people.  I am not called to judge, to shun, or to banish people.  I am called to love them which leads them to a place and a sense of belonging, acceptance and peace.  It is there that lives can be changed, transformed, and recreated.  I am called to love.  I love that.
10.   God:  God is ever present in my everyday life.  I get the joy of seeing that through all the activities I do.  In the bulletin making, in the visiting, in the worshiping, in the praying, in the reading, in the loving, in the people, in the creativity, and in the everyday.  I am not in ministry because I want to be but because I am called to be.  My ministry is not reliant on me and my abilities.  I am simply asked by God to do my best with what I have and who I am and God will take care of the rest.  I love that covenant.

In all the negative aspects of ministry that can draw attention and headlines.  May we always remember the wonderful and constant reminders of why ministry is an awesome job to have.  May we always remember the God who calls us is the God who surrounds us daily.  This God invites us to join Him in his loving the world through His Son Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit.  It is a magnificent place to be.

Moving…Top Ten Ideas for Starting Well

It is that weird time in a moving pastor’s life when you have to think about two lives at once.  You have to think about the saying goodbyes to your present congregation but then in the same instance you are thinking and wondering about the hellos in the next appointment.  It is a mind numbing experience and is stressful to say the least.

This year I participated in our conference “Moving Pastor’s Seminar.”  Five years ago this did not exist and I found it to be very helpful and gave guidance on how to navigate through these waters.  One thing I enjoyed the most was Janice Virtue’s Top Ten Ideas for Starting Well.  I thought it may be helpful to share them.  The commentary is my take-away from her talk but the list is hers.

  1. You’re Fired – relinquish all control of your past appointment, that is the job of their new minister, NOT YOURS.  Think of yourself as fired from that congregation.
  2. Leave Your Baggage Behind – this does not mean leave cats, children or unwanted clothes in the parsonage, but leave the emotional, personal, and troubling baggage at the last church.  Start anew, start refreshed, this is a great time to reinvent yourself.
  3. Plan to Learn – don’t go in thinking you know everything, learn from your new congregation and grow deeper into who God has called you to be.
  4. Show UP! – be engaged in the new congregation.  Dive in to the community and Congregational life.
  5. When the going Gets Rough, Turn to Wonder – being knew you don’t need to know all the answers right off, plus they don’t know you well enough to be truly make anything personal.  When things get rough, ask questions of wonder.  I wonder why that person is so vocal and mean spirited during meetings?  I wonder why the congregation always has to get Mrs. Smith’s thoughts before they make a decision?  Turn to wonder.
  6. Don’t Keep Them Guessing – ministry is not a magic show, reveal who you are and what your gifts and graces are. 
  7. Know the Magic Words and Use Them – still not a magic show but three little words can go far in helping to build trust and understanding between a new pastor and congregation.  Those words are…wait for it…help me understand.  Those words give the people a chance to share their stories, their opinions, and their take on the life of the church.  Plus, this means you as the pastor have to listen instead of talk.
  8. All Ministry is Interim – Janice talked about the ideas of “Leave no Trace: and “Look at what we’ve done.”  Ministry is not about us, the pastor.  It is about the Kingdom of God, the Body of Christ.  Ministry is not about me as an individual.  Start off like you are always ready to leave and the church could continue on its path without you.  The church should not revolve or rely on the pastor, that’s Jesus’ job and you aren’t Jesus.
  9. You Hold the Hope of Many – many people look to the pastoral transition as a new start for the church, or a new chapter.  With that comes hopes of the future and what is possible through God’s grace and calling in their lives.  Don’t squash that, but capitalize on it.  Realize you hold the hope of the future of the church in your hands, that is power, that is responsibility, that is a great honor.
  10. For God’s Sake – remember what ministry is for.  Ministry is to help the people of God build up the Kingdom of God.  It is for God’s sake we do what we do.  Remove your ego, remove your needs for glory and get out of the way so God can work through you and your congregation.

Top 10 Reasons Why Burning the Quran is a Horrible Decision

10: It is the sacred writing of the Islamic religion. Whether you believe in what the holy book says or not, it doesn’t matter. It should be treated with the respect and the honor that those who believe in it have for it.

9: This will solve nothing. Burning their holy book will do nothing to quiet their distaste for us (yes your actions will be including me since you and I call ourselves Christian) and only provokes more retaliation.

8: The armed Christian conservative group, “Right Winged Extreme”, who were going to send you 500-2000 armed members to provide security, pulled out of their commitment because they think what you are doing is un-Christian. ‘Here’s your sign…’ (HT: Hacking Christianity)

7: Burning the Quran will only show ignorance.

6: Doing this will only create more of “us” verses “them” all over the world, yes ALL OVER THE WORLD! Don’t you remember what happened in Denmark?

5: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass to change the world forever, he wasn’t being an ass. Try to be more like Jesus.

4: Matthew 7:12

3: Jesus said pray for our enemies.

2: 9/11 was a horrible day when thousands of people died. Christians, Atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and countless others all died at the hand of evil men. Maybe a better way of remembering them is to gather and pray and worship the loving and forgiving God who saves us all from the evil in this world.

1: You are upset because of select number of radical extremist of a peaceful religion are doing something in the name of their god to hurt others in other places of the world. Well guess what all the rest of us Christians are thinking about you!