Lately, I’ve been reminiscing about my experiences in the ministry. Forty years of full-time and part-time staff positions. What
a fun-filled ride! Frequently enjoying time with teenagers. Meeting colleagues with whom I shared a common “vibe.” Sometimes, the thrill of being dressed down by a pastor who fancied himself a benevolent despot. Experiencing the frustration of a fellow staff member who seemed to be totally disconnected from reality. Being stumped by an “Administrative Assistant.” (We used to call them secretaries). Irate parents who were convinced their sweeties were being treated unfairly. Older church members who thought it was “sweet” that I spent so much time playing with the kids in the church.
It’s been a barrel of laughs (tongue in cheek), but never boring, for sure!
What I’ve learned has resulted in a cautious cynicism, and at the same time, I’ve really come to appreciate those really fine people who have a purity of intention as they worship, study God’s word and fellowship with believers: The fellow ministers with whom I’ve found encouragement and a sympathetic ear when I was having a hard day. Teens in my ministry, who I encountered years later as young adults and enjoyed reconnecting with them as they described memories from long ago events that carried special meaning for them. Appreciation expressed at times by those who had no relationship to my area of responsibility. These are things that kept me going. In fact, I have a collection of appreciation cards and notes that I occasionally review as a pick-me-up when I’m feeling down.
Here are some things I’ve learned during my career as a minister . . . so far.
- If you’re not seen, you’re not working — For some reason, when a person is not seen there is an assumption that person is not working. Maybe ministers should video themselves doing “ministry things” and showing it at business meetings just to prove that work was done, even when not in view of everyone in the church!?
- Regardless of the extent of your planning, Murphy’s Laws will prevail — The more detailed your plans, the greater the probability that things will go wrong. Get used to it!
- The harder one tries, the less likely it is that appreciation will be expressed — It seems that appreciation is in inverse proportion to the effort invested. Don’t be deceived, because it isn’t spoken, or you don’t remember hearing it, those who participated recognize the sweat you put into the event. You’ll hear about the impact later, when you least expect it.
- The more the participants enjoy an event, the greater the chance that someone who is not involved will find a reason to be critical — I haven’t figured this one out at all, it just seems to happen.
- The smoother an event runs, the higher the probability that someone will offer a suggestion that would have made things even “better” — There are always people in any area of life that are more than happy to let others know that they know a better way. Taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that God loves these people, too, can do a world of good . . . for you. God uses these times to help you grow in faith and patience.
- When an event brings such exhaustion that you, the organizer, can hardly stand up, the greater the personal satisfaction regardless of the criticism — Physical exhaustion needs time to recoup. The satisfaction that you’ve done a good job lasts a long time.
- Reassuring yourself that your intentions are genuine will get you through really difficult circumstances when it’s done with God’s affirmations — Positive God-affirmations (e.g., Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:13-17) coupled with the sincere search for His direction lets you experience the confidence of doing what can be done to serve His people.
- If you’re a minister because God called you to His service, you can survive almost anything . . . and find satisfaction — There appears to be some in ministerial circles who are acting from self-serving motivations, others because their perception is that it doesn’t require much effort. Those who are acting on faith, surely the majority, will continue when the self-motivated would quit.
There are exceptions to any “rule,” and still, for the most part, these seem to happen too frequently. Sometimes the biggest lessons we can learn come in the most confusing, difficult ways. Be the person God wants and it deconfuses(?) and gives meaning to the service performed.
Leave a comment and let me know what your thoughts are about your experience in ministry. Thanks.