What we love about ministry

Posted May 08, 2014 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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By Christina Braudaway-Bauman


Cappuccino and a cookieAs we begin a blog series on Flourishing in ministry, I’m reminded of an invitation colleagues and I received to share with seminarians what we love about pastoral ministry. Together we came up with a list—not exhaustive to be sure—articulating what we see as the blessings this work. What would you add?

10. Cookies and coffee: Is there another job you can think of that sees theological worth in chatting with folks while eating cookies or meeting over a cup of coffee? Where listening, really listening, matters, not just for the sake of the person, but for the sake of the world?

9. Flexible schedule: Yes, there are evening meetings. Ministry is never done. During Holy Week, you can feel like you live at the church. That said, pastors have freedom in their schedules. Even though working on Sundays is a given, I don't know any two pastors who spend their time exactly the same way.

8. Variety: No two days are the same. Ministry is often called one of the last generalist professions; where else can one be an administrator, writer, counselor, preacher, community organizer, and teacher all at once?

7. Being with people of all ages: There is no other organization that is, or bears the potential to be, as intergenerational as a local church, offering opportunities to share life with folks who are five and 85 and to see the world and God from many different perspectives.

6. Collaboration: Where else do you get to be engaged in a project where it’s understood that we’re at our best when everyone’s gifts are nurtured and used, when the leadership is shared, when the church’s vision is a collective discernment of God’s vision?

5. Spiritual disciplines: Left on our own, we might not keep a rhythm of prayer and Bible study. But because this role charges us with a responsibility, because it quickens our spirits, because it can sometimes bring us to our knees, we are encouraged to attend to life-giving faith practices.

4. Watching people grow: What a gift it is to see the gospel transform lives from doubt to wonder, from rigid to open, from uncertain to confident. Sometimes, we get to play a part in that transformation.

3. Granted tender access: Not because we are necessarily any more capable than anyone else, but simply because we are trusted to come vested as God's and the church’s representative, we are invited into the most joyous, the most sorrowful and difficult, and the most grace-filled moments in people’s lives.

2. Attend to a holy experiment: There is no other place where we are invited to be so fully human while learning what it means to be Love in this world. Here we are called to be our full selves and our best selves. Here we make mistakes and practice forgiveness with one another. Here we serve as a witness to the world of how to stick it out with others even when it’s hard.

1. Serve as an instrument of the mysteries of God: We stand on the shoulders of prophets and apostles in every age. We learn from their witness and wisdom, even as we attend to the Spirit moving us into a future we can’t imagine yet. On behalf of the whole church, we announce God's blessing at birth, and at death we proclaim the promise of eternal life. In baptism, we help people claim their life's direction. At the table, we invite them to taste God's love. We study scripture, not as an ancient relic, but as a living text that continues to speak to us. We stand in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday at the point of intersection between our human longing and God's hope, preaching and praying that God will reveal to us all the word God has for us this day.

I’m grateful for the insights shared here by my beloved colleagues in ministry: Pam Emslie, Elissa Johnk, Liz Garrigan-Byerly, and Kathy Musser.

The image displayed in this post is "Blue Bottle Tuesday: Cappuccino and a cookie by Premshree Pillai, on Flickr" and is used in accordance with Creative Commons licensing.

Christina Braudaway-Bauman is Director of the Pastoral Excellence Network and Pastor at Large of Wellesley Congregational Church (The Village Church), Wellesley, MA.

The Pastoral Excellence Network at CTS seeks to connect and nurture groups for clergy at all stages of ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact wsordillo@cts.edu.

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