Friday, November 30, 2007
"What to Expect?" - some answers.
Courtesy of Tony over at don't call me veronica, I found this interesting post:
What to Expect?
Intrigued by his questions, I thought I'd make a post of it and see what came out.
The questions I have for you seasoned and experienced (or fresh out of the box)church workers are:
what am I getting myself into?
what makes ministry worth it?
should I EXPECT junk or take it as it comes?
I've been a church worker for nine years, seven 1/2 as a [paid] part-time employee. There's are some things in the inner workings of the church I'm not privy to because I'm only a part-timer, but I know more than many because of my working relationship with the senior pastor. I'm sure he says things to me he wouldn't say to others, because he trusts me - and the same goes for me trusting him. I'm lucky to have the relationship with him I do. So many church workers don't and I realize what a huge blessing that is.
So, on with the questions.
What are you getting yourself into?
Something entirely inexplainable. It's messy, it's wonderful, it's frustrating and it's rewarding. You are getting yourself into a lifestyle, not a job. It's an experience that opens old wounds and creates new ones. Being in ministry means being willing and able to constantly self-evaluate and to admit when you're wrong (and be prepared for the several people who will tell you that you're wrong, even if you're right.) It's a life that requires a strange disconnect with the people you minister to, and that also requires a deep, intimate connection with them you won't find anywhere else.* It's a paradox in more ways than one.
What makes ministry worth it?
1.) Knowing you are answering a call. A life of ministry in the church (or the mission field) is a life you should not enter into lightly. You must be called... or you will burn out and burn out fast. In fact, you'll probably still burn out. But being sure of your call is what makes you push past that. (At least it has been for me.) I've been the worship director at my church for all those years and I have not had one break from it. There were times I felt like quiting, but because I was called, God gave me the strength I needed to NOT quit. I know it would be much easier to quit, but answering his call is more important to me. I knew I was called to a certain church for a specific reason. I've never doubted the call (only my ability) and when the going gets rough it can end up being the only thing you have to fall back upon.
2.) The second reason that makes ministry worth it is when it works... especially when you get to see the fruit of that labor. Sometimes it's the smallest thing you do that makes a huge impact. And sometimes the biggest thing goes completely unnoticed. But when that 60 year old congregation member who was completely against change comes up to you after you lead a contemporary worship song and they say, "I saw my sin in a new way today because of that song. I saw God in a new way. Thank you for helping facilitate that." - what can be said? It's so humbling that something as simple as listening to God's nudge on what songs to lead that week can actually help God change a heart. I really don't think there is anything more rewarding.
Expect junk. You'll get it. The junk that comes with ministry is the junk you'd get just about anywhere else. What is all comes down to is our sinful nature and the journey to overcome it. It's just harder to take in a ministry setting over a regular job because you might think that being a Christ-follower means we're all "above" that junk, but we're not. But wading through that junk, whether it's cleaning up your own and helping someone else clean up, is a really astounding experience.
We are called be his hands and his feet. I often think of Rainer Maria Rilke's words in Letters to a Young Poet when it comes to this vocation:
"There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you to write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of the night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple I must, then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity. Your life, in even the most mundane and least significant hour, must be a sign, a testimony to this urge."
I've barely skimmed the surface of my feelings and experiences about ministry. But this is not a bad start, I guess.
...please forgive any incoherent sentences or typos. It is late and I do not know why I'm still awake...
[*I might need to explain further. If so, let me know and I will post on this topic. It's not an easy one, but one I wish someone had told me when I first started.]