From Pastor to Parent: Re-Defining Ministry

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Even though I know there aren’t any open positions nearby right now, I still check out the PCUSA CLC database and the current job descriptions. I start out with ones that are close, in an effort to be – ahem – realistic, and then I start dreaming a little and check out Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, New York City, and Colorado – places that are not even remote possibilities especially now. I do like thinking about getting the chance to learn how to surf or maybe teaching the babies how to snowboard as soon as they start to walk. Anyways, after awhile they all start to sound the same (even though I’m well aware that every church is different) and seem to blur together with the ones that were from my two calls. For instance, there are really specific pieces that are straightforward (ie. picking out curriculum with the Christian Education or Children’s Ministry committees) and ones that are very general (ie. “and other pastoral duties”).

But I realize now no matter how similar or common, I – both unintentionally and intentionally – would “tweak” the descriptions for myself and the way it would be as I actually lived it out with each particular community. Sometimes there was less of one responsibility and much more for another. In my last call, I had some potential duties with the nursery school, but only really barely had time for the monthly committee meetings (in retrospect I wish I had done more). Likewise, even though it wasn’t specifically required, I focused a lot of energy on combining mission projects with youth ministry by initiating the trips to the Dominican Republic through the Foundation for Peace (link to the right). It seems like a lot of my ministry ended up being the manifestation of what got me the most excited and felt the most “me.” It might sound a little narcissistic, but I think for me to really thrive and flourish in ministry, I had to 1) be at the right place and 2) be at a place where I would have the space to explore and discover my passions. I am grateful that both Flanders and especially College Hill were just such churches.

Now that I am in a spot where I don’t have a specific congregation, I truly have to be creative and intentional. Lots of people have told me I am ministering to my family now, especially to the babies, and that’s really important. But I also cling to youth-ministry guru Kenda Dean’s definition (from The Godbearing Life written with Richard Foster), too:

Ministry is a holy way of living towards one another…

I can still pursue and cultivate the passions I discovered during my time in the churches, it will just look different…Maybe not as intense (a Saturday morning volunteering at a soup-kitchen vs. a week-long local mission projects with middle-schoolers). But, my ministry is not only about loving and caring for others as best as I know how in various scenarios, it’s also receiving that from others, too…to be deliberate in my effort to make ministry be a mutual experience.

It’s a hard, but good season of re-defining and re-inventing…

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