I have made it to the five year mark in ministry. After one and two years I wrote reflections they can be found here and here. I have not taken time to write after three and four years, but I really wanted to have something profound to say after five years, so I write in hopes that something profound will come. These five years have been full of valuable and hard lessons. Reading my reflections after one and two years I realize that many of the lessons I’m learning are ongoing, and even though I list them as lessons learned, I’m still trying to grasp them.
People Love their Pastor. The happiest lesson I’ve encountered is that people love their pastor. Alyssa and I remember being shocked at the intimate moments people would invite us into early in our lives here in Connell. It’s a shame that some of those things that filled us with a sense of awe at the role of pastor have become mundane. Still I am brought to tears to consider the kindness and generosity that has been shown to us. The love of the people in our congregation is a gift from God.
I’m Inadequate. The hardest lesson I’m learning is that I am inadequate for the role that I now fill. I have been learning this and fighting it since day one. My few years of experience have served to solidify the fact that nobody is adequate. In some ways I take heart that I’m not alone in my inadequacy. I have a feeling that I will be fighting to become adequate my entire career in ministry. I think more years of experience will bring greater competence, but will never make me completely adequate.
Self-Care is Serious. Related to my inadequacy is my need to make sure I remain as useful as possible by staying physically and mentally healthy. After one year I mentioned enjoying life a lot more after starting to exercise regularly. I have continued to learn what I need to do to take care of myself including visiting regularly with an older, wiser pastor; exercising and recreating enough; and taking time to enjoy life. Most of all I have learned the importance of being me apart from my role as pastor. If I don’t separate my identity from my ministry, I become very unhealthy. Good self-care has been the key to me remembering who I am apart from my job.
Point to Jesus. The role of pastor gets people confused. Pastors often get confused about their identity, we sometimes think we’re Jesus, instead of servants of Jesus. Sometimes people in the pews think that their relationship with Jesus will affect their relationship with pastor. I’ve been learning the best thing I can do to keep myself healthy is to point myself to Jesus. When I look at Jesus, I remember that I’m not Jesus. In preaching, pastoral care, and leadership, the best thing I can do is point to Jesus. Hopefully that will help others remember that I’m not Jesus, and I’m not trying to usurp Jesus’ place in the church.
That’s it, four lessons is enough. I’m still working on all of these, just when I think I have it down I am reminded that I’ve got so far to go. Perhaps in my sixth year I’ll find the secret key to perfect ministry. I will be keeping it to myself if I do.