Personal Information Form Narrative Responses
Presbyterian Church USA PIF ID#: 100016404.3
Describe a moment in your recent ministry that you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.
The PCUSA is standing at the threshold between a church model (the “mainline” church of the 50s/60s) that is losing its effectiveness to spread God’s Love and a new model the Church is still struggling to define.
This shift is most clear in the multitude of congregations struggling with the costs of a large building and a full time professional pastor --defining elements of the mainline model. Stressed budgets limit congregations’ ability to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
My pastoral response has been to engage in leadership development and visioning that encourage boldness in a commitment to share God’s Love with the world. In particular, I have enjoyed working with members to empower and equip them for ministry; I have shifted the role of the pastor from being a director of ministry to being an equipper of ministers.
The early successes of these efforts may be small, but they are very important. Recently some members came together to create a program for the church's youth that will prepare them for entry into the work force by posting volunteer job descriptions and requiring the youth to interview for them. It is a small step, but it is a huge step, as the entire program emerged though members living into their call to be ministers able to share God’s love through the gifts and skills. This is the just the first of many small ministries, but I count is as a success and a moment of true fulfillment.
Describe the ministry setting to which you believe God is calling you.
I am feeling called to a setting rooted in relationships: that seeks to develop healthy relationships modeled on Christ’s relationship with his disciples and the world, where all (pastor included) are willing to be vulnerable and seek spiritual growth.
I am feeling called to a setting that also seeks to deepen its relationship with God; to better understand the immense love of God; to let that relationship with God reflect on every relationships a person engages in.
I am feeling called to a setting where a congregation is seeking a deeper relationship with its neighborhood, learning to serve and know and be present to all the people that surround that congregation—not just the people that are easy to know, but the people that seek to been known.
I am feeling called to a setting where faith is understood as practice—something to constantly work on and struggle with, understanding that perfection in faith is not an endpoint, but rather a state of wholeness, of constant growth acknowledging weakness as well as strength.
What areas of growth have you identified in yourself?
First it was simplifying the messages of my sermons, but eventually I realized the whole role of pastor can be simplified. The job of a pastor has become more and more complicated over the last 30-40 years, as pastors have been asked to become experts in things like executive leadership and business development.
Since ministry is technically a second career for me, I started my first call with some pride knowing that I already had experience with some of these newer pastoral skillsets. Yet as I spend more time in the pulpit, I appreciate that being a pastor is something different altogether. I have realized that although I have some knowledge in these areas, there are members in the congregation that have greater expertise than I do. I realized that the truly unique gifts a pastor brings to a congregation have to do with theology and pastoral care. Additionally, by taking on some of the more executive style tasks, I was limiting the congregation from fully using their unique gifts.
Therefore, I have really focused on being the theologian in the room as opposed to an executive. This doesn’t mean I have abandoned what I learned in the non-profit world, but the key is balance. I noticed congregational members better utilizing their God-given gifts and in the process become more connected to the ministry of the church. I still have a long way to go, but lifelong growth is something I love about ministry.
Describe a time when you have led change.
Just before accepting my first call, I had a good deal of success turning around a struggling tool library within a few months. Through clear vision, persistence and an organizational structure that gave me power to change things like staff and policies it was a moment of considerable change. I have learned, however, that change in the church is something completely different.
There are times when churches do need to change things like their organizational structure or a manual of operations, but the primary mission of a church does not change. Churches have a much different relationship to change than any other organization because the primary mission of churches is to be places of transformation, offering the Love of God as conduits of the Holy Spirit. Churches facilitate the the transformation of individuals, communities and even the world.
Churches, in the ‘reformed and always being reformed’ ethos, are not changed by pastors or congregants, but by the Holy Spirit. Pastors aid this change by preparing the way for the future and by fine tuning the congregation to the subtle whispers of the Holy Spirit, helping the congregation effectively become the Hands and Feet of Christ in the world.
Yet none of this can happen without the building of trust between not only pastor and congregation, but amongst members of the congregation as well, which takes time and persistence and patience.