I came to this job excited about starting in this new ministry position. I showed up on a spiritual high and with high expectations of all the ways that God was going to move in this ministry, and things have been going great. But as these months have started to add up, I have been noticing that things aren’t quite right in my soul.
My initial excitement was great and spurred me to work hard and work with expectations. It pushed me into new relationships and these relationships have been great. I feel like I connect well with students and their parents seem to respect me. But there is still this void.
What I have been realizing is that although I appear to be in the middle of community, I actually have no community. I meet regularly with the youth workers in our area, but there seems to always be turnover and one or two new people show up every meeting, so we are always getting to know each other. I meet regularly students, but I am their pastor. I have good relationships with their parents, but it is within the context of their children. I have gotten to know many people at the church and even have developed some good friendships, but there always seems to be a barrier with them. I am on staff at this church and whether I like it or not, my relationship with people is affected by this fact.
My closest friend at the church has bottomed out in their marriage and all of the sudden I became not just their friend, but also their pastor. The dynamics of our friendship have now changed dramatically. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am truly honored to be welcomed into the darkest parts of people lives and humbled to play a part of the healing process. But this friendship is not community, it is work.
Ministry is a lonely profession. And I know I don’t need to tell you this. You have been a pastor longer than I have been alive. You have seen more tragedy and broken relationships than I could ever imagine. Of all people at our church, I would think that you would feel even more isolated from community than me. Our church is your heard of sheep. You carry emotional and spiritual responsibility for the well being of your flock. How do you do it alone?
I have only been doing this ministry thing for a short amount of time and I am already dying. That is why I am writing this letter.
As I have been reading though the gospels I have noticed again, for the first time how often Jesus left the crowds and his disciples to be alone. Or at least that is what I always thought. He went to spend time in prayer, spend time with the Father. But as I have been thinking about this more and more, he withdrew because the crowds and even the disciples were not his community. They were his ministry. His community is being a part of the Trinity, being united to the Father and the Spirit. It is the community of the Trinity where Jesus received all he needed to continue his ministry on earth. The Trinity at the core of its being is united in love and purpose.
Now not to take this illustration too far, but I think we as a staff could learn something from the Trinity. Our church is not our community, it is our ministry. But we are called to be in community. And what I am proposing is that our community needs to be with each other. We are both working at this church and we both want God’s best for this place, and we are both alone in this job. Bur for this to work, we need to be able to share vision for this church.
I confess that I have probably been more of a thorn in your side than a partner in ministry. It is so easy for me to get excited and be pushy about things I know little about, or to get frustrated when thing move slowly in the larger church, or acknowledge your style of worship is different than mine. I am sorry. I know that we have different ministry styles and probably even different visions for the direction of the church. But God has not called me to be the pastor of this church, he has called you to be. My job is to be your partner in ministry and bring the youth ministry alongside your vision for ministry in this place.
I am willing to submit to your authority and vision for the church. And at the same time I want to be your partner in ministry. But even more than that, I want us to be friends, to be community, to share our joys, our struggles, to complain about those frustrating people at church, to weep for those who have fallen away in their faith, and celebrate the return of the prodigal. I want to be a blessing to you and you to me.
I know this sounds strange, but I am willing to take a stab at it. I know for this to work, I need to be a blessing to you and not a person that you go and complain to your pastor buddies about. Here I am, take me under your wing, and let’s go, let’s do the great things God has for this place, and let’s do it together.
Your partner, fan, friend