Staying power

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In the comments from the last post, Ryan wanted to know the reason why pastors stay in the ministry. I began to write them all down in the comment section, but it was going on forever.

Here are the reasons:

The people. You just fall in love with the people. Even the mean ones.

The sense that every once in a while, you help someone through a difficult time. A death, a sickness, a break-up.

When someone says, “That sermon seemed to be written for me.”

The teenagers. I love the teenagers. You don’t even know that you have any effect on them, until you announce that you’re leaving and their mom tells you that they cried for two days.

Someone writes about the church in the family Christmas letter.

You find flowers on your desk on Monday morning.

A college student introduces you to their parents at graduation, and the mom says, “Oh yes. I feel like I know you. My son talks about the church all the time.”

Someone tells you that he wants to attend seminary.

The couple you’ve been praying for tells you that they’re pregnant.

A little girl says, “I want your job.”

A woman finds her husband dead in the bed next to her, and calls you before she calls 9-1-1.

A person cries when you ask if he wants to pray before going into surgery.

Baptisms. Every time you hold that baby, and you lead the congregation in those promises…it’s just so moving. And at that moment, you realize that your congregation will never be the same again.

You overhear one of the children in your congregation explain the Trinity.

When someone learns to overcome her fear of public speaking with the support of a loving congregation.

When the soloist sucks, and people tell her she did a wonderful job. And you know that they’re not lying.

When the sanctuary is full on Easter. Maybe it sounds ego-driven… but when you’re the pastor of a small church, once a year it’s just really nice to see a full sanctuary.

When your tiny choir pulls off a really difficult piece. Beautifully. And you realize when the last note ends that you were holding your breath the whole time.

When someone who swore off church walks into the doors. And then they come back.

When you drive a bag of groceries out to a family, and when you arrive, you realize that you’re holding the contents of their entire family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

When you take a job and you find out that half the congregation swore that they’d NEVER hire a woman. And then when you leave, they hire another woman.

And even when you have to stand before a group of people who have just stabbed you in the back and preach to them. I don’t know…when you get through it, and there’s still some love left in your heart…you have a sense that you’ve just accomplished something big. It’s a real discipline.

I guess it’s just a place where these small miracles occur all the time.

What would you add?

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18 thoughts on “Staying power

  1. Not really another one to add, but something that those on the list point to.

    That feeling that you are exactly where God wants you to be. The moment might be joyful- Baptism in the sanctuary, or hearbreaking-Baptism in the NICU as the machines are turned off.

    Regardless, those moments when you know that you are where you should be on this planet, doing exactly what you should be doing on this planet, those moments are pretty amazing.

  2. When you realize that you are expendable. And I mean that in the best possible way. When you realize that other people could do the job you are doing, serve the church you are serving… but you are the one who *gets* to, at this moment in time. When you learn to have fun and not take yourself too seriously.

  3. I totally agree about the full sanctuary at Easter. For me that’s like grace…unexpected and undeserved, but a totally free gift from God.

    I would add:

    When your congregation pledges to love and to hold accountable someone who has messed up pretty bad and has been turned away by other churches.

    When someone who is not related to you in anyway says, “I love you,” and you know they mean it.

    When you get a simple thank you voice mail or email.

  4. -when a confirmation student writes “good job!” on her sermon notes.
    -when the church council asks “what does the pastor think?”
    -when the other church council never asks “what does the pastor think?”
    -when you find out that you won over someone who never believed that women should be pastors
    -when two teenager girls call you up to ask you to drive them to their school presentation because their mothers aren’t home from work yet
    -when you are stuck in a blizzard and have to spend 2 days in a parish members house
    -when you overhear a nursing home resident say loudly to a nurse (and proudly) “that’s my pastor!”

  5. Carol…I really enjoyed your list. It gave me goose bumps. Thank you for shepherding God’s people.

    Oh yeah…one more thing…I know it’s not as “cute” because I’m not a little girl, but I’ll say it anyway: I want your job. ; )

  6. Carol, thank you for this list. I really want to be a pastor and perhaps one day bless a young seminarian with wisdom, encouragement, and love even when I have not meet them.

    I am very blessed to read this post today.

    p.s. Brian is not too bad either.

  7. Well, for those of us serving in Specialized Ministry (the UCC’s term for “not in a church”), I would add:

    -Knowing God called me by name to be in this “secret prayer closet” with someone and hold their story as sacred.

    -Holding the baby without arms or legs and blessing her as a whole person before she died. Carrying her out of the NICU with her family trailing and wailing behind me.

    -Being a part of everyday epiphanies. Seeing the light of God go off in someone.

    -Being a prophet against violence and revenge.

    -Being a prophet about God’s eternal love even when no one else cares.

    -Being given little rememberences of those I cared for who died.

    -Seeing someone welcome me who was afraid the minister would judge them for being on the outs with God.

    Just a few, but you really have me thinking now!

  8. When a member passes on compliments (instead of complaints) she has heard about you, just because she knows sometimes you need to know you’re loved.

    When someone who had been hurt badly by the church tells you “you’re a large part of the reason I’m here.”

    When you get little notes from your kids thanking you
    for preaching.

    When you run into someone from church on the street and their face lights up when they see you.

  9. Pingback: Wednesday Roundup | the church geek

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