c) The Practice of Ministry
3) Describe and evaluate your personal gifts for ministry. What would be your areas of strength and areas in which you need to be strengthened?
I have spent a lot of time examining myself and my gifts for ministry throughout school, candidacy, and the probationary period. Serving a congregation has tried, tested, and developed gifts in me in ways I had not expected. Some of my gifts do not seem to have as large a place in my ministry as I might have anticipated before I began pastoring. Other gifts that I saw as less strong have played a bigger role in my ministry. I still see areas in which I seek to develop my skills, and I see other areas where my perceived weaknesses have turned into strengths in my current setting.
Pastoral Care is an area of ministry where I continue to seek growth and strength. In part, I believe continued experience is the best source of strength – as I speak with couples preparing to marry, or counsel those who are grieving, I feel more confident in these roles. I am convinced that pastor care is a most important part of effective evangelism, and I have been focusing more of my time and attention on visitation, outreach, etc. this year. I continue to be amazed at how in need of and grateful for a listening ear or a gift of time shared people are. Knowing how precious a visit might be to someone inspires me to work to strengthen myself, despite the shyness that makes me struggle with pastoral care.
Following my in-parish interview in April this year, I’ve also realized that issues of time management and delegation of responsibilities are areas where I need to focus more attention. My congregation expressed a feeling that I don’t take enough vacation/personal time, and that I do not always delegate or share responsibility enough. They have been helping me change things! Our lives are so chaotic, and it is sometimes hard to step out of the race and slow down. Even as I write a first draft of this answer, on spiritual retreat, I feel half-panicked, disconnected from my laptop, from email. I am blessed that my congregation wants to help me take care of myself. I am also trying to share responsibilities, and to encourage my leaders to share their responsibilities on committees and projects. I need to practice what I preach to them, as something healthier for me and for the church.
I see worship leadership as a strength and give of mine. I enjoy preaching – I enjoy words and writing and the whole process of sermon preparation (most weeks). Worship is one of the places I am most visible, and I feel confident that I can be a communicator of the gospel, preaching in a way that is understood by people and that enables them to connect with God’s Word. Most recently, I have been challenging myself in our new Saturday evening worship, trying, for the first ‘real’ time, to preach without a manuscript. I have, so far, found this to be a rewarding, if nerve-wracking, challenge. I also have learned that my musical gifts are a great asset in ministry, even though I have been less personally appreciate of these gifts in the past. Being able to strongly and self-assuredly lead music at nursing homes, or small funerals, or Bible studies, or when no piano is available has proven repeatedly useful, and I’m thankful for the gift of music.
I continued to bring a passion for social justice ministries to my ministry. I am serving in my second quadrennium on the General Board of Church and Society, and I absolutely love my work there and the work of the agency as a whole. I find it so exciting to see United Methodists working for change, working for justice, working for those whose voice might not otherwise be heard. My particular passion is for environmental justice issues, especially issues of sustainable living. How do we live on this earth in a way that our marks on the earth are good ones, not harmful ones?
I continue to hold young people in a special place in my heart and in my ministry with the Conference Council on Youth Ministry. I am especially passionate about seeing young people in leadership roles in our church. My own call to ministry was something I struggled with from a very young age, and I want other youth to know they are not “too young” to think about how and where God is calling them.
Ecumenical and interfaith issues continue to be an interest for me as well. The events of the world today should leave us in no doubt of our need for dialogue and relationship building with people who are different from us.
Finally, I think a valuable gift I bring to the church is my willingness to learn and to try new things. I enjoy continuing education and take advantage of events when I am able. I’m also (mostly) not afraid to try something new in my congregation and have it not work out! I’ve had some of my visions at St. Paul’s turn into exciting ministries – others haven’t gone anywhere. Either way, I think the church must continue to be open to new avenues of sharing the gospel and being in ministry, and I want to put my gifts to use in this work.