Ministry can be very busy – experiences in ministry, pt.3

Before I entered ministry, I thought pastors only showed up on Sunday mornings and stayed at home the rest of the week doing not-much-but-taking-it-easy.  Once I entered the “easy life” of ministry, I realized that this unreal view of a minister’s life was a common misperception. The reality is that it can also be one of the busiest and stressful jobs–depending on how one keeps life in balance.

For the past three weeks, I feel like I’ve gotten through a mountain pile of work that I thought I’d never get through.  When I look back, I wonder how in the world I managed to do it.

At times, I found myself just squeeking by deadlines or going past deadlines.  When you have to preach a sermon on Sunday morning, the deadline  is usually pretty rigid–you know, like 9:00 AM Sunday morning.  If it’s not finished, well, you don’t have a choice, you have to preach what you’ve prepared.

This week, some of the things I had on my plate were canceled so I actually have a little of breathing room so this may explain my less frequent blogging.  I know I haven’t been on the blogosphere as often so I really miss it.

I’ve taken on some other responsibilities on top of my usual duties.  Besides preaching and leading the worship services on Sundays plus weekly or monthly weekday services at the local hospital/health care center/seniors’ home, a typical pastor also might have some, most, or even all the duties below, like:

  1. preparing for, and leading bible studies / small groups / youth group;
  2. teaching Sunday school; adult Christian education hour; confirmation/catechism
  3. conducting weddings, funerals and baptisms, including preparation classes for such, plus membership classes;
  4. meeting with the local clergy-ministerial group or other pastors to share, learn and fellowship;
  5. community involvement (e.g., volunteering in special-interest groups, social work, justice work,  etc.);
  6. reading books on theology, practical ministry, and/or spiritual formation;
  7. taking continuing education courses or advanced formal academic studies;
  8. pastoral care and counseling;
  9. hospital and home visitation;
  10. attending board-council/committee/staff meetings;
  11. attending annual conventions, conferences, and seminars (mandatory and optional);
  12. writing and submitting reports to your district, synod, conference, denominational office, bishop, superintendent, or congregation;
  13. volunteering on various denominational committees;
  14. plus other things I might have forgotten to mention. (Did I forget anything else?)

If your pastor is not doing all of these things, then something is wrong…Not!.  Some weeks, a pastor might be so swamped with work that one cannot attend to all of these so they have to get pushed into the next week(s) or month(s).  If you have felt that your pastor has not been paying as much attention to you recently or in the past, take a look at this list above and think about what your pastor might have been up to this past week.  Give your minister the benefit of the doubt. S/he might actually be busy doing some of these things above.  Cut your pastor some slack.  A pastor is also a real person who also has family duties/responsibilities to spouse and children.  Moreover, a healthy pastor/clergyperson must also have a life so one needs to make time to exercise regularly, eat right, and have a real social life too.  If not, I would question if your pastor is living a healthy and balanced life and be able to endure the long-haul.

Experiences in ministry, part 2

This post is a continuation from a previous post in which I want to share my experiences in ministry. As a pastor in my church, I may have this persona of being close with God like as if God and I were tight. The truth is that I am also in search of a greater understanding of God myself, along with many others.

I confess that at times, I may come across as appearing like I know something deeper about God, but I actually feel pressured to at times—just because I’m a pastor, and some, or many of my parishioners expect that from their pastor. But with those who don’t have that expectation, I actually feel a sense of freedom to not have to appear like I know everything about God.  I sometimes tell them that I just don`t know.  Don`t worry, this is something I willingly and openly share with the people in my congregations.

Sure we read lots of theological-biblical books, and try to read lots of scripture, perhaps more than most people, but that doesn’t make us closer to God than a regular “Joe or Jane Christian”. As pastors, we put on this professional image and become conveyors of truth, at least, what we think we know to be true. I don’t want to portray myself a spiritual authority figure who claims to know all truth. Most people today would not buy it. And neither do I. As Christian leaders in the post-Christian era, we need to be more real to ourselves and to other people. We need to stay real.

And as a pastor, I hope and pray that our generations of young and older people, may begin to find some truth for themselves–at least a proportion of some things in the Christian faith. If I may be more humble, perhaps we have less truth that what we like to claim to have. I believe there is no church, no denominations, no religion, and no educated clergy person or theologian even with 2 or 3 doctorate degrees can even claim to have the full or nearly full truth about God. We are all merely in search of the truth because we desire to know who God is, and who God is in us as a person, or people, and what the will of God is for our lives. And even if I don’t have all the complete truth, which I would never claim to have as a clergy person, I have trust and with full confidence that God would one day reveal all truth to all of us when we meet the LORD God in heaven.

To be continued in future posts…

Read: Experiences in ministry, part 1

I like this recent one from ASBO Jesus.

Experiences in ministry, part 1

I am now about one year into my ministry as a pastor. I’d like to share with my readers my some reflections of experience in ministry. This will be my first post on this topic and I hope it will inform, bless and enlighten some readers.  Some of you have been reading this blog since I was still in seminary and have found that I’ve been posting less frequently now.  Time is more precious now.  For those who think that pastors only show up in the pulpit on Sunday mornings and get paid a regular salary for one day’s work, I’ll have to enlighten you.

So far, pastoral ministry has been very enjoyable—enjoyable in the sense that it doesn’t really seem like work in the negative sense.  However, I have to say that it is still hard work (i.e., time, sweat, and tears, that is). I got into ministry because I loved speaking about the good news of Jesus Christ to bring encouragement to people.  Now that I am in ministry, the time I have to do ministry is limited.

Pastoral ministry requires spending time studying and reading for sermon preparation and then actually preparing and crafting the sermons; visitation with parishioners and getting to know them; teaching young people the basics about the Christian faith (confirmation); and counseling people who are preparing for baptism and other Christian rituals.

Just before completing my degree, I had completed a one-year paid internship.  A one-year internship may seem long in comparison to some seminaries but it’s valuable.  When I got my first full-time call, I felt like I was up and running.  Upon completing my Master of Divinity degree in seminary, I served in a part-time temporary as Pastoral Assistant at my home congregation of Zion Ev. Lutheran Church for about 6 months (of which I am very grateful for because there was no lag time in waiting for my first call (or charge)).  Then I received my first permanent full-time call  in the “Ministry of Word and Sacrament” (or fancy terminology for “ordained pastor”), which is where I am now.

If anyone reading this is still in seminary and is wondering if you feel you know enough after earning your degree from seminary?  After I started full-time pastoral ministry, I still felt like I didn’t know enough. Seminary only gets you started in the learning process of doing ministry.  One must continue learning, and often for the less experienced, it’s on the fly. There’s a saying I learned when I was just getting started from my superiors in the business world: “Fake it till you make it.”  That’s also true in the work of pastoral ministry (and I say that with much embarrassment because pastors are supposed to be real and genuine in what we do…and we do).  As pastors, we shouldn’t be fake; but we do need to be honest and real to our parishioners.  Real ministry requires of us to be genuine.

There are many pastors who don’t get to read much about theology, biblical theology, and pastoral ministry after getting bogged down in the daily nitty-gritty of pastoral ministry.  I’m glad I keep reading on my own time, and blogging here at New Epistles (though less often now).  I know how hard it is to find time to do this.  One has to make time to read and learn…so I try my best.

To be continued in future posts…

Read: Experiences in ministry, part 2