The “Friday Five” over at Rev. Gal Blog Pals today is to share the top 5 perks/gifts of ministry. “Perks” and “gifts” seem like quite distinct categories.
The “perks” would be my flexible schedule, my travel and continuing ed allowance, my housing tax break, the ability to do a lot of my work from home, and the fact that they let me paint my office orange. I do appreciate the perks.
But I have deep gratitude for the gifts of ministry.
1) The opportunity to proclaim blessing to people on a regular basis
“May the Peace of Christ be with you.” “May the blessing of the Holy One–Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer–be with you now and forever more.” “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”
I say these words and people hear them. They do more than hear them, they receive them. Wow.
(I wrote about a particularly powerful experience of blessing in a recent blog entry.)
2) Intimate access to people’s lives
In some ways, people today tend to share too much about themselves–TMI, as they say. I cringe when I read intimate details of family fights, romantic break-ups, or workplace conflict on Facebook. Sometimes it seems that people will share anything with anybody.
But as a pastor I know that is not true. People may share a lot, but they share selectively. And I get to hear the other stuff. The real story, the heartbreak, the ambivalence–all the stuff that will never make it into a Facebook status or Twitter update.
I especially appreciate the opportunity to hear about people’s spiritual lives: how they talk to God, how they listen for God, what God is or is not saying to them. Invitations into this sacred personal space are certainly one of the gifts of being a pastor.
I have a lot of great ideas that do not work. There are things the church needs that I cannot provide. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. Sometimes I say the right things but don’t live out the words. Sometimes I make what I think is a profound point in a sermon and people say to me, “I’m so glad you said X. That’s just what I needed to hear.” Only I didn’t say X at all.
I’m sure this gift of humility is not exclusive to pastors, but my role in leading the church makes me especially aware of my many inadequacies; my need for the body of Christ; my need for the grace of God and the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.
4) Colleagues who are good for my spirit
I love pastors. And, more than that, I really like pastors. And because I am one of them I get to hang out with them at meetings, have lunch with them, consult with them, and serve with them.
I know many people deal with colleagues who treat them as adversaries, who have radically different value systems than they do, who diminish their spirits in small and large ways. What a gift to be surrounded by colleagues who are loving and supportive; people who are walking with me on the same difficult, abundant, path of Jesus.
5) Worshipful work
Yes, everyone can do this. But it is so much easier when your work involves planning worship, writing sermons, praying with and for people you love. There certainly are times I forget about the presence of God in the midst of my To-Do lists. But even for someone as easily distracted as I am, it’s hard to ignore God for too long with so many Bibles laying around the office and the hymns from last Sunday stuck in your head.