Ministry is a unique job/career. You are on small staffs, and one of your key coworkers is also your boss/supervisor. The people you serve are in essence also your employers because their contributions is what allows you to have a job and get a paycheck. Yet, ultimately, you are working for God.
So ministry is customer service, office administration, communicator, spiritual guide, friend, event coordinator, teacher, counselor, researcher, and I’m sure there is more that I am missing in there. Ministry is also unique in that the place you work is also the place you worship. The place that you, and maybe your family, look for those same things the people in the pews are looking for. Yet, it’s different for you.
When you get into the day-to-day routines, it can be difficult to find the creative juices it takes to keep ministry fresh and vibrant. When things happen in your personal life, it can be hard to keep going in ministry. When you have a difficult meeting, one-on-one, or small group, it can be hard to just move on. When you encounter new situations within ministry, it can feel overwhelming. So where do you go? What do you do?
For me, I am so thankful to have a group of other youth workers who have been doing ministry much longer than me that I can surround myself with. I know that each person I connect with in ministry also has a group that surrounds them. (When you are connected to more people, the amount of knowledge that you have access to greatly increases) When we spend time together, we build the relationships that can help us sustain in ministry – when we feel pulled in multiple directions, when we are worried about our families and relationships, when we try to figure out this whole work-life balance, when we are discerning changes, when we wonder about God’s call on our lives, etc.
And today was a great day of networking. There were people from all over the synod sitting around the table together. Some people I have been lucky enough to have known for years, and some I had never met before. We chatted about the things going on in our lives – we rejoiced with each others highs and we prayed over each others lows. We shared stories of what each of us is doing in our contexts, gave ideas for ways to freshen up ministry and others a way to make changes. We got updated information on events happening around the synod and the ELCA. We shared some of the continuing education pieces we have all experienced recently – with a wide range from a new bible study to suicide hotline training to family & cross+generational trainings to building and keeping boundaries and lots in between. We broke bread together when we had lunch, and we got to know each other a little bit better.
My favorite thing about networking, especially in our Lutheran circles, is that I am consistently reminded of that Disney song, “It’s a Small World”. I find that there are common connections I never could have dreamed of. For instance today, we started talking about church camps that we all grew up at. As I shared about the camp I grew up going to in Crystal Falls, MI, someone at the table spoke up. It took him a second or two, but then he asked, is that Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp where Pastor Cy served? After a moment to recover from shock, I confirmed that indeed that is where I went to camp and Pastor Cy was the camp director there through most of my elementary years. God is so good! With God moving pieces around, we will find that we are never truly alone. Keep your eyes and ears open! Who, or what, is God connecting you with?
I leave you with this: tonight, I was a bit nostalgic, and I tried to find pictures from camp. However, that was before digital media, so I’m hoping that I can find more pictures printed off in a box somewhere sometime soon, and eventually scan them in. In the meantime, I found this video on Youtube (thank you Pete Warmanen). Enjoy this montage of Pastor Cy sharing stories and leading songs!