Exploring Pastoral Ministry

I never thought that ministry would be right for me. But in the wisdom of Clay Aiken (and others, don’t judge):

If you want to make God laugh,

then all you gotta do is tell him your plans…

I have spent the last several years trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life – admittedly, more about what I wanted to do than what God’s plan for me is. I want to do so much, be so much, that it’s been difficult to find a place where I am truly passionate and settled. (These may seem to fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, but I assure you they go hand in hand.) Ministry wasn’t even on the long list of potential careers ranging from politician to writer to professor or maybe wedding planner?

But I think if one thing has been absolutely clear to anyone following along the last couple of months, it’s that God has made His claim on my heart very well known. After too many years feeling incomplete, I truly do feel alive again. (Excellent song!) As much as a blessing as that has been and continues to be, it wasn’t enough for God – I was created for pastoral ministry.

I am not even a novice at the skill of exegesis, but I understand the point of the exercise – so let’s exegete my life for a second! Holding central the fact that God has placed this call on my life and is leading me to pastoral ministry, the rest of my life and study and even some random passions begin to fall into place:

  • I love writing. And I don’t know if you know this, but pastors do a lot of writing. Sermons are divinely inspired but even the best pastors can’t consistently rely on extemporaneous sermonizing (and may not be able to do so at all, depending on the structure of service). A lifetime of writing poetry, prose, research papers and even blog posts will help me get through a writing-intensive seminary and candidacy process and will allow me to embrace the poetry of pastoral leadership.
  • I understand politics. As a leader of any organization, religious or secular, one must understand how political systems work and, more specifically, how to navigate the individual systems in which they find themselves. Politics is a delicate balancing act of different needs, goals and priorities, and in a church community the stakes are sometimes even higher. Fruitful ministry requires the ability to step confidently into that management role.
  • I mentioned being a wedding planner, right? Pastoral ministry involves wedding planning! It may not be the role I initially dreamed of, but for couples who choose to undertake marriage as a sacrament in the UMC a pastor’s involvement is critical to the process. Actually, it’s less “wedding” planning than marriage planning, but that’s an even greater calling than helping nail down a color palette and floral arrangements.
  • I want to change the world. There are so many opportunities for young clergy members to share God’s message with our generation, many of whom grew up mostly unchurched (as I did) or who have actively rebelled against a religious upbringing that may seem inconsistent with what Christianity is supposed to be. And as much of the world-changing as needs to happen outside the church, there is a significant groundswell building against church policies themselves that counteract our understanding of God’s love and saving grace. It is a very interesting time in the church’s history to be a part of the clerical body, and I am so excited for God to use my gifts in ways I have yet to even imagine.

I could go on for hours…or days…about the transformation that is going on in my life even now – and let’s face it, if we end up in the same space for more than five minutes I will likely do just that! However, for now let me leave you with my progress toward ordination. I have a meeting with the Western Reserve District Superintendent on August 12, at which point I am praying to be formally invited to become a candidate and to be connected with my candidacy mentor. I have full faith in God’s work in my life and in the affirmations He has already placed before me, and I can’t wait to share more as I move toward full connection as an elder in the United Methodist Church!

One Reply to “Exploring Pastoral Ministry”

  1. Shannon,

    I continue to be inspired by your courage; as Christians, we often have to take the high road and take risks along the way…some of which seem scary or even nonsensical. However, I think you are well-positioned to do amazing work in this field! I also think that you will have the ability to reach individuals who are not traditionally in the church setting. It has been really cool to see you go back and forth with religion and really discern what faith means to you and who God is. I think discernment can certainly be one of many spiritual gifts that God blesses you with. Be bold and brave friend, you know you always have me rooting (and praying) in your corner!

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