The sixties. Not the decade fifty years ago, but the age swiftly overtaking a person who once hoped to remain forever young. My sixties. When I sit down with my peers, now over decaf not Mountain Dew. Trying not to dwell on meds and memories, focusing more on completing the course and inspiring others to stay theirs.
I've heard that phrase lots of times, and now beginning to understand its meaning. I'm not ready to book passage on silver hair tours, but as I enter the years referred to as past prime, I see the merit of reflecting on important lessons. If I could do a few over again, there'd be changes. But there are others I'd not only repeat, I'd do them sooner and with more intentionality.
The church has been my classroom and proving ground. And I've learned a few things by just breathing in and out over the decades. Those things have become mile markers on this journey of service to God in ministry to others.
Discovering Who I Am
Call me a quick study, but it wasn't until my forties when I was challenged by a pastoral colleague to discover and emphasize the "me" part of a personal statement of mission. A who-I-am-and-how-I-fit assurance developed out of a pleasure for doing life by how I'm wired. Writing that initial statement, then rewording and refining it over time helped me discover my own clear and firm answers to the two foundational questions: Who am I? and, What must I be about in this life?
People Are Valuable
I must be about encouraging and restoring people. Especially the ones closest to me.
If my former staffs and lay leaders were essential to doing effective ministry, then I needed to demonstrate in real time and ways I valued those folks. They were worthy of time and nurture. They didn't need to be seen as tools to be used or thorns to remove. If one of them turned sideways and wouldn't reason and work through the issue, I needed to take that first vital step to discover why. Oftentimes the problem stemmed from the person feeling threatened by the mystery of process itself. Sometimes I was at fault and had to apologize and change.
Saying It Out Loud: I Love You
How many times have you said those words to a congregation during a sermon? Or heard them in your formative years from your own pastors?
It's possible to be your people's friend and their spiritual leader. It doesn't take much more than a little courage to laugh with them, certainly not at them. Yes, there's risk involved, but I've chosen to walk in the trenches with people. Standing detached, or pretending that I or my vision or giftedness are of staggering significance to the church, hasn't given me much credibility or mileage. Except for a few national personalities, sermons aren't the signature of pastoral ministry. But being present between those performances is. Laughter, friendship, vulnerability to people, life in the present, compassion and verbal affirmation: those become the leader's unique autograph to the church.
Ministry's Silent Strength
It's good to weep with people treading deep waters. Good, because it proves my heart is for them. I want that kind of compassion to remain as one of the silent strengths of ministry. By silent, I mean not many people observe it, because it isn't a limelight gift.
I've got other observations on a life of service in ministry. Next month"¦
Ted W Pampeyan DMin was an intentional interim pastor for twenty years or so. And he filled a couple of unintentional interim positions too. Today he's the pastor to pastors of the Christ The King network of churches, and with his wife Linda fulfilling a dream of living on their boat in the Pacific Northwest. They write about the experience in the blog, navigatingrenewal.com