I know, I know. It has been almost an eternity (especially in “internet” years) since I have posted on the blog. To be honest, I had to take a sabbatical from some aspects of my life and the one of those things that was chosen was the amount of time I was spending on social networking, etc. and when I did that my “blogging” also went out the window.
However, I am excited to say that this weekend I will be blogging like no other as I reflect and post on Exploration 2011 which will be happening in St. Louis. I will have a mix of posts which will include my own thoughts/reflections but also I am hoping to interview some young adults about their exploration of their call and their expectations of ministry, etc. So check back regularly starting Friday!
But now on to topic of this post: ministry challenges. There are many challenges to ministry but one that might seem debilitating to some I find rewarding and a great challenge and that is the tired cliche: “Expect the Unexpected.” My placement in Winona has been an adventure in the unexpected. You see I was placed here under one set of expectations: to help the church connect with young adults and young families. To be honest that is what excited me about this placement, but as I have discovered in ministry what we often expect does not always align with God’s purpose.
You see within months the ministry setting began to change as two of the United Methodist churches here in Winona began to discuss what United Methodism in Winona should look like and began the process of merging. Within one year of my placement I found myself the associate pastor of a newly merged congregation moving towards rebirth.
Mergers and rebirth take energy and time and because of this the original expectations of my position had to switch and work to help the church accomplish what it needed (a process that isn’t over yet). As I have reflected on my ministry here I have seen how the “unexpected” has actually been a real blessing (a challenge but a blessing).
The “unexpected” can be accepted as a gift or blessing or it can be rejected and seen as a hindrance. I choose the former because I have seen how God has often worked in the lives of so many through the “unexpected.” Perhaps it has been my own experiences that have been most formative in my attitude towards the unexpected. In the fall of 2004 I began my first year of seminary at Duke expecting to dedicate my time and energy fully to my studies. It was going to be a time for my wife and I to grow in our marriage while she started her first teaching job and I prepared for my career in ministry. Then the “unexpected” happened and we found out we were expecting a child within the first month of school. Through the unexpected there was challenge in balancing parenting and school (especially since I did the full-time care for Micah) but there also was extreme blessing to see how God moved through the community of professors and classmates in our lives.
It was a lesson in how the “unexpected” can be a true blessing and I think that is a lesson that can apply to anyone heading into ministry: “expect the unexpected and accept it as a gift and blessing.”