My week has been busy preparing services for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Since Christmas we have been working our way through Luke’s gospel; we started in advent and have now come to the closing chapters. One thing that struck me afresh is how, particularly in events surrounding the last supper (Luke 22), Jesus’ breaking bread and sharing the cup throws the disciples betrayal into sharp focus. Yet this mixture of divine drama and human frailty is the stuff of life and of ministry. The difference is that, unlike Jesus, I fall as short of God’s glory as everyone else.
Perhaps that is why I was so cross to read a letter in the Baptist Times about ministers working hours. I hope I’m not crass enough to ask Jesus for one of the best seats over coffee but I’m frail enough to want people to understand that ministers are human to. So in a moment of daydreaming I found myself composing a list of things every church should understand about their minister:
- Ministers don’t only work one day a week. Granted a 50 hour week may not be any more than a number of other people in the church but it is not just the working hours that sap energy it is the variety (from 8:30am to 11pm at night so far this week) coupled with the fact that it is emotionally draining.
- Ministers are people with strengths and weaknesses. So remember when you complain about something it is often not simply a particular decision that you are criticising but the personality of the minister. My experience so far makes me think that the smaller the church the bigger an issue this is so let’s be hard on issues but gentle on people.
- Ministry is a calling not a job. Granted the church gives me a stipend, but that is so that I don’t have to work to support my family. Just because you don’t have the time or the inclination to do something doesn’t mean that someone on the church staff should do it instead. Sacrificial living is part of discipleship, for all of us.
- Ministers are people to. Yes we are called to a life of serving Christ, yes we are called to vulnerability and to walk in Christ likeness. But we are not superhuman: we are just like Judas, Peter and the other disciples. Like them our salvation rests on Christ’s faithfulness not our ability, good judgment, or degree of santification. Meanwhile we are just giving it our best shot.
So what else should I add to my list.
PS: In case anyone wondered I love being a minister and wouldn't want to be anything else!