Recently I have seen lists of ten reasons why people are quitting the ministry. (Here and Here) As I read these lists I can understand some of them. I can relate because I have been there personally too. There are others I don't understand because I have not had that personal experience. Now I know there are many clergy out there that are ready to call it quits, to lay down their stoles and walk away. My prayers are with you.
I have struggled in my years in ministry but I constantly have to remind myself why I also love ministry. Here are my top ten reasons why ministry is a great career/calling/life!
1. Intimate Moments in Life: As clergy you are invited into the rare moments of life many don’t see. You are called when people are struggling or when tragedy strikes. You are invited to share in good times, celebrations, anniversaries, and new births too. No other person, besides friends and family, are invited into those moments in people’s life. I see this as something special and I’m honored every time I am invited. It is in these precious moments where we can witness God at work in these people’s lives and our presence calls attention to it.
2. Vessel of God: As clergy we are vessels God uses to teach, reach, minister, and love his children. We are broken. We are imperfect. We are sinful. Yet, God uses us anyway. That is simply amazing and humbling.
3. Baptizing: Every time I read the Baptismal Liturgy I am reminded about the grace that God bestows on us and the promise he gives each one of us. Whether it is an infant or an adult God is there in that water and his grace is real in that person’s life. I am in awe that the water that represents this gift gets to run through my fingers.
4. Communion: The most intimate moment in my relationship with my congregation is when I hand each one of them a piece of bread and say, “The body of Christ broken for you.” THE MOST INTIMATE and God filled moment is found there in that sacrament.
5. Leading Worship: When we think about other events we attend during our week, there is nothing like worship. To join together in a community, sing together (where do you do that ever?), pray for each other and together, hear the Word of God read and proclaimed, and offer ourselves in service to God. The fact that I get a chance to lead a group of people through that every week is incredible and I walk away blessed each week (even during those low attended, crappy sermon, and draining services that occur).
6. Creativity: Each week I get the chance to be creative in my sermon, in my teachings, in my children’s time and in my communications. Each week I can be allowed to think about God’s Word in a way that is different from the last. There is joy in that. There is an everlasting and endless source of possibilities. How great is it to have a job/career that allows you to do that week in and week out.
7. Read & Write & Think: To keep on top of my profession I am asked to read and push my boundaries and comfort zones. I am asked to keep pushing myself in order to be able to push my congregation into the place God is calling them. I do so by reading, writing and thinking. For my introverted self, this is a joy and a delight.
8. People: Yes, church people can be draining, at times horribly insensitive, rude, cruel, and for lack of a better phrase, a pain in the ass. Yes, I understand that and have experienced it from time to time. But people also can be loving, accepting, understanding, caring, compassionate, fun and exciting to be around. For every church person that is a pain there are five to ten more that are wonderful to have around. May we look at the five to ten more than the one.
9. Love: I am called to love people. I am not called to judge, to shun, or to banish people. I am called to love them which leads them to a place and a sense of belonging, acceptance and peace. It is there that lives can be changed, transformed, and recreated. I am called to love. I love that.
10. God: God is ever present in my everyday life. I get the joy of seeing that through all the activities I do. In the bulletin making, in the visiting, in the worshiping, in the praying, in the reading, in the loving, in the people, in the creativity, and in the everyday. I am not in ministry because I want to be but because I am called to be. My ministry is not reliant on me and my abilities. I am simply asked by God to do my best with what I have and who I am and God will take care of the rest. I love that covenant.
In all the negative aspects of ministry that can draw attention and headlines. May we always remember the wonderful and constant reminders of why ministry is an awesome job to have. May we always remember the God who calls us is the God who surrounds us daily. This God invites us to join Him in his loving the world through His Son Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. It is a magnificent place to be.