Ministry is about being in the lives of real people across the spectrum of human experience. That means the highs and the lows but also a lot of the flat space in between.
Ministry includes those special times when someone invites you to participate into the special moments of their lives. This includes weddings and funerals but it also includes lots of things that may not seem significant to you but it is to them.
Ministry gets you in touch with what is important to others. It gets you in tune with perspectives other than your own. It helps you appreciate other people, even when they are hard to get along with because we often get the rest of the story that makes sense out of the things people do (that might just repel those who don’t know all that is going on). Through this you learn patience and grace in a way that you might not get it otherwise.
Ministry involves setting foot on holy ground…not because some ground is holy and other ground is not but because you get more in tune with the holy moments that otherwise might have been missed. It is the realization that all ground is holy because God is constantly up to something if you keep an eye out for him.
Ministry is like being a detective. You constantly have to keep your finger on the evidence of what God has been doing. It is like a man-hunt for the divine…seeing one clue after another that leads you closer and closer to the One you are tracking down. There are times God feels like a fugitive…you know He is out there but you don’t always know where He has run off to.
Ministry requires giving. The temptation for many of us is to think our biggest gift is our words but the truth of the matter is the biggest gift we can give is the gift of ourselves. Being present. Being available. Being there for people when no one else seems to be. That doesn’t mean we can save the world or be a hero to everyone who comes in our path. It does mean we see our lives as something to give away. The odd thing is, more comes back. The temptation is to see yourself in an unhealthy light, as the one who is there with superior skills to help those in trouble. If you find yourself thinking, “I have a certain set of skills…” you might be taking it too far. If you find yourself neglecting your family for the sake of the world you need to slow it down a bit.
Ministry is multifaceted. It is always changing…adaptive. Knowing what is needed next is difficult as things are constantly in flux. You rarely feel like you are ahead of it all. Good news is, God is ahead of it and this teaches us to rely on Him more.
Ministry is a great blessing. Much of what I wrote here is about those who ministry as a vocation. We know that ministry is far broader and more diverse than that. There are many who minister in ways that we will never know about. The reality is, that is the heart and soul of congregational life…not things done in public but what is done in private among people who are just doing it because they feel it is the right thing to do.
So are you calling ministry what others call pastoral care? It sounds like you are using the terms interchangeably.
I am calling what those who do pastoral care do, ministry 😉
Ministry also can get your hands dirty. You might wind up having to negotiate disputes or deal with ethics, which it seems many pastors and ministers don’t want to have to confront. This could be an intra-family argument dealing with end-of-life care or the withdrawal of treatment which has become futile. You also might hear a person lash out at God in the case of a tragic car wreck, shooting, or death. To be a Peacemaker was declared a blessing by Jesus himself.
I have said this before to others, but if you are going to minister, please do it gladly. I have seen ministers who were not happy conducting a baptism or a wedding, I think the baptism was going to cut in to their sermon time and the wedding meant a rehearsal the night before, a hectic evening (typically a Saturday), and having a church full of young people who were perceived to be questioners of every aspect of Christianity, not members, and who would not be back. It was as though the presence of that group of people contaminated the church house.
My experience with some Methodist ministers and priests says that clergy can be glad when performing baptisms and weddings and even when chatting with people. They tend to be genuinely happy that the couple decided to marry instead of permanently living together and that the person decided to be baptised or the couple decided to baptise their child (depending on the branch of Christianity).
Look at a nun. Sometimes the best she could offer was a calming presence and a sometimes public and more often private prayer. I always wished cofC ministers had to go learn from nuns how to perform pastoral care.