I am definitely in my early days as a religious leader, but that doesn’t mean that I should avoid practical experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my home church support me in my walk with God and they have embraced me as their student minister.
Note: I am still growing as a religious leader and I definitely have gaps in:
a) my knowledge of how to be a pastor; and
b) my strength and moral conviction as a spiritual leader;
But, that’s part of the journey: living, growing and breathing in God’s presence as we strive to grow closer to him and to represent ourselves and our faith in an appropriate way.
My home church has offered me numerous opportunities to serve and get involved in various roles within the church. There are three valuable growing experiences that stand out in particular as tremendous areas of growth:
- Prayer – My self-proclaimed weakness has and continues to be public prayer. This is an area that need to exercise in order to make it strong. I have had the opportunity to develop this through prayer groups, worship leading with the congregation and leading sunday school classes.
- Preaching – Until a year ago, I had never delivered a sermon. Period. Since then, I have performed numerous sermons, and each one has been increasingly better. I have a greater sense of confidence at the pulpit, greater confidence in my knowledge of the subject matter and a greater maturity at delivering my messages.
- Leading – My largest area of focus at my home church has been as a Sunday School teacher. I have had the priviledge of building a Christian parenting and marriage group. This experience has been extremely rewarding. it has given me the chance to learn a great deal, while working to build a community of like-minded people in a fun setting.
My biggest lesson so far has been the power of relationships. Pastoral ministry is about building relationships and connecting with people. At first, I thought that strong academic content would be the best way to connect with people. I found that academic language quickly took a back seat to relaxed group discussion, anecdotal examples and personal reflection. My experience has shown that group dynamics typically require short, easy to understand and quick to explain snippets of information. Thus, I quickly adjusted my teaching style to present succinct examples that prompted group discussion. I noticed that the content became secondary in many of our group discussions. The content was simply to start conversations. From there, the discussions typically took on a life of their own.
Does this mean that I no longer care about content? Hardly. On the contrary… I focus more on content than I did in the past. Valuable class outlines require tight agendas and meaningful content in a brief, organized and accurate layout. This type of an outline is harder though: it’s harder to convey meaning in a short explanation than in a longer one. And, each week, I try to make my descriptions as short and concise as possible.
I have a long way to go in order to perfect my skill and ability as a pastor, but the experience I have received so far has been extremely helpful. I look forward to continuing my education on an ongoing basis.
That’s it for today. Next time, we’ll discuss, Grad School – my experience so far at Divinity School.