sideways glances at callings and such

If you are interested in learning some of my thoughts about being a volunteer bi-vocational children’s pastor who struggles to make sense of my calling, I invite you to join with me as I process my attitudes and thinking. This post actually is the result of years of experience and thought, but certainly isn’t the final word, or even the right way of thinking in all respects. Most likely, many of you will disagree with me at certain points, especially if you are in full-time children’s ministry. So, if this concerns you, you might want to go ahead and skip reading this post so we can still be friends. :)

I drove truck throughout the city today. Multiple stops. Hard labor in hot weather, making sure product matched purchase orders and was in acceptable condition. But there is a human element as well. Each time I make my rounds once per week I am given a window of time to connect with my warehouseman counterparts at the respective manufacturer’s and distributor’s docks. Tough exteriors, characters each one of them. They weren’t so sure about me when they first met me. I was the new guy, after all. But the weeks have progressed and they have warmed up. I focus on business but when they want to talk I try to be friendly and conversational, within reasonable limits given the time pressures of driving to numerous stops. Today, one of them spoke of his lack of health insurance, and his struggle with specific health symptoms. Hard worker. Tough exterior. But actually very kind, once you get to know him. And I expressed concern for him in that offhand way that men sometimes do. I was sincere, but I respected his space and need to maintain composure, especially in the work environment

Years ago, if I had known I would still be doing this sort of work (warehouse labor and driving), I would have lamented that I had missed my calling, that somehow, despite all my years of preparation and practical experience, I somehow failed by not making it into full-time ministry. And I might have given the day I described above a sideways glance, while coveting the “real ministry” of full-time Christian service in some form. I had a taste of it for a few years when I was a full-time consultant for a church related distribution firm. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with church leaders around the USA, especially those who lead children’s ministries, there are aspects of the job that left a very bad taste in my mouth which has persisted since the business closed. So I turned my back on any thought of being involved in a similar business again and began to work toward full-time children’s pastor positions for a season.

This was a short lived process when I quickly realized I simply did not fit in to the full-time scenarios which were available, not least because I really am not qualified or adequately skilled for the kind of ministry which churches who hire children’s pastors demand, but also because my heart is pulled to urban expressions of ministry and to the margins where the suffering is most potent. So, I backed off looking and focused on returning to the marketplace in order to meet my financial needs. Indeed, that is where I now am employed. But there is a difference. I do it with my head held high and I try to be real in places where people are hurting. If I were to wear the cloak of clergy into those places, they would shut me down. But I am one of them. I bleed, sweat, and do the hard work which laborers everywhere hold in common. And they know this. No longer do I consider my labor with sideways glances.

Is it a calling? Oh, I don’t know. I try to be careful about making such grand statements. I simply think it is the opportunity which God has afforded me at this time and for the forseeable future. Will I never do full time ministry? Honestly, I hope not, at least not the kind which seems to be expected out of the typical children’s pastor in the USA in today’s consumer oriented culture. I can’t imagine being forced to hold office hours in a church with fellow believers while the world goes about its business far removed from the ivory tower of church culture. It seems like being out among the world and doing business daily with them is a much more missional and relevant venture for me, given my desire to bring others to faith in Jesus. But perhaps in the future, as my body grows weary from hard labor, God might have something else more in keeping with my peculiar attitudes and weaknesses, so that he might show himself strong in my fragility. I can only pray that I will look the opportunities head on, rather than with sideways glances, looking for greener pastures.

So ask yourself: In what ways do you struggle? In the marketplace? Home? Church? Full-time ministry? How might you find ways to learn contentment in the station of life which God has now deposited you? How might you be preparing for the next season of your life?

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