When Ministry Makes You Cry by Tammy Abee Blom

I hung up the phone and tears ran down my cheeks. Soon I was sobbing. The person on the other end of the phone had rejected my gift. For years I have thought of my ministry as a wrapped gift that I offer freely. She had torn aside the paper and declared my gift lacking. It hurt. I sobbed. Ministry is personal because it represents your God given skills and talents which are offered freely to others. Sadly, if you offer a gift, there is always the possibility of rejection.

So what do you do when you find yourself in your home office with tears running down your face? When you catch yourself thinking, “This is not worth it. I’ll just keep my gifts to myself?” Well, here’s what I do.

Write in your journal. Write down every word that comes to you. Pour it out. Say the things that you want to say. Get the pain on paper. If you are not a writer, draw or paint. Let your brain freely give over the pain.

Call a friend who knows you and your spiritual journey. Tell your story to a friend who will hold you in her heart and will reflect God’s love back to you. Sit with her. Let it hurt.

Walk away. Not literally . . . because few of us have the option of quitting a ministry on a Tuesday morning. But you can change the scenery. When I was new to ministry, a mentor told me, “Always spend your day off in a town nearby. Distance is the key to renewal.” So grab a Starbucks, tune up your favorite songs on your Ipod and then drive away for a while. Not only does distance help in the short term but then as the days pass, the emotional distance will heal as well. What hurts so badly in this moment can heal if cared for. Give yourself some distance.

Remember whose you are. My gift of ministry is personal because I give the best of me to it. When the gift is rejected, I forget that I am a child of God created in God’s image. I am loved not for my gifts but for being God’s child. I am loved and safe because I belong to God.

Peace. Throughout the whole process, I breathe in and out. As I fill my lungs with air, I pray, “Peace be in me.” And as I breathe out, I pray, “Peace be in the ministry.” I do this over and over until peace comes.

Each morning, I wrap up my ministry with thought, preparation and compassion. Then I offer that gift. I cry when others find it lacking. But the rejection doesn’t mean my ministry is worthless. It means the gift for that day was rejected, so I journal, call a friend, and take some time away. The next morning, I get up and wrap that gift again. I am a child of God. I belong to God. And my ministry belongs to God. At the end of the day, that is enough.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Myths About Teaching Children’s Sunday School by Tammy Abee Blom

My first role in the church was teaching Sunday School for four- and five-year-olds. I was a high school student and taught with an experienced teacher. As a young adult, I attended seminary and became minister of education for a church. Recently, I have come full circle and am teaching first and second graders in Sunday School. Having coordinated Sunday School at large as well as taught in the classroom weekly, I would like to share some myths about teachers for children’s Sunday School.

Myth: Any warm body will do.

Preschoolers through fifth graders should be learning two basic principles in Sunday School. They should recognize the teacher as a representation of how God relates to children. And they should learn the basic faith stories. Think Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, and Ruth Sticking By Naomi. These stories form the foundation of our faith. If someone who just shows up for crowd control, they are modeling to children that God is present but not engaged. And if the teacher does not teach the faith stories, the children grow up lacking the basic foundation for growing in faith.

Myth: The curriculum requires very little preparation.

All learners need a variety of activities to facilitate learning. A teacher needs visual, auditory, and hands-on activities at a minimum. And children need to move. At least one activity needs to involve getting up from the table and moving the body. Therefore, a worksheet, a Bible story, and a DVD clip are not adequate. If you are teaching children, weekly preparation is mandatory.

Myth: Teachers of children don’t need to know the Bible very well.

To write that sentence makes me anxious. How can we expect children to learn if our teachers don’t know the faith stories? I recognize this is a very sticky subject but the Sunday School director, children’s minister, or a mentor teacher need to know if a perspective teacher has basic biblical knowledge.

Myth: Once in the classroom, the teacher will stay for years.

Churches are recruiting teachers using the myths above. Therefore, once in the classroom, the reality of the role kicks in. Without a teaching plan, it is almost impossible to control twelve children for an hour. And if a teacher doesn’t have some basic knowledge of the Bible, how can he/she share the story of the Tower of Babel without some idea of what the story means or even where the story is located in the Bible? With this teacher, after a couple of weeks or maybe months the director will get the “I need a break. This is not what I expected, I have other commitments” phone call. The teacher recruited on myths will not stay in the teaching role.

To address these issues, be honest with the volunteers. Not just anybody can teach children’s Sunday School. The role requires commitment and preparation. This is a reality. If your church is willing to settle for crowd control rather than actually teaching children about God, then your church is headed for a group of biblically illiterate adults in fifteen or twenty years; that is if the church can even retain the children who grow up in the disengaged Sunday School. Do we want a legacy of “Just showing up is enough” and “Not knowing our faith tradition is acceptable?” Is it a price that your local church is willing to pay? Teaching children about faith is an investment in the future church. Yet, building the recruitment of teachers on a set of myths ensures a weak return. I think the price of not teaching children is too high for the church.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

“These Are My People!” by Tammy Jackson Gill

It took me a long time to decide to go ahead and pursue pastoral standing with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I grew up in a Baptist church, went to a Baptist seminary, and was ordained in a Baptist church. Yet after graduation from seminary I found very few options available if I wanted to be a senior pastor in a church close to home.

I really did not know anything about the Disciples until I arrived at seminary and actually met a few. What I learned as I spent time hanging with them is that overall they are a down-to-earth group with an easy-going nature. What struck me most was how they were not wasting time debating about whether a woman can lead and pastor a church! For them, the debate was old news, having pretty much settled the issue in the mid-nineteenth century.

In order for Disciples to recognize me within their denomination, I had to schedule a meeting with the local “Ordination and Standing Committee.” This group of local ministers helps new ministers find their way within the denomination and assists in placement within local churches.

The days leading up to the meeting I struggled with whether I should keep the appointment. After graduating from seminary, I had gone back full-time to my counseling practice at Healing Grace and was swamped with clients. I felt God was telling me how much I was still needed at Healing Grace and that it was not yet time for me to let go of the practice for full-time pastoral ministry.

At the urging of my husband, I decided to go ahead and visit with the committee to see what they might advise. Due to my uncertainty about full-time ministry, they were wise to advise that I seek out a Spiritual Director to help me discern my path. I did ask if I could be placed on their pulpit supply list since I did enjoy preaching so much and knew I could make time for that much in my busy life.

After leaving the meeting, I figured I would never hear from them again. But within twenty-four hours I received a call from the Regional Minister, who asked if I would be interested in doing some pulpit supply for a small, rural congregation in Missouri City, Missouri. Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”

I was so excited to be back in the pulpit, and my heart jumped as I drove into the parking lot of the brick church with stained glass windows in the old, historic ghost town on the Missouri River. I found myself right at home with people who welcomed me with open arms. No questions, no debates about the role of a woman in the pulpit. This little church has had several women ministers since its beginning days in 1860.

Today I still maintain my counseling practice four days a week in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and I devote fifteen to twenty hours a week to the Disciples church whose members live on the farms and in the small towns along the Missouri River near Liberty, Missouri.

Tammy Jackson Gill is pastor of Missouri City Christian Church, Missouri City, Missouri.