As I prepared quesadillas, I was listening to a PGA game. The golfer who began the round as the clear leader missed several putts and now was falling far short of winning the game. As he prepared to putt the 18th hole, the commentator remarked, “Well, he got some experience today. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”
I think all ministers can relate to this adage. Often we know exactly how and where we want to serve, but the opportunity doesn’t open up, so we find ourselves involved in ministries that we had not anticipated.
When I graduated seminary, I expected to be a full-time youth minister at a Baptist church. I went through the process of application. I interviewed and accepted a call from a church. The role and church appeared to be just what I wanted. As I was packing boxes for the move, however, I received a call from the church’s search committee. The pastor had resigned unexpectedly, and the committee had decided to suspend my call. They thanked me for my time and wished me well, but I would not be serving as a full-time youth minister at that Baptist church.
I was without a job and housing, but I did have a church family: Bridgewater Baptist Church, where I had served in various roles while a seminary student. Once news got out about my loss, a Bridgewater member visited me to, in her words, “Just to hug you.” Neither of us knew my future, but she knew that I did not have to face it alone. Another family provided the upstairs of their house so I would have a place to live. Soon the church offered me a position working with the preschool children’s ministry. I was tasked with developing sensory motor children’s worship for ages birth through five years old. Along with the programming, I learned volumes about interacting with parents and recruiting volunteers. I had not planned to serve in children’s ministry, but in that role, I received loads of experience serving on a church staff and working with ministry teams.
As this new role unfolded for me, I was grateful for the support from my church family but I was also fighting the bitterness of not getting the ministry role that I had wanted. A friend and fellow minister, also a member of the Bridgewater family, invited me to lunch. While I shared openly and honestly about my hurts and disappointments, she listened. And then she said, “You are building cabinets. Jesus was a carpenter long before, and for longer, than he was doing his ministry. Jesus built cabinets, attended worship at the synagogue,and lived as a brother and son for many years. Building cabinets is not in lieu of doing ministry, it is what you do while you wait.”
Whether I consider myself “getting experience” or “building cabinets,” the concept of doing what I know to do–in the community that I am in at that time–gives me direction and peace. At this stage in my life, I had not anticipated being the at-home parent and church volunteer. I expected to be serving a church or religious organization in a professional ministry role. Yet roles as worship leader, Sunday school teacher, blog writer, homework helper, classroom volunteer, and dishwasher are where I find myself. And since I remember building cabinets in the children’s ministry of Bridgewater Baptist as the foundation of so much of my subsequent ministries, I am content with my current role. I’ll keep building cabinets until the next part of my ministry reveals itself.
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.