My seminary life is coming to an end, and I’m starting to interview for ministry jobs. What are clues to discovering the place where I need to be? Will I “just know” whether or not it is a fit?
Dear Almost, M.Div.,
Congratulations! As you start this new chapter of ministry life, try to enjoy the interview process, not just endure it. Each interview is an opportunity to learn something new. Take a deep breath, and recognize this as a chance to talk with those around the table about why ministry matters. Share your vision, hopes and dreams, and ask for theirs. Learn what the needs are in their church and community. Think together about the gifts that best address those needs, and whether or not this particular position has your name on it. Ask God to help you discern what the conversation tells you as you choose your responses and hear theirs.
What may help most in the discernment process is asking about the needs that the church hopes your ministry would address and listening carefully to what they say. As you listen, also pay attention to your own responses to what you hear. Ask yourself:
* What gifts do I have to offer in these ministry situations?
* Could I imagine new ways to involve others in serving here? What do those look like?
* Do these needs baffle me, paralyze me, or make my ideas flow?
* Does the possibility of this work make me feel more alive, or exhausted?
* Do I picture Christ’s presence with me in new ways if I commit to this work?
* How would this ministry help me grow spiritually?
* Would this work involve leaps of faith to make me humble and dependent on Christ?
So many concerns can distract us in the discernment process: how we like the town or the climate; restaurants where we would love to eat; search committees that are made up of potential best friends. If the committee sounds like a Chamber of Commerce trying to sell you their location before you sense a call to the work, stay focused. Keep asking about purpose, needs, and gifts.
Whenever I consider a new ministry, I remember this quote from the author Madeleine L’Engle: “The largest part of the job of the artist is to listen. To listen to the work and go where it tells you to go. And that involves faith. Letting go of your own control and having faith in something you do not control.”
Ministry is an art that asks us to listen to the work and go where it tells us to go. Sometimes this call makes us uncomfortably aware of our deep desire to be part of God’s response to the world’s hurt. Sometimes our gifts seem made for this work. Listen to the needs for ministry—and your reactions to those needs. If you focus on the work that is needed, you will have better clues about where you need to be. May you ask good questions, listen well, and recognize the place where your gifts fit the needs for which God made them.
If you have a question for the Dear Addie blog, please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org