The first eight months have gone by really fast. And in that (short) time, I’ve been learning a lot in my first job being on church staff. I’ve done a lot over the years in a volunteer capacity, but there’s something different about doing ministry in a (part-time) paid staff capacity.
Fortunately, it hasn’t taken any of the fun out of it for me. As a volunteer, I’ve always done it purely out of a love for the ministry. In my new role as Director of Family Ministries at St. Edward’s Episcopal Church (Mount Dora, FL), I’m finding that the love for the ministry is still there. But there is a different weight and sense of responsibility than I’ve experienced before.
And as I look ahead this Summer to hitting my one-year anniversary, I can’t help but to reflect on some things that have stood out for me so far in this new role.
the importance of vision
I know it might sound odd, but it took me a little while to really figure this one out. I knew that I needed a vision for the ministry. And some of it was even baked into the conversations about be taking the role to begin with. Not to mention the ideas that the parish rector and vestry had when creating this new position. But even with all of the pre-existing assumptions, I still needed to go step into the water before I could get any real vision for what I was going to be doing there.
In my role, I’m responsible for everything from the nursery to kid’s ministry (Sunday school) to youth group (middle/high school). And covering everything for children from birth through high school, it also means that parents and family are on my radar. And I needed a plan for all of it!
I’ve written before about my need to get the youth more familiar with the Bible. Basically, after getting to know the kids/youth I would be ministering too, and while looking at the big picture, I started catching the vision I needed. Without getting too deep into details, I split up the kids into K-3rd grade and 4th-5th grade. The younger group would still get age-appropriate lessons, but the 4th and 5th graders would start getting more lessons designed to build a better familiarity with the Bible. And that’s because they would need it when they moved up to youth group, where we do much deeper study and application of the Word.
Getting that vision right has been crucial to how we’re building the ministry. It helps people understand what we’re doing. Parents, other church staff, the vestry, etc. all understand what to expect from the youth and children’s programs. And that puts everything else we do into perspective. It even helps me filter through what kinds of activities are important.
Have a clear vision shapes everything. And it sets the standard we need to live up to. It’s hard to stay on the right path if you can’t see the path.
the importance of community
Along with my new role of being on church staff, I moved to a completely different city to take the role. So it was a new job, a new church, a new city. It was a complete change for my family and I. We came to serve alongside some long-time good friends. But they were also fairly new to the community as well (a couple years ahead of us, but still pretty new).
Coming here, we definitely felt the loneliness of the transition. And we still feel it being away from family and other old friends. But we knew it was the right thing for us. Having that vision and purpose helped put things into perspective, but we still felt the need to connect with people.
But even with the whole move and being new to the area, developing a sense of community with the people in our church has been so incredibly important. When I’ve served in volunteer ministry before, I could get away with just doing the “work” and slipping away when it’s done. But in my staff role, I’m feeling a greater need to be an ambassador of the local church.
Connecting and developing relationships with everyone, not just those directly impacted by my ministry, is helping us all feel as though we have a part in the ministry. Just earlier today I got a text message from another member of the church with no children in my ministry with some ideas about things we could do with youth. Building on the vision we’ve been establishing, it’s incredible to see others standing in it along with me. We’re all in this together, and it feels great to know that I’m not alone.
It’s also been great knowing that I, personally, have people I can confide in and talk to. For anyone serving in ministry, we cannot be in a situation where we have to carry things on our own. It’s good to know that I have people who I can lean on, even when it comes to things I’m dealing with personally. Without that, it would be easy to break and/or stumble.
Because of the relationships I have and am developing, I feel strong. And that’s a good place to be.
the importance of engagement
It seems like far too often in the church, activities are broken up between adult and children/youth activities. But I’m discovering the value in blending things where the opportunities present themselves. Here are a couple examples…
Over the Summer, our youth group will be doing a sort of local’ish (within the diocese) mission trip to another church. On that trip, we’ll be doing a bunch of service projects in that church’s local community. It’s purely a youth event, and we’re all looking forward to that. To prepare the youth for the service projects, I’m encouraging involvement with activities in our own community now. But we’re not breaking out to do just youth service projects. We’re working with activities and events already established by the adult ministries in our church. For example, our church does drive-thru prayer once per month. So I encourage our youth to go serve that event with the adults.
Another thing we’re doing for fun with the youth this year through Lent is a cool bracket challenge called Lent Madness (church saints matching up bracket-style until one “winner” emerges for the Golden Halo). It’s been a great way to engage the youth with our rich Church history. But instead of doing it by ourselves, we invited the rest of the church membership to fill out brackets too. And we’re watching to see who has the best bracket scoring average, the youth or the adults.
So far with this kind of engagement, it’s been cool to see that my ministry isn’t an off-in-the-distance thing that nobody really sees. Rather, we’re all connected, thanks to even small engagements like these.
Ultimately, I don’t ever want anyone in our church to wonder how things are going in my ministry. I don’t even want them to know how things are going because I (or someone else) told them. I want them to know how we’re doing because they experience it and are connected to it (no matter if it’s a in a big way or a small way).
final thought about being on church staff
So far, I’m really enjoying being on church staff. And honestly, I think I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had before. Not because I’m actually getting paid to do it. But it’s brought a new depth to the ministry than what I think I’ve ever felt before.
Time will tell how much impact I’ll have in my new role. However, I’m confident that if things keep going the direction they are so far, then we’re all going to be okay. And when I say “we all,” I’m talking about myself and the people I feel like I have a responsibility to serve well. I pray that all our lives are richer in the Christian walk through our shared experiences in developing the children and youth of our church.
Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of this resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP p. 816)