This summer I have been blessed with the experience of having an intern. Truly this experience is teaching us both many things. Being a smaller church, I never expected to have an intern. It find it a pleasant experience while yet personally revealing.
Our intern is a young man who is skilled in leading bible study, but lacking experience in the practical things of everyday ministry. He is a member of a much larger church that would not be able to afford him the latitude that he is now getting. It is my prayer that in his time here we would serve him well. Honestly, no seminary that I have found can fully prepare you for the ministry life in a typical church. As an intern he is getting a chance to make morning announcements, prepare and serve children’s sermons, and make the usual rounds.
By making the rounds I mean he has been thus far able to attend funerals, make hospital visits, nursing home visits, and in home visits. He has had to deal with changing schedules and cancellation of meetings. Part of his intern experience has him heading up a mission trip that we have next week, and generally dealing with all the responsibilities of wearing multiple hats in servanthood. I greatly look forward to his preaching his very first sermon in a couple of weeks.
Because of all I am trying to pour into my friend in this time, I find myself reflecting heavily on my past fifteen years of being a pastor. There are many, many events that I look upon and have learned from. One of my biggest concerns for this young man is that he not make the same mistakes that I have made. Thus, in my reflections I find these things to be what I would most do differently had I had the opportunity to do over many decisions.
First off I would have begun journaling from day 1. It would have benefitted me to have a book to look back upon in reflection of my experiences and especially the things God has revealed to me. If I had such a journal I would perhaps turn it into a playbook on persevering in ministry. I would have titled it So You Got Your First Church, Now What? There is much this ole mind has forgotten, and I wish I had a means to reflect and learn even more.
The second thing that comes to mind would honestly be that I need to be cautious with whom I trust and to get my facts straight before responding. James has much to say about this in his first chapter. In several situations I was gullible to listen and believe people whom had a hidden agenda. Their gossip and opinions captivated my attention ant thusly I never gave their victim a proper chance. In this lesson I also found that some will turn on you if their way is not heeded. It is sad. It is true. My poor wife once had to endure a business meeting being accused of unfounded gossip by someone whom that morning had tried successfully to bait me with an issue. My lesson learned is to listen with caution, create opinions based on facts and redemption, and pray much before acting.
Along these lines, I have shared with our intern that there will be difficult people to deal with. I have often made the mistake of being inexperienced and aloof. My advice to our intern is being more open for people to come to you with problems and listen. Follow up with them. Give them every opportunity to peacefully talk with you. By doing so you may diffuse many situations. However, some people are hard to deal with. Take the shots that need to be taken and find your peace in God. As much as depends upon you, be at peace with all men. Also I have advised him to work with your deacons in this situation. Often they are wise in “tribal knowledge” and can greatly pilot your ship in treacherous waters.
The next thing that comes to mind is the obvious shortcomings I have wrestled with. In my “do over” situation I would have played far less video games. Not that the games are bad, but I look at life and see that much of my time has been squandered. As a matter of fact, now the only games I usually play are those with my kids. Television viewing goes right along with video games. I find it has been too much unprofitable time. Other things that have wasted my time are owning a home that has more repair needs than I can handle and not sequestering myself for deeper bible study. These at present are still struggles but I am finding much victory.
My advice to our intern, budget your time and stick to it. Don’t evaluate an opportunity by saying “what is wrong with it”, ask instead “Will this glorify God?”
Sounding like an oxymoron, I advise our ministry student to relax vigorously. When we relax it ought to be to the glory of God. It should not be a time of our mind wandering to our “to do” list, nor should it be multitasking. I have spent too much time failing here. Now, as I advise our intern, plan ahead to relax. Turn the cell phone off. Keep home as much a place of respite as possible. Rise early and walk with God. Let the truth of scripture care for your situations and responsibilities. Some time relaxing may mean leaving the house and going to a park or museum. And there are certain time that we need to go away to pray. Prayer refreshes the soul and gives it relaxation.
The next area is an area I believe I have made both mistakes and advances in. It is an area we all need ongoing refinement. This would be in communication and perception. I have made countless mistakes in communicating my ideas. Such mistakes can have far reaching implications. One day I was visiting a member who had a typical cold. As I left I said, “Miss W, hope ya get better. I don’t want to be doing no funerals”. A year later in the aforementioned “Business meeting”, I came to find that a rumor was circulating that I refused to perform weddings, funerals, or visits. All this was despite several eyewitness to my involvement in wedding, funerals, and visits. Some things I have said could be said more politely. Many could be said with grace. Some should have never been said at all.
My advice to our intern, think deeply. Consider your audience. Choose your battles wisely. Listen, listen some more. Find the right words. Don’t e-mail what is best said in person. Let many things go. Read books like Rosalie Maggio’s How To Say It. Also read Peter Post’s book on Manners for the gentleman. Over the yeas, and even this morning, I find that the most difficult thing to do is have the right word in the right timing. But by the grace of God, we can have this wisdom. It must be daily gathered as was manna.
The last lesson of my list would be to not handle things too rapidly. This would be the close cousin to the previous advice. Stated another way, don’t jump to conclusions quickly and don’t act on first impulse. As I alluded to before, the apostle James puts it this way, Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Even if what you are doing is not “volatile” let it crock pot. Articles, decisions, and sermons need time to marinate and go through revision. Often a next day read through illuminates confusing points and references. Plans change. Giving people plans and itineraries that are subject to change can lessen your credibility and the participation of others. Don’t reveal or start something that has not had time to be solidified. Repeated instances of such mistakes will surely be a detriment.
Thus as I look aver my years I find I am still learning and seeking. To have this opportunity with our intern has been a blessing of self introspection. I do not find that I have arrived, or am even worthy to be training this young man. Perhaps he will benefit from my mistakes and thus bring about some further value to my ministry.