How do we, as ministers, meet our worth to God and ourselves?

An experienced minister coming for pastoral supervision over a period of time discovered that the fundamental question which she brought to her reflection was ‘am I letting God down?’  A secondary one was ‘am I good enough for God?’  The answer to the first was often intuitively ‘yes,’ or at least ‘probably,’ and the answer to the second was often intuitively ‘no.’ This led to a destructive cycle in her heart not only as a minister but as a disciple. The question she now most often brings to reflection is ‘what is God inviting me to?’  ‘What is God’s invitation to me at this time?  The move from the first set of questions to the second reflects a changed view of her purpose and expectations for herself as a minister.

Another experienced minister has been told he must give up driving.  He has been retired for some time but has been helping out in parishes and realises that this will mean less opportunity to minister in this way and generally less independence.  He  says that now, instead of being a help, he will be a ‘burden’ on colleagues and friends.  He sees his ministry as ‘basically over’ and feels as though he will ‘sink without a trace.’  What does this tell him about his model of ministry and his personal worth in God’s eyes?

I have met trainee ministers in a spectrum of Christian traditions  –evangelical, charismatic, liberal, conservative, catholic and so on.  And they are perfect.  They love God.  They have heard and responded to God’s call.  They are full of faith and enthusiasm.  But some can be hard to convince about reflection.  I put to them that the reflective tools are for the dark day: for the day when you feel you’ve let yourself down; when the Church has let you down; when you’re under pressure;  prayer has dried up; when you can’t remember why you said ‘yes’ in the first place and you’re too tired to think.  Perhaps it will never happen to them.

All of us, at one time or another, have to come to terms with who we are and what we think we’re about in ministry; what the cost is and what we hope for in the long term.  Many of us do this many times over, prayerfully discerning – and many of us find ourselves facing these questions only when crises come.

What is the fundamental question we ask of ourselves at the end of a day, at the end of a decade or a lifetime?  Where are we coming from?  How are we sustained in the long term?  What theologies influence us?  How do circumstances affect us?  How does our personality,  gender, faith and flaws, disability or sexuality come into it?   How do we meet our worth to God and ourselves?  What is our operant model of ministry in the light of who we really are?

Theological reflection, supervision, regular checking in with colleagues or spiritual directors all help us to discern, process and heal.  If it doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen often enough, why not make it a Lenten resolution?

This post was part of a  recent talk I gave to a group of professed Religious men and women (AMRI).

Author: realmofsparks

Anne Francis is a Pastoral/Practical theologian and spiritual care practitioner. She has a Pastoral Supervision practice and is author of 'Called: Women in Ministry in Ireland.'

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