The title of this seminar is very intentional. A ministry that’s in balance comes from and leads to a life that is renewed, and a renewed life leads to a balanced ministry.
So the focus of this seminar is both. It’s both how we live our ministry, but also how we live our life and really understanding in a deep way the connection between ministry and life itself.
You might expect in this seminar to examine some of the common myths that impact our ability as clergy to have a vital connection between our ministry and life. Let me give you an example of one of those myths. In order to be a good minister there’s a myth that you have to please everyone at all costs. This is one that I certainly knew in my own ministry. Many of us live out this myth without even knowing it. It’s not even conscious. Some of the origin of the myth may have to do with cultural ideas about what being a good pastor means. You just try to please everyone. Make sure everyone is happy. Everyone is served. Some of the origins of the myth might even come from our own life, in patterns that were established in our own families, or reinforced in a variety of ways.
So if we only approach the topic of this seminar with some of the typical ideas of self-care for clergy that are promoted again and again without also looking deeply at some of the underlying myths such as this one, we might be able to make some surface changes—keep a better calendar and make sure we have a day off. But we probably won’t be able to sustain some of those changes unless we’ve gone to the core where real change can happen—unless we’ve allowed ourselves to really renew our mind, our body, and our spirit by restoring our ministry and reexamining some of the myths that might keep us in an unbalanced ministry and in a life that feels stuck or unrenewed.
You can expect in this seminar that we are going to move from the practical to the depth level and from the depth level to the practical. In other words, from having some deeper insights to what is underlying how we live our ministry and life, but also toward some new practices that are going to set you in some new directions. This hopefully will be a time for you to develop a deeper conversation with your own ministry and your own life.
I have to tell you at this time about a New Yorker cartoon I saw years ago. It’s two people sitting in a crowded restaurant and the caption reads, “Have you read any good book reviews lately?” The cartoon points out the busyness of our lives in the culture in which we live. How we manage this busyness in our own lives as clergy actually communicates as much about our ministry as specific acts of ministry that we may do such as preaching or teaching or pastoral care.
The Quakers say, “Let your life speak.” So if your life were speaking now, what would it be saying? What do your loved ones hear your life saying? What do your parishioners hear your life saying? What does your God hear your life saying? What do you hear your life saying? Would they like, and would you like, what it is you hear?
What edits would you like to make as you compose this next chapter of your life? You might expect in this seminar that you will be asked some difficult and hard questions as these.
You’ll be taking a holistic view of ministry and life. And you’ll be setting some new directions. I ask you to hold out the possibility as you attend this seminar that if a U-turn is needed in your life or ministry at this time that you can begin to turn in the right direction. That you can begin with a 15 degree or 30 degree turn toward a more abundant life and ministry and even hold out the possibility and prayer for a 180 degree turn if that is needed as well. So expect in this seminar that we’re going to have opportunities for centering prayer, for mindfulness, for meditation, for some inventories that you will take to get a different look at your life and ministry. Expect that we’ll have some presentation on balanced ministry and on working with congregations at different seasons of your ministry and so forth. Expect this seminar to also be a time for honest conversation with yourself and your God, and with colleagues in an atmosphere of trust and intentional renewal. But most of all expect that you will have arrived at a renewed commitment and an understanding of how a vital ministry and a balanced ministry, a renewed and vital life, are connected and interconnected.
So I hope you’ll join me. My name is Larry Peers. I’m a consultant with the Alban Institute. I’ve worked with clergy over 15 years and over the last 5 years I’ve worked with the Alban Institute, and also most recently, on one of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence projects funded by the Lilly Endowment. In addition to this background, I have also been a family therapist. I use narrative therapy approaches in my work as a way to help people look at the story of their life and ministry and to re-story their life and ministry in a way that gives them a renewed sense of what directions they are wanting to move into, what constrains those directions, and what they can do differently.
Balancing Your Ministry, Renewing Your Life will be held at the Laws Lodge Conference Center at Louisville Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, from September 25 through September 27, 2007.
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