So, most of the written cynicism from last week is gone and I write more about growing as a person and as a minister in this post. The person described this week as “underemployed” is the same person from the 3rd Reflection described in the paragraph that begins “Second, I helped.” It’s interesting rereading this, for me, because I know how the story ends. Some of what I talk about here and getting more counseling experience hasn’t changed that much because there is so little that one can do within the church context to get what I would call “real” counseling experience. In my case, while of some use, doing a home teaching visit where I ask how everyone is doing and they almost certainly respond “OK” or something like that, then I teach a 5 minute lesson is not counseling. Teaching, but not real counseling.
This week was a reasonable week for me. The baptism that was originally scheduled for last Saturday was canceled, actually in the middle of writing my final paragraph for last week’s reflection. That was part of the irritation I mentioned in the final sentence, but I worked through that with the missionaries for the better. We taught another lesson to man who is highly interested in joining our church and that was a “growing” lesson, to say the least.
The baptism that was supposed to happen on Saturday did not happen and the entire affair was a general disaster. It would have been my first time conducting a baptism and I was quite nervous. The last baptism I attended was six years ago…and it was my own. So to say I have no idea what takes place during a baptism would be an understatement. I know the ordinance of baptism (and I can actually recite the ordinance even though I have only heard it a couple of times) but having to run through the order of the night including songs and speakers would have been foreign to me. But it did not happen. It is generally the missionaries who schedule the baptisms and there were four or five reasons it should not have been scheduled. This is part of why I was irritated at them at the end of last week. However, after speaking with them this week, they had been blindsided by the date which was apparently set without their consultation OR the consultations of the person seeking baptism through a series of miscommunications from the missionaries to the Ward Mission Leader to the Bishop. So after talking to the missionaries about it, I passed it on to the Mission Leader, and most of my irritation about that matter was gone.
The other cause of irritation was in the lack of work that we are able to do. This ended up being a combination of me and the missionaries. It is generally an odd situation all around in that I never served on a mission, so do not know exactly their planning schedules and so forth, and the missionaries (we have 6 full-time missionaries in 3 pairs serving in my Ward, if I have not mentioned that before) honestly have no idea how to work with a member who is able to work with them for 10+ hours a week like I do; they generally are struggling to get people from the Ward to go with them at all. I met with one pair of them on Wednesday night and said something to the effect of “what do you need from me so that we can do the best work on the days I am available?” We talked about how to plan, when they need to know about my work in the coming week, and I think this should work well. Did I use Non-Violent Communication here? Probably so, I made sure to say that I did not think we were doing as good as we could, but also made sure to note that this was an unfamiliar situation to all of us and ask them what they needed from me in order to work best in their schedules.
The meeting we had with the interested man during the week really put into perspective how far I have to grow as a minister. We started off our meeting with him and he just generally talks about how bad his life is at the moment and that he is “underemployed.” I sat there, thankful I had two other people out with me, and wondered what on earth I would have to say if I were alone. I honestly had no idea what to say. So that is certainly somewhere I will need to improve in the near future. I will say that part of the lesson we taught him was on keeping commandments and when the missionaries started talking about tithing I really wondered if this was the best time to mention that. I also remember thinking some of what they were saying was creeping close to “prosperity gospel,” though I am not sure if it was all the way there, and I know that is not what church theology is, though that was not the time and place to say anything to them.
I have also started doing some things to grow personally and professionally. This ties into something you mentioned in last week’s review. How can I play a role in changing the hospitality of my congregation? First, I would say our theology falls right in line with Matthew 22:39, though I feel we fall short of that often times. I have started making changes in myself recently, probably the last 4-5 months, in that I try to greet any person who I do not recognize. This is a pretty big step for me because I used to be the person who sat there, went about his business, and left without greeting or speaking to very many people. So when I greeted 8 or 10 folks who I did not recognize, plus other members, this past Sunday, that was a pretty significant step for me. Hopefully I can set that example and more people will follow that. Beyond that, there is little I can do. This issue within our congregation is something people have long recognized and little change has happened. Part of the problem is that at least a third of our congregation is related to each other in some form or another and most of them have never been anywhere else. They would be perfectly satisfied in just keeping it as “it’s always been” and not changing anything up. But, as I said, I used to be quite like this, satisfied just showing up, conversing a little bit, and going home. For me to actually get up and greet some of the new people was really a big step for me and certainly something that takes a conscious effort.
Overall, I feel like I made some progress this week. I’ve started to notice some places where I need improvement (the part with counseling will likely end up on my learning goals, though right now I have no idea what the action would be to improve). I have also seen places where I am growing in my ability to be personable and minister to people. This week I will work on ways to grow in these weak areas so that I can be a better minister.