At our annual conference this year, six pastors took turns describing their context for ministry, the challenges they face, and one or two innovative responses in their efforts to renew and strengthen their ministries. The creative responses ranged from starting a hip-hop service, developing a permission-giving leadership system, relocating a congregation, forming communities of young adults, transforming a traditional congregation, and opening the church to an intervention by outside consultants. The pastors represented a wonderfully diverse spectrum of theological perspectives, community contexts, and approaches to their circumstances. After their presentation, they hosted workshops to share further insights and experiences, workshops that filled up with pastors and laity eager for further learning and conversation.
After their presentation, I reflected on what these wonderfully effective and deeply insightful pastors had in common. Despite their extraordinary diversity in theology, context, and experience, they all were clear about the mission of their congregation, confident about its future, and willing to risk creative ideas and approaches. This raises an interesting thought for me: How do we recognize, support, and motivate creativity and risk-taking in ministry? Creativity, by definition, brings into existence that which hasn’t been before. (“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation….behold, I make all things new…”) And risk-taking, by definition, brings with it a possibility of resistance, conflict, or failure. (“A sower went out to sow….”) Creativity and risk-taking require a ready adaptability, continual personal learning, and strong support systems.
Another common element I heard in those presenters, (despite their many differences in ways of expressing it), was a passion for ministry. Their passion for changing peoples’ lives and impacting communities for Christ was evident. To lead a congregation through change and toward new life and strength requires pastors whose passion for ministry moves through people and churches like an electrical impulse traveling down a wire. The impulse must be strong enough to affect lots of people—staff, church leaders, musicians, teachers, greeters, youth leaders, members, and guests—and must be sustaining enough to propel themselves into work, study, learning and leading for years to come. Passion for Christ’s ministry is not enough to assure change, renewal and a growing fruitfulness, but it’s hard to imagine those things happening without it.
I’m deeply appreciative of the pastors who shared about their ministries. And I’m also humbled and delighted to realize that there are so many other pastors and laypersons who could have shared their stories as well, stories that reflect the creative and passionate ministries that are changing lives and impacting communities for the purposes of Christ across the Conference.
Yours in Christ,