Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why (Lay) Ministry is Hard

Any ministry is hard.  I am not an ordained minister, and I have no call to be one.  But I have seen how hard the ministry is for individuals as I grew up with a dad that was an Episcopal priest.  I cannot speak to the difficulties of ordained ministry, but I can speak to the ministry of the laity.

Laity are the "ordinary" people of the church.  This is you, me, the  members of the church, and/or the voice from the pew.  Lay Leaders are those people from the pew that have taken on leadership roles within their church.  I have done this over the years in a number of different positions and roles and it has been a different experience each time.  While I don't feel a strong call to enter the ordained ministry, my call to be a part of the lay ministry is a loud, flashing beacon in my life.  The laity have an important view in the church.  We are the voice of the people.  We are the voice of how God's people have interpreted God' word and God's teachings in light of our personal knowledge, skills, beliefs and experiences.  No two people interpret God's experience in their life in exactly the same way.

This voice from the pew is vital to church health.  A balance of lay interpretation with the knowledge that our ordained ministers provides us allows us all to reach a deeper understanding of God together.  We take what our ministers teach us and mold it, nurture it and put it to good use in every day life.  You cannot have clergy without the lay people and you cannot have the lay people without the clergy (these are my own personal beliefs, take them as you will).

Sounds awesome right?  It sounds like everyone gets along, flowers bloom, rainbows form and "Kumbaya" is praised without ceasing.  It sounds like we all create this awesome environment of love and praise and understanding that we all agree upon.  It sounds like the mission and vision of the ministry is in sync and only good things will come of this balance.  This is not always what happens.  Sometimes the road to the mountain top experience is colored with frustrations, disagreements, and misunderstandings.  Sometimes, the road is really bumpy until these things are sorted out.  Often, you want to just give in and throw in the towel.

But if we give in, there is no opportunity for us to grow in love and understanding.

Why do I bring this up?  I had an "ah-ha" moment this week as I have been consumed with frustration with several things I am involved in at church. Ministry, in any form, isn't all about being easy or self-fulfilling or making us as individuals feel better.  Sometimes ministry is hard.  Sometimes ministry is difficult.  Sometimes ministry doesn't make you feel better about yourself, your church or your community.  Sometimes you do your ministry because it's the right thing to do, not because you are doing it to feel better about yourself.

In a lot of cases when you are called into your own personal ministry, you may feel that mountain top experience.  I know that I have gotten involved in some church activity that fuels my spirit and leaves me feeling like a better person for doing it.  I KNOW that I am doing what I am called to do in that very moment with that ministry.  My work in our community meal kitchen is so self-satisfying, that it doesn't seem like a ministry.  It's a joyful expression of fulfilling my Christian call.

Some of my other work, not so much.  But it is just as important, just as vital to the life of the church and I need to honor that call with all of me, even if it isn't as satisfying as Christ Walk or The Community Kitchen.

Ministry is hard.  We should do it anyway.