A better week

At my husband’s insistence (smart man), I got myself a mentor. I’d been asking the conference for a mentor for ages, but it was certainly not on the top of the priority list for them and nothing happened. So I took it upon myself to call a pastor from a nearby church who I really respect and asked him to be my unofficial mentor. He drove out to my house to talk to me on Thursday (since I still don’t have a car with brakes), and his comments and insights contributed to my having a much better week.

First, it is important to note that I’ve had two kinds of mentors: people like my mother in law and my previous pastor–loud, outgoing, excited people who deal with stress by barreling through it, and people like my internship supervisor and my new mentor–quiet, humble, well-balanced people (totally unlike me!), who handle stress and difficult situations by transcending them, being the calm presence unaffected by the storm. Basically type A and B sort of thing. It is definitely good for me to have some B-type mentors in my life.

My mentor gave me lots of advice in his laid-back, gentle way. I have to rephrase it in my type-A way, but you’ll get the point. First of all, he said that the reason I hate my job is because I haven’t really had the chance to do it yet. I’ve been spending all my time taking care of adminstrative problems and nurturing people, which is not the skill set I bring to ministry, or what I am passionate about or called to do. Put simply, he said, my job is to inspire. And any given congregation will do everything in their power to keep me from doing this job because it makes them uncomfortable. They will try to trick me into doing everything else because they don’t want me to be inspiring and radical. I can’t let them. My job is to be an inspirational, in-their-face prophet, and until I do that, I will have very low job satisfaction, and feel like I’m in the wrong field. Any change, my mentor said, causes great stress and anxiety among those who like the status quo. They will get agitated, and they will try to sell me their agitation. I can’t buy it. That is the equivalent of validating their unhealthy and stressful reaction. I am to be the calm, unaffected one, who models appropriate means of conflict resolution and response to transition.

Easy for his type-B self to say, but the point is valid. Taking on other people’s drama is the equivalent of giving a screaming toddler a candy to shut him up–it only reinforces the behavior.

Finally, he took a look at my church’s mission statement, and encouraged me to dismiss it. Too long, too vague, and too impossible. “You don’t have to do all this,” he said. “No one can do all this.” Should I have them make a new vision statement? No, he said to simply ignore it and build some of my own vision for the church, and inspire people with it, something I am much more comfortable doing.

So I had a much better week. While my sermon on Sunday was short (because it was also pledge Sunday, which took a lot of time), it was more exciting and engaging. I think I even pounded the pulpit once or twice. I felt good giving it, which I haven’t felt in a long time.

Five things I loved about my work this week:
1. Great sermon on Sunday.
2. Meeting with my mentor and feeling better about my job. My husband remarked that he hadn’t seen me smile like that in six months.
3. Meeting with the communications committee last Monday and commiserating about the election.
4. I really love my Pastor-Staff Parish Relations Committee. This is a committee that can potentially tear you down or support you, and mine does the latter very well.
5. Sunday night and today I worked tirelessly on Advent. Mind you, I have a service every Sunday and every Wednesday. I can now say that between now and Christmas, I have to plan only 3 services: The Blue Christmas service (for people still in mourning, who struggle with the holidays), the pageant Sunday (not the pageant itself, but the stuff that goes with it), and the Christmas Eve Service itself. I have been very creative and productive. I’m very proud of myself, and I almost like my job. Some of it anyway.


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