Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's Stimulating You?

There's always a danger in ministry, and in life in general, to become too comfortable with one's spot; to never be challenged to grow or to try new ideas. I'm not talking about the usual chestnut of churches that refuse to try new things, I mean people in ministry who never feel bothered to try new things. A while back I was talking to a friend who at the time was going through pre-marital counseling in a group setting, and there was a pastor in the room who kept interrupting the presentation to give long-rehearsed "wisdom" about aspects of marriage. To my friend, this pastor seemed less engaged in the material and more content to say the same things he'd perhaps been saying for 20-30 years. 

What seemed to strike my friend most about this was how it seemed like this pastor wasn't even trying any more. He'd found his comfortable spot in this area of ministry, and was going through the motions, perhaps out of obligation or fatigue. But it certainly wasn't out of a place of creative stimulation or engagement.

Ministerial entropy is a danger all pastors face. It's part of the reason we're encouraged to take continuing education time and pursue hobbies: the former continually develops ministry skills or introduces new ideas long after we leave seminary, and the latter keeps us stimulated by things other than church work. These are really two sides to the same coin: stimulation inside and outside the church is important for pastors to keep growing professionally and personally.

For quite a while, I suppose my two primary sources of stimulation in ministry were the emerging church and this blog. There were a few years where I gobbled up everything that I could get my hands on from what I saw as a refreshing new movement within Christianity and tried to figure out how it might apply in my own church context. I won some and lost some along the way, but the point is that it challenged me to grow as a pastor and see the church in new and different ways. I think I have more to write about where I am with the emerging church nowadays, but that'll be for another time.

And then there was this blog. Obviously I still write here, but it's different now. For years, writing here gave me that creative outlet apart from church work that I needed. This blog inspired me to develop as a writer, which eventually circled back around and influenced my work as a pastor as I'd push myself to write prayers and consider new ways to develop sermons.

Nowadays, my work with the Ignatian Spirituality Institute is my big continuing education pursuit. It's scratching an academic itch that I started having a few years ago, but it's also influencing how I think about ministry and spiritual development. And my big creative outlet at the moment is music. It always has been, but ever since Lent something has changed for me, and I've been more inspired as a musician than I have in years to develop songs, to practice and to play.

If it weren't for seeking these sources of stimulation, I'm not sure how well I could develop as a pastor. I'd be in danger of my own entropy; and of being more like that pastor mentioned above, going through the motions, never being challenged.

So. What's stimulating you?