Navigating your onramp – Five lane-markers…
Twenty-five things I’d like to say to missionaries serving their first 3 months of a long-term ministry.
by Mark Morgenstern
Without trying to stretch the metaphor of an onramp too far, piece by piece throughout this course I’m going to unpack for you a long list of ideas that will be helpful to you in the place and time you now find yourself. We’ll package those ideas into 5 lane markers, to line you up with the future-looking tasks and fundamental attitudes that this course is all about. Remember, change represents the circumstances that take place around you, while transition represents the healthy process of adaptation that you choose to work through in the midst of that change.
Lane marker 4 – Connecting to… My New Ministry
Most all of us are motivated to be fruitful in ministry. It’s why we’ve uprooted our lives and made ourselves available to God for His service. There are some perspectives and competencies for ministry that we can bring with us from our past contexts and roles. Nonetheless in many cases a very intentional process of connecting to a new ministry model and a new ministry role will be needed.
You’ve probably spent years imagining the day that would be where you are now. And you also spent many months preparing yourself, gathering the support and resources needed, and completing all the logistical detail to make the move. Now you are anxious to jump into doing ministry and serving others. But it is possible to do too much too soon. There are at least two dangers with launching too soon into serving:
- You may become so busy with doing that you fail to invest the appropriate time in learning culture and language. In this way you may trade in the potential of many years of deep, heart-touching ministry in exchange for a fast-track of shallow ministry for a year or two.
- You may enter into ministry immediately, but in an uninformed way that could echo out into bad repercussions of poorly done ministry for yourself and others for many years to come.
Finding a balance between engaging in too much service versus not enough is something that you’ll want to consider purposefully and with the help of other more experienced ministers. You will often also find yourself in a new situation where vocationally it is necessary to manage yourself, your schedule, and your work goals and plans. There are some specific, intentional steps you can take to become a better self-manager. It’s worth the effort!
A challenge in launching into new ministry in a new place is that it will often bring with it feelings of loss – loss of yourself and who you perceive yourself to be. Some of those feelings come from the realization that you are no longer able to do what you were able to do before. Sometimes the people and systems that were in place in the past to give you positive feedback when you were doing well simply are not there in the new situation. At the same time continual experiences of the unknown can lead to doubt and fear. For some of us questions arise from within – Is what I have to give really needed here… now? when? how? Realizing that these kinds of disorienting experiences are normal and to be expected will go a long way to alleviating stress and pain. But drawing close to the unchanging God and resting in His love and guidance is the biggest remedy.
Some of the most effective steps that can be made for connecting to your new ministry will involve spending time with others, observing what they do and how they do it, and asking a lot of why and how questions. In most cases you’ll be joining into a ministry model and a team that have existed and been functioning before you arrived. Learn from what is already in place. And enjoy the process of working together, over time, to figure out how and where you can fit in and contribute once you are prepared and the timing is right. If you are pioneering something new, this same process applies but the participants in the decision-making process will be you and the Lord.
An often-neglected aspect of entering into ministry in a healthy way is to carefully balance work and rest. God created sabbath for people. He knows how we work best and taking time for purposeful rest, reflection, worship and re-evaluation is an immeasurably important investment in the process of developing a lifestyle of sustainable, healthy and fruitful ministry.
As you begin to take purposeful, forward-looking steps into connecting with your ministry model and role, your joy will inevitably grow as God reveals more and more to you about Himself, about yourself, and about the realities of the calling He has for you.
- Launch into serving others, but not too much too soon.
- Develop some skills and habits of managing yourself well.
- Realize that feelings of loss, loss of your status and abilities as one who ministers, are normal and should drive us into the arms of God, who has brought us here with His purposes and plans in mind.
- Learn about ministry and your role in it by watching others minister and asking lots of why and how questions.
- Purposefully balance work and rest, trusting God to accomplish all that He wills in the amount of time that He has given you.