Thursday, January 9, 2014

Introverts in Ministry

Yesterday, I talked about being an introvert in the church and how I'm constantly torn between the community and the Christ because of the very nature by which I experience the two. Now, I want to go a step further and talk about introverts in ministry. That is, in the service of the church.

I don't do as much for my church as I could.

There was a time that I did. In that on-fire-for-Jesus, young-faith service kind of way that I think invigorates us all at one point or another, I did everything. I worked the sound booth, audio and video, for nearly four years. Every Sunday. I was active in the youth ministry. I attended small groups. I volunteered for Vacation Bible School. I co-led the drama ministry. I showed up for weddings, for weekends, for special events. If the church was open, I was there. Doing something. I cleaned dishes in the kitchen, vacuumed floors down the hall, painted walls in the classroom, folded bulletins, stuffed get the idea.

And then, one day, I stopped. I stopped doing everything. In fact, I stopped doing anything. 

The truth is that after years of this kind of dedicated service, the kind I thought God wanted from me because it was, after all, He who created me capable of doing all of these things, I was drained. Church was something I did, but it had been a very long time since it was anything I loved. And I was becoming keenly aware of all that I was, but had no idea who God is. There was a large disconnect in my life and it was grinding on my very faith. All my doing was not bringing me one iota closer to God. And it wasn't really bringing me closer to my community, either. I was always too busy to actually be a part of my church. I was too distracted by "responsibilities" to form relationships.

It was not what I wanted from my Christ or my community.

Now, there were circumstances beyond my control that actually took me out of this kind of service - circumstances like college and illness and personal trials. At the time, I thought, "Oh no! I have to be able to run the PowerPoint on Sundays! If I don't press space bar...who will????" (Because that's the mindset you get in when you find yourself doing everything for the church. You have to, or no one else will. In some rare and sad cases, that is true, but for the majority of us, that is simply not the case.)

When the time came that I was able to get back into ministry, or into service, some members of my congregation were itching for me to get back to the controls in the booth. And you know what? I didn't go.

We transformed from a solely acapella church into an instrumental one and, well, I've played the piano since I was a toddler. The men forming the new worship team knew this, and I was approached immediately. I said yes, although I would have to learn a new way for music than I was used to, and took a packet of audition materials and music study, but I never got around to it. When our praise band was hurting for musicians, I considered it again - as a keyboardist or a drummer - but still never really got around to it. In fact, and my worship minister can back me up on this, it's an idea I've been playing with for years but have never committed to. And right now, it doesn't look like I ever will.

I could. I could do either of these things. I could do many more things. And it's easy to fell guilty about not doing them. Isn't that the trap for all of us? We feel guilty not doing everything we can do. Especially for our church.

But I'm making a distinction in my life, and it's changing the way I connect with my community and my Christ. It's standing in the gap in a beautiful, powerful way and I believe this way is wisdom. And this way is this:

I no longer feel obligated to all the things I can do - for my church, for my community, for my family, for my friends, for my Christ, for my Christians, for whomever it is. Rather, I feel obligated to do only the things to which I am called.

It's a smaller list, for sure. It's a very select list, one that requires discernment and discipline. But it's richly rewarding.

So what do I do these days? Well, I speak routinely to my congregation, in honor of the gift of words God has given me. I usher during services and serve Communion, a sacrifice of service. At Vacation Bible School, I play the same role every year - operator of the giant canon. That's all I do. I dress up like a mad scientist and shoot beanie babies at small children through a contraption of my own making. (You can check it out on my Art page through the tabs at the top.) I serve on the worship arts/creative team, helping to plan limited experiential worship opportunities throughout the year. I would love to get a toned-down drama ministry going (we way overdid it the last time, but I think we would benefit from this dynamic component of our services). And I am about to join the visitation ministry and start delivering shut-in Communion, as God calls me further into the chaplain thing.

It sounds like a lot, but it's not. Because there's something special about each of these ministries that has helped them make the cut and that allows me to give myself wholly to them in a way that when I was doing everything, I simply couldn't have.

To be continued...

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