Monday, April 30, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: An Interview with Myself


Last month, I interviewed four persons who entered into a full-time ministerial position under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years. After many requests (one), I think it's only fair that I answer the questions that I expected others to answer. Asi que, here we go! 

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions?

For sure, this is such a weird gig. Only the called survive in this line of work, and not only survive, but thrive! Before I go any deeper into the weirdness of serving on a church staff, I must first express how weird my story is--how weird I am. πŸ˜‚ I am an odd-ball of a case because I have (thankfully) served on the same church staff since I was 18, and I turn 32 in two months. With this said, my story might read a little differently than others.

Ok, back to the weirdness of the gig to which I have been called. Serving on a church staff as a minister is weird because:
  • People consider the weirdest things as "good donations to the children's and family ministry program". Wallpaper, a (new) catheter, and a stack of old photo albums take the cake as the oddest over the years. 
  • It is assumed that you live like an Amish-nun (Not a thing, but a funny image!), and are not up-to-date on the current trends of fashion, entertainment, or technology. 
  • Folks confuse necessary relational methods from a minister with a desire to be their new best friend. 
  • In honor of being nice and in the name of (how they are defining) 'grace', churches sometimes discount (actual) talent and emotional maturity when selecting volunteer leaders. This lack of standards can be a huge liability and end up hurting the entire team/tribe. 
  • Never will there be a place where volunteers have so much power. This can be a good thing (priesthood of all believers and such) if the above point does not happen, but if it does it will take a strong staff to do some major damage control. 
  • Because all of our staff's job descriptions get blurred by our church members, sometimes blame is misplaced. 
  • When you live in a small town, some always think you are "on the clock". It takes years to teach folks how to treat you when you are at Nieves with your family. (What?! Ministers eat chips and queso?! What?! Ministers leave the church?!) 
  • It is so odd that some want their church to grow and be sustainable, but are highly intolerant of the noise of kids and youth in the said church. It's as if they don't see the connection between the two. 
  • Some were raised on translations of the Bible that were somehow filled with typos. Their versions were sadly void of the stories of Esther, Mary, Joanna, and Lydia. I'm so sad for them because they have been misinformed and believe that women can't lead in the name of the Lord. πŸ˜‰ Occasionally running into these folks is most likely the weirdest thing about the gig. (Let it be known though, I preached my first sermon in the Bible belt, was a chaplain on the east coast and serve in the Midwest, and I have never run into this with members of my own tribe.)  These people are out there though, and we really need to get 'em better versions of the Bible.πŸ˜† 
What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct?



We are not all like Hilary Faye in Saved or Ned Flanders in the Simpsons. Most of us are genuinely caring people (and I thankfully serve alongside these types). Some of us are not socially awkward.  We are normal people who are capable of feeling the full range of emotions. We have hobbies, vices, friends, and families. We have a work hat, and a mom hat, a wife hat, and a friend hat. And at our best, we know when to wear each one and when to not.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? 
  • The ability to advocate for the church's role as a supplemental family to kids of troubled homes
  • The opportunity to encourage others (of all ages) in their gifts and empower them towards action
  • The love of building strong teams
  • The excitement of exploring the relationship between neurology and spirituality              I have always loved learning about the brain, and one gets to do this a lot through lesson planning or motivating different types of personalities on a team.
By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place?

Thankfully, I now get to do even more of this type of work than I did when I was first hired.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I was most likely guilty of having too many 'mentors', and by 'mentors' I mean people who I wanted to impress so that I would feel better about myself. So, they weren't really mentors at all, just lil' signs of my emotional unhealth at the time. (Yes--I'm going to make up a word and leave 'unhealth' right there for the moment.😁)

Thankfully God has worked wonders in my heart over the past 14 years since I entered into this church family, and looking back I would consider 4 persons as true mentors to me when I was a mere rookie.

My boss, Dave, has always encouraged a healthy work/life balance for me. And since I came out of the womb a workaholic, this voice was greatly needed. Another strong one over the years has been Rev. Ashlee Alley, my campus minister at college. She was an awesome mentor because she was never afraid to speak the truth in love, and she was very self-aware/self-disciplined. I would also say that the way we are wired is a tad bit similar.

Dr. Michelle Adler was another one who was fierce in the secular classroom and in the religious #KidMin realm. She also carried out her calling as a mom with great conviction and honor. Her compassion for kids with special needs was always inspiring to me, and her confidence was contagious. When I got to Bethel Seminary, I met Dr. Denise Kjesbo who is a powerhouse leader in children's ministry and she models being an academic and a practitioner very well.

All in all these 4 were great mentors to me because they had seen me at my most confused, most emotionally unhealthy and loved me through it. I think they might even still like me. πŸ˜†

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now?

Jo Saxton teaches that "Sabbath is not the absence of activity, it is the presence of peace." As a high-energy extrovert, the permission this grants is so freeing. Don't get me wrong, my mornings are incomplete if I don't make time to meditate, pray, study and journal, but my limit of introspective time is 3 hours.

With this said, my ideal day of sabbath rest is taking time to be outside (running, walking, collecting sticks with my daughter) and being in conversation with some of my favorite homo sapiens.  I also love going to antique stores or playing board games. These two things are oddly refreshing to me.

Unlike viewing Sabbath as something I honored one day a week (which I used to), I now view it as something that needs to be part of my daily routine. I take 20-minute power-naps 6 days a week and have a tight schedule that intentionally involves times of playing and resting. Unlike when I first started out in the church, my mindset is now to play and rest much harder than I work. And by doing so, my work is much more focused and fruitful. This mentality will also sustain me in my career/calling much better than my old one.

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred? 

Yes, there have been days that I felt I was in the wrong gig, or that my efforts were all in vain. These days come about when an idea was moving way too slow or an incompetent, emotionally unhealthy volunteer was getting way too much say in how the ministerial work was carried out.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling?

My secret for success? I care way less about certain things now. Yep--some things that used to really ruffle my feathers (Ya know, parts of the whole political game of doing church in a small town?), don't even bother me anymore. Being mindful of our thoughts and feelings are forms of practicing healthy boundaries.  I am very picky now about what I do with my emotional and mental energy. It is truly all I have control of in my life, so I cherish it. I choose to focus my energy on the areas of the church to which I have been called and I don't let the others steal my joy. I just don't care anymore. πŸ˜‚

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Nurture those friends that love you as a 'you' and not as a 'minister'. Make time for these persons at least twice a month. (yep-no more, no lessπŸ˜‰) If you are married, give your spouse a break and don't always talk about church-work. You are a fun person, you really are, and your spouse deserves that version of you (and you do too).  Work will be there tomorrow, and there is nothing to be gained by ruminating over it while you fold bath rags. So for now, talk about the next episode of Sneaky Pete and eat ice cream together after your daughter is asleep.  Also, read these books on vocational calling. And above all else--make time each day to simply let God love you. #SpiritualDisciplines