I’ve just got back from a little presentation in my daughter’s primary school class on “People in our Community.” Several parents had come along to the class to tell the children what they did for a job and how they served the community in their job. It was tempting to feel a little sheepish about being a mere Pastor when compared to the Barrister, Doctor, Psychologist and Marine Rescue Officer, however, thankfully my identity does not revolve around my work but my relationship to Christ! As I was listening to each speaker and later spoke with some of them about their work it struck me that Career Day had a lot more to teach me than just what the other parents do for a living.
It is all to easy as a Pastor to become cloistered and cut off from the real world. Spending time in the study preparing for preaching is paramount but those to whom you preach do not have that liberty. When you preach or counsel you need to apply the gospel to where they live. If you know nothing of their world, how will you make that connection? As you invest much time preparing to preach, what good is it, if upon completion of your sermon, the Barrister, Retail Consultant, Stay at Home Mum, Plumber and Doctor shrug their shoulders and say, “So what?!“
Likewise if your ministry is addressed to others in ministry, if you can’t show them how to serve their people where they live, then what?
Now, I’m not arguing for a completely pragmatic approach that only responds or reacts to felt needs or anything like that. What I’m saying is that to be precise in your preaching and counselling you need to know something of what people are dealing with. The Foreign Exchange Dealer that is constantly on edge due to the volatility in fiscal markets; the Barrister that is upset at how people view their role as a defence lawyer in a negative light; the Doctor that is exhausted from working ridiculous hours trying to fit in as many patients as possible; the Plumber that hasn’t had a weekend off since starting his apprenticeship and so on. Bearing in mind also, that stress from struggles are not necessarily directly related to the field or industry where someone is working – I’m talking in generics for the sake of this blog post – but that’s something you need to avoid in your preaching and counsel!
How do you serve them? How does the gospel speak into their life and circumstances? Specifically? You won’t find out by playing around on Twitter as you finish reading yet another e-book on the theory of Pentateuch authorship. Things like Career Day give you a chance to learn about the people in your Church and what fills their week. It helps you understand why they do what they do and whether they enjoy it, find it challenging or stressful. How do they deal with some of the harsher elements of their job? e.g. People in medical and service industries are often faced with death and trauma – how do they deal with that?
I had originally gone along to Career Day as a favour to my daughter to make her feel important that Daddy had come to her class. And, I think that happened ;) But, I think the other thing that happened was a great reality check for me in my ministry as a Pastor. I should quickly add, that this is the sort of thing you also find out by visiting the people in your congregation and getting to know them. This is just another way of doing that. What are some other ways you can get to know your congregation and serve them better as their Pastor?