Five things I have learned about myself after one year of ministry

Search committee groupie.

Search committee groupie.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Over the next four weeks, I will share the stories of ministers who impacted my life and faith journey. Today, however, I begin Clergy Appreciation Month with a look back on my first year as a full time clergy person.

At this time last year, I walked into the church building each day with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. What if the church didn’t like me? What if they liked me too much and wanted me to do more than I could handle? Were people going to take me seriously?

At this time last year, I also wondered how long it would take before I stopped repeating, “I’m glad to be here,” over and over, and would get to add some substance to my conversations. Faithful readers may remember my Five things I want my new church to know about me post I wrote in an attempt to move beyond pleasantries.

And now, here I sit, on the other side of the first year. I’m still new, and there are many things my church and I still need to learn about each other. But, over the course of the last year, I have learned a lot about myself and my calling as a minister. Today, I reflect on my own calling as a clergy person with Five things I have learned about myself after one year of ministry.

5. I am a gifted communicator. Not long after I arrived at Broadway, my pastor named me the “Keeper of the Message,” because of an article he read in the Herald magazine stating that every church needs someone who is monitoring all the church’s internal and external communications. Having worked in communications at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I was the logical fit, and I was excited to take on the challenge.

But, at this point, you may be wondering why I questioned my skill for communications. I imagine the feeling is akin to a bird who doesn’t know it’s able to fly until its mom pushes it out of the nest. At CBF, I worked alongside such talented communicators as Lance Wallace, Aaron Weaver, and Jeff Huett – all people for whom communicating seemed to come naturally. And even though they affirmed me in many ways, I don’t think I was ever convinced that I could lead a communications effort without having one of them to fall back on. Or perhaps I thought that, if communications came naturally to us, it came naturally to everyone else as well.

After a year, it turns out that my time at CBF, along with some intuition, served me well in the field of communications. Our communications is not perfect at Broadway, and I’m still trying to translate everything I know into the church context, but it’s been exciting to “keep the message” at Broadway and watch our communications efforts become more clear and effective.

11960006_10100543189750599_7309687520492919238_n4. I love people. Ok – maybe you are thinking that this is a given too, considering I am a minister for goodness’ sake. But, before you become a minister, you can think you love people. After serving in a church for a year, you know you love people, or it’s probably time to find another field. Plus, being an introvert sometimes made even me question my love of people at times.

After a year, I can’t deny it. I love people. I love hearing their stories and celebrating their joys and failures. I love dreaming and planning together. I love discovering what brings people life – and what makes them tick! I love making space for people to share life with one another, and grow closer to the community God calls them (us) to be.

Crowd pleasing tex mex casserole

Crowd pleasing tex mex casserole

3. I can cook. My ability to cook possibly only tangentially relates to my role as a minster, but it is definitely something I never knew about myself. For my birthday, one of my children’s committee members gave me this amazing cookbook that she said “changed her life.” I didn’t want to be rude, so I made sure to make a meal before the next time I saw her… and that. changed. everything.

Friends – that meal was tasty! Yes, it was from a recipe, and no, I still haven’t tried to make something without a recipe. But, I didn’t burn anything, and the meal looked just like the picture. I call that #winning.

At this time last year, I never thought my refrigerator and cabinets would be as full as they are. Nor did I imagine I would be inviting families over to eat meals I prepared. When I found out that Broadway is known for creating “Take them a Meal” calendars for families with newborns (and that we had six pregnant women in the church), I was petrified.

Not anymore.

Last week, I made meals for three of our families with newborns (and they were delicious, if I do say so myself). Over the next year, I will invite families over to my house on at least six different occasions for some home cooking. And, I now have a really great way to decompress after a long day of ministry.

Not my car - but look how helpful our youth are!

Not my car – but look how helpful our youth are!

2. I need to ask for help sometimes, and that is OK. Well – maybe, like all of us, I’m still working on this one. The thing is, the church year is busy. I thought I might eventually figure out when we have “down time,” but I’m beginning to realize that there is not such a thing for ministers – unless we learn to ask for help.

The thing I’ve learned is that asking for help is not a sign of failure, or even an admittance that I couldn’t do it on my own. Asking for help in the church context can be and often is a way of asking the church to take ownership of bringing their dreams to life.

In the same way that I am called the “Keeper of the Message,” all ministers are essentially the “Keeper of the Vision” for their church or area of ministry. We don’t create a vision apart from the community, and neither should we implement the vision apart from the community. So, not only is OK to ask for help, it’s necessary for the vibrancy and vitality of the church!

Home... where Mike Marra photo bombs your picture with Luke Hancock.

Home… where Mike Marra photo bombs your picture with Luke Hancock.

1. I am home. If you know me, you might once again be wondering how this was not obvious to me. I was born and raised in Louisville, so how could I not be home after moving back to Louisville? Well – remember that time Jesus said that “a prophet is not accepted in [her] hometown”? Moving to my hometown, it was impossible not to wonder if I would be accepted in Louisville as a minister.

Certainly, over the past year, I have met many people who “remember me in diapers.” I have gotten used to once again being “Jim Holladay’s daughter.” I have reunited with church members who were high school classmates. But, thankfully, none of those people treat me like a child or even seem to remember the nerd I was in high school.

Moving to Louisville automatically felt like home, because I got to be near family. It automatically felt like home the first time I stepped foot in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and the KFC Yum! Center. It felt like home the first night I slept in my new house.

After a year, Louisville feels like home, because Broadway is home. Every day, when I walk into church, I feel I sense of comfort and excitement. At times, I still become anxious, but my soul is at peace. I am in a place where I can learn and grow, while still being viewed as a minister in my own right. I am in a place that treasures the skills and gifts I bring to the table, and challenges me dig deeper. I am in a place where I can share my love and receive abundant love in return. I am home.

Amen. Let it be.

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