Ongoing Growth Plans

Every year my denomination sends the members of its ministerium a form requesting our report of what we’ve done the previous year for our growth. There are specific questions from several categories. And the form also asks who we’ll share that information with after we prepare and send it.

The point is to have us let the Covenant know if we’re taking our selves seriously. Most of us possess life-long credentials, so the mechanism captures our efforts in continually nurturing the gifts in us, the gifts of us.

When you’re released for ministry of word and sacrament, it assumes that your previous experiences will be shaped by new and subsequent experiences. What we did in becoming servants of word and table, we’ll keep doing as we stay before the word, the bread, and the cup.

As I reported to Ordered Ministry a month or so ago, one of the experiences on my form is my residency in clinical pastoral education. Of course, I’m reading in this residency. I’m doing a fair amount of theological reflection, attending to pastoral formation and identity, and serving as a minister in a medical setting. I’m also teaching in a seminary and that immediately keeps me thinking about spiritual practices and ministerial ethics since I’m teaching out of those interior resources.

These experiences both equip me for my own growth and for my immediate and continued service to the local church and to the community of the denomination. But these things are a part of my plan. They are work, technically. If you asked Dawn, she’d tell you that I have all these jobs. But, in a sense, I have one vocation.

I am a pastor. I am a pastor when I meet a couple to create a genogram during premarital counseling. I am a pastor when I study the scriptures and write curricula for small groups. I am a pastor when I sit and listen. I am a pastor when I hear a story and hold it to myself. I am a pastor when I learn my congregation through weekly prayer requests, when I intercede for them, when I consider the things God has yet to do in them.

I do pastoral things when I teach here or there, but it’s all part of one vocational stream. And that stream requires that I give attention to my growth. I should be intentional, and that intentionality is my responsibility. Not my church’s. Not my clinical supervisor’s. Not my spiritual director’s. Mine. So I’ll give sustained attention to my ongoing growth in order to stay faithful at the work of Christ in me.

If I don’t, I’m not being a good minister or a good person. In other words, my growth matters. My depth matters. It matters for the work I do, but more importantly, it matters because these practices (of teaching or praying or leading or keeping quiet) make me into the person I choose to be.

What about you? How do you take responsibility for your growth and development? How are you becoming your self? What’s your ongoing growth plan? Do you have a rule of life? What are the things in your life that are there specifically to expand, nurture, and form you? Can you point to things, to relationships or partnerships?

What is one specific act you’re engaging in for your continued deepening? If you can’t name one, get to it. You’re doing your very self an injustice. You’re also robbing the world of a better gift.

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