I don’t know how it happened, but a full year has passed since I started my first full-time ministry job. Exactly one year ago today, I stepped into Cavanaugh Free Will Baptist Church for my first day as Creative Media Director. In some part of my mind, it still seems too good to be true. It just doesn’t feel real.
And yet, it is. It has been for a year now. And though this year has been a whirlwind, it’s also been an incredible learning experience for me. So I thought that it would be a good idea today to share some truths that I’ve picked up on over my first year of vocational ministry.
The first thing I learned very quickly and very often, and it’s that people are more kind, loving, and generous than I could ever imagine. My church family has welcomed me with open arms. They’ve embraced and supported me in ways I never expected from a church I was serving. Whether it was praying for me as I was driving back and forth to school, volunteering to help with a project, or just offering a word of encouragement when passing in the hall, I have been constantly impressed by the love and grace that has been shown to me by my church family. And I could not be more grateful.
I’ve also learned that I can’t minister to others if I’m not taking care of myself. That may seem pretty simple, but it’s a truth that I have to keep reminding myself of. My ability to serve is dependent on both my physical and mental health, so sometimes the best thing I can do for those I’m serving is take a little bit of time for myself. When I’m stressed or exhausted, I’m not giving my best to the church and to the Lord, and then nobody wins. But when I’m engaging in self-care, I find that I have the time and energy to serve well. And that’s a practice I hope I’ll stay on top of throughout my ministry.
Working at the church this past year has shown me that I never know what I’m capable of until I’m thrown into a situation where I have to prove it. I’m pretty self-critical, and I can doubt myself to the point that I never try anything new or challenging. But when a challenge comes my way and I get up the courage to face it, I often find that I have the resources and capabilities necessary to get the job done. I just have to trust in myself and the talents that God has given me. He put me in this job for a reason, and he’s going to equip me with what I need. I just have to give myself opportunities to use what he’s given me, and that’s a lesson I’ve had to learn over the past year.
I’ve always been pretty rigid about my schedule, so it was a surprise for me when I discovered that flexibility is a life skill, not a personality trait. I used to look at people who practiced flexibility and think, “I wish I could be like them.” But through my work, I’ve come to find that I have everything I need to be like them. It’s a mindset, a choice that I can make. And though I’m not always consistent about making that necessary choice, I’m getting better. As I get more secure and comfortable in my position, I’m able to be more flexible and spontaneous when the occasion arises.
And the final lesson I’ve learned this year is that God is always faithful. No matter how many times I get something wrong, or say something I regret, or miss something I should have noticed, he’s always there to offer me grace. He encourages me when I feel discouraged. He assures me when I feel inadequate. And he constantly blesses me with a sense of fulfillment from doing his work. Throughout this entire year of change, growth, and learning, God has remained constant, and I know that I’ll always be able to rely on him as I continue to minister in the way he’s called me to.
It’s been an incredible year. I’ve started my first full-time job in ministry, graduated seminary, gotten ordained, and learned so much. This is only the first of what I hope will be many, many years of doing God’s work, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. A huge thank you to my friends, family, colleagues, and church family for all of their support and encouragement throughout this year. I am so very blessed. As I start my second year of ministry work, I can only hope and pray that it will be as full of love, growth, and fulfillment as this year has been.