Archives For Reflections

Advent Is Coming

Rebecca Chancellor Sicks —  October 23, 2015

While I am one of those people who doesn’t like to see signs of Christmas in the stores before Halloween, I am certainly aware that as church leaders, we must begin preparing for Advent and Christmas well in advance. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve begun to see the signs: emails highlighting curriculum, devotionals, and worship materials for Advent and Christmas, the children are getting ready to prepare their Christmas program, and the Worship Committee is recruiting people to light the Advent candles. Advent is coming.

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There is irony in that statement: “Advent Is Coming.” Because Advent means “coming” and the season of Advent is indeed about to begin. The first Sunday of Advent this year is November 29th, and there is much to prepare before that date arrives. There are so many good resources available for pastors during the Advent season, but each year, I seem to spend a lot of time searching for liturgy to be used in worship for lighting the Advent candles. I’ve stumbled across a good variety, but this year, I decided to write an Advent Candle Liturgy myself. I was inspired by World Vision’s Advent 2015 Prayer Guide, which is a timely resource calling us to prayer and action for those on the margins, including refugees. This is a powerful call to prayer and action, and I was moved to include similar themes in an Advent candle lighting liturgy.

Before I share the complete liturgy with you, I want to reflect on a few other salient points regarding lighting the Advent candles in worship. Continue Reading…

We are delighted to bring you our first-ever GUEST POST written by Adam Walker Cleaveland:  Cup-of-cool-water

I can still picture the conference room at the monastery outside of Twin Falls, Idaho. I was an inquirer in the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordination process, and was meeting with my Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM). This annual consultation was taking longer than I thought it would. I was asked about my sense of call, and I shared some of the diverse ministry experiences I’d had over the years and the different things I enjoyed about them all.

The chair of the CPM then leaned in closer to me and said, “So…what I hear you saying is that you don’t have a call.”

“No, I have a pretty clear sense of call to ministry – I’m just trying to figure out what that looks like for me.”

CPM Chair: “So…you don’t really have a call then, right?”

As you can imagine, it was a frustrating conversation.  I knew colleagues in seminary whose sense of call was very clear: “I want to be an associate pastor for two years, then I’ll be a solo pastor at a small to medi- um sized church for 4–6 years, and then I’ll become head of staff at a medium to large sized church).”

But that wasn’t me. And I was okay with that. I’d tried camping ministry, youth ministry, college ministry and clinical pastoral education, and I loved all of it. I didn’t see that as a problem, as this other pastor clearly did.


Since seminary, I’ve served three churches, primarily doing youth ministry. After some frustrating and difficult experiences with a couple churches, and feeling like I really needed a break from parish ministry, I found myself doing pulpit supply and trying to figure out what was next.

But here’s the thing: I’ve always had other interests in addition to ministry. I’m not saying that makes me unique, but I do know some pastors who are so fo- cused on their churches and ministries, they often forget to practice some good self-care and spend time doing things they love.

About three years ago, I started drawing again. I used to love to draw as a kid, and I began to reconnect with that interest. I took some online classes, received a self-care grant from the Presbytery of Chicago and bought a lot of art supplies, and began finding ways to incorporate art into my ministry.

Continue Reading…

I read an article by Jen Hatmaker in the Washington Post titled, “How a Consumer Culture Threatens to Destroy Pastors.” While I agree that our culture is a threat to pastors, I wondered whether we place too much emphasis on culture and not enough on our need to create boundaries and realistic expectations. (This spoken from a minister.)  What if we looked at ourselves and asked, “How do I make ministry harder than it needs to be?”  Below are five ways:


1. It Feels Good to Be Needed

Ministers love to be loved. And one of the best ways to be loved is to feel needed. Yes, I’ll teach Bible study; yes, I’ll preach 45+ Sundays a year; yes, I’ll visit everyone in the church every month. Congregants love these ideas and pastors (myself included) love to be needed.

2. We Think Ministry Only Happens When We Are Present

It is a hard pill to swallow when a minister sees a successful ministry that s/he isn’t leading/creating/nurturing. This speaks to our need to be needed and how we often assume (we all know what that word means) we need to be the leaders/facilitators/guides for every ministry. Continue Reading…