Advent and Christmas usually affect pastors in one of two ways (or maybe both!): we are drained beyond belief and know January will be tough; or we are riding high because we had big crowds and people loved what we said and how great our choirs sang.
The holidays drained and energized me and I was left wondering what to do with all the excitement coupled with the strong desire to sleep! Given that the New Year offers an invitation to start anew or resolve who you wish to be, I thought about what I hoped 2016 would hold. I had these thoughts while I was holding my six-month-old daughter, Phoebe.
Watching her I realized I had much to learn from her. I wondered what 2016 would be like if I acted like she did? The way she interacts with the world, tries new things and deals with all that comes her way (new toys, foods, family, etc.) made me wonder how much ministers could learn from a developing infant. Here are five things I’ve noticed about her that might aid ministry:
- SHE TRIES EVERYTHING ONCE.
This doesn’t mean she likes everything (see #2), but she is all about a new toy, food, and sitting location. We’ve made it to the stage where we have to watch what is in her immediate location as it will inevitably be in her hands and/or headed to her mouth. How often do ministers find themselves in a routine that works because we are too afraid or lazy to try something new? I’m often fearful of trying anything new because that means I have to step out of my comfort zone or put extra energy into something new. But what if we developed or grew or learned something new because we tried something new?
- SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE LIKES.
The girl won’t eat prunes for the life of her parents. This is hard because her older sister LOVED them so we assume she would like them too. But she isn’t going to eat them, come hell or high-water (or another spoonful). How often do ministers keep doing the same thing because it’s easy and we don’t want to upset anyone? What are some things you or your church does that could stop? What holds you back from making those decisions?
- SHE KNOWS WHEN SHE’S TIRED.
January is a tough month because it comes on the heels of a big season. We are tired; we are worn out and believe a few good days of vacation will do the trick. But we all know that isn’t enough. When Phoebe is tired she starts talking (albeit in an unknown language) and it’s a clear sign she needs to rest. I don’t know about you, but I’ve realized that I need to rest (close the computer and head home—no matter what else needs to be done) when I can’t write or my words won’t form. Give yourself permission to rest.
- SHE GREETS ME LIKE I’M THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND.
It doesn’t matter whether or not I just left the room for a minute, when I return it is a glorious occasion and her smile makes that known. I know there are times when I don’t feel terribly cheerful, but I also know what it means to be greeted by one of those ear-to-ear smiles that announces to the world, “Welcome, we are excited you are here.” Maybe the church needs to share a few of those for our folks who join us for worship, education or whenever the doors are open.
- SHE IS LOVED BECAUSE SHE SHOWS UP.
This has less to do with what she does and more to do with how people interact with her. She (and our other daughter) are greeted with love and affection (as are all children in our church) simply because they show up. And it’s infectious. People see others greeting (or trying to greet!) the kids and then they want to say hi, too. And the best part is parents see how other adults greet their children and they feel loved and welcomed too. To welcome children is to welcome God, in my opinion.
Do you act like a six-month old? How? If not, what holds you back?