Rebecca: 8 Things I Wish I Knew In My First Call

Rebecca Chancellor Sicks —  October 24, 2013

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(This is part of the What We Wish We Knew Before Our First Ordained Call series.)

I believe serving as a pastor is truly a life-long learning process and a journey. I think it’s important to take time to reflect on the ways God is working in my life and what I am learning along the way. So here  are the top eight things that I’ve learned (or were reaffirmed) in my first call…

1. Worship and music are not “one size fits all.” Every single person has preferences and comments. I’ve learned the need to embrace a variety of styles and ideas. Corporate worship is important to me, and I take seriously the call to maintain divine worship. But I also recognize that my preferences, and even the way I experience God, don’t work for everyone else. It is humbling to see someone connect with God through a hymn I would never choose to sing on my own.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of the hand-written note. I am still learning this one, but it amazes me how much writing a note (and sometimes even an email) nurtures a relationship. I’ve been on the receiving end of this too, and it’s affirming and up-lifting.

3. Patience is a virtue. It’s also a fruit of the Spirit (and I pray for it all the time.) Doing the work of Christ and being the Church in the world are usually simpler than we make them. But when we work with a diverse group of God’s people, things do take time. Change is hard. People need time. I often want things to happen quickly, but fast is not always the best way.

4. All of the time and energy people give to the church is a gift. I feel called to ministry as a vocation, but it also pays my bills. It’s important to recognize the many gifts people pour into the life of our congregation. Every meeting attended, project completed, errand run, and class taught by lay leaders is a gift to the church. And I feel blessed when I am able to support members of the congregation in their ministry.

5. Boundaries are important: for you and for others. There’s a balance between being absorbed in work at my desk and being available to church members who stop by to talk. I find that people respect my time when I tell them up front what I can offer and/or when I am available. I take a Sabbath Day on Monday, which allows me time to rest and nurture my own relationship with God and others. It is hard for some people to understand that I am not available all of the time, but if I don’t draw a line to take care of myself, no one else is going to do it for me. I have to let go of other people’s ideas of who they think I should be (which leads to #6)…

6. Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be your mentor, or the pastor you had growing up, or your colleague across town. (Learn from them,) but be yourself. Be the pastor/leader/child of God you were created to be.

7. Some people may never see me as their pastor. This one is difficult, but I think it’s important for me to recognize it. For some, I just don’t look the part. For others, my priorities are not in the right place. I can’t be what everyone wants me to be, but I can pray for each person, our congregation, and my leadership. I can listen for God and expect God to work on God’s time, in mysterious and meaningful ways.

8. Preaching provides me an opportunity to be completely dependent on God. I (think) I like preaching, but it is such an awesome responsibility. Every time I preach, I pray fervently that God will use me as an instrument and will guide me in my study and writing. I never feel that my sermons are complete, but on those days when I feel like I just didn’t work through it enough or listen enough or edit enough, people tell me how much the sermon meant to them. It is a powerful reminder that it’s really not about me and that God’s Spirit is working in and through me.

So my prayer is always to be open to God’s Spirit at work in me, in my congregation, and in the world. Where is God working in your life? In your congregation?

(This is part of the What We Wish We Knew Before Our First Ordained Call series.)

Rebecca Chancellor Sicks

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Rebecca currently serves as an Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX. Rebecca is an Oklahoma State University sports enthusiast, explorer, runner, cook, and Child of God.