As a young Lead Minister I discovered that finding my voice in my church context was a work in progress. How do I remain true to who I am and be what the church needs me to be? Now that I serve as Senior Minister in a different church, how do I find my pastoral voice in this community?
In this week’s blog I summarize chapter two of William B. Kincaid’s book “Finding Voice: How Theological Field Education Shapes Pastoral Identity.” It encapsulates some of the steps I am taking to not only find my pastoral voice but also the church’s communal voice.
When a minister is finding their pastoral voice, it is important to understand the community where the congregation resides. To understand our context, we must observe, listen, gather, and interpret information from the local culture, the local congregation, and our neighbors.
Ministers can often ignore the differences between the church and the surrounding communities. Some don’t think it is important and that a church’s methodology can be easily reproduced with zero contextualization. For, example, pastors must take into consideration that the cultural climate is likely different between Alabama and New York (in my case Colorado).
When context doesn’t matter then we will find the sameness that we are looking for. We will unknowingly choose to confirm our presumptions about the church and the community or we will make excuses for people as to why our methods aren’t working.
The most effective way to reach people with the gospel is to present the timeless truths of Jesus utilizing each culture’s particularities. When we learn the environment in which we are called to minister we can develop effective strategies for outreach and benevolence that actually meet needs and present the message in a way that is easy to understand. It is important to identify “barriers of entry” and “make it easy for those who are turning to God.”
The more we seek to learn and dig into our environment the more we will learn to love where we minister. You can’t really love a place without learning more about it.
You can’t really learn to love a place if you don’t “stay until you leave.” You can’t have one foot inside the church and one foot out the door. Your voice begins to rise as you commit the necessary time needed to create effective ministry strategies and moments.
Two case studies were given in this chapter. One was of a white seminary student who accepted an internship with a black congregation and was told to walk the neighborhood and take notes on what he observed. The Pastor of the church then asked something unexpected. She asked, “What did you learn about yourself?” He was prepared to report on what he observed in the community. Instead, her question prepared his heart for ministering to the people in this community by confronting his presumptions and prejudices. The wise Pastor knew the seminary student needed to deal with himself before he could deal out hope to the community.
In the other case study a part time Pastor was hired at a dying established church that no longer looked like it’s community. They lamented how the community around them had changed and longed for the “golden years” to return. One small change the new Pastor made was to hold their board meetings outside. The congregants noticed an active community full of diversity and life. They rediscovered the endless possibilities of ministering once again to the people around the church.
When we observe, listen, gather, and interpret information about our communities we discover something great within ourselves. Our true calling and our church’s true purpose.
What has helped you to find your voice? Your true calling? Please leave a comment below.