The other week, I shared some articles looking at how we discern a calling into Gospel ministry. My particular concern is to encourage people to look into urban gospel mission. I’m keen to seek out people who would be willing to work with us to see churches planted and revitalised on estates and in inner city contexts in the West Midlands. At the same time, I hope that those articles will prove helpful for anyone thinking about Gospel ministry.
At some point, you will need to respond to this calling and if it is not with your current church, then you are going to have to move, leaving your current church family, neighbours, job, the children’s schools and other connections behind. Even if the move is in your current church either into a full time ministry post or into a different ministry role then there will be things you will be leaving behind.
A full time role when you have previously been part time or volunteering will mean saying good bye to work colleagues, a position and probably a level of financial security. Even a change in the type of role you carry out as a volunteer within church will mean changes to the types of gifts you are able to use each week. This is true when those already involved in pastoral ministry move to new postings too. We have been preparing for the possibility that the role I seem to be moving into will involve less of the things associated with traditional pastoral ministry but there will be new opportunities too.
All of this means that you need to be prepared for transition and a significant part of that involves grieving for the things that are coming to an end. Aspects of your life as you know it are going to die. I found it helpful a number of years ago when someone suggested that the Christian life is full of lot of mini deaths and resurrections. We should be ready for that when we read Jesus’ challenging words about taking up your cross or when he tells people to forsake everything -even the burying of dead relatives to follow him. Looking towards what he is calling us to involves turning our backs on other things.
It’s crucial then that you and those involved in calling you to that role give time for you to grieve and let go of the past. This may be something that can happen before you arrive in your new role but not always. So, I would encourage you to give time for this in your first six months as you move into the new role.
Some things that you might want to consider include:
- Taking time to write down and share with someone those things that you enjoyed and now miss about the previous life.
- Recognising that there have been aspects of the past role that have caused you grief and sharing them appropriately with others.
- Considering where you may have failed, where you have regrets and perhaps where there is a sense of incompleteness about the past.
- Marking your move perhaps with a leaving party or a commissioning/sending event where you have opportunity to tell people why you are moving into this new role.
Remember that grief includes a lot of emotion, there may well be tears, anger, guilt, blame, an urge to negotiate and hang on etc before acceptance. Remember too that as when we grieve the loss of a loved one, there can also be space for laughter and joy as you dwell on happy memories.
Finally, remember that just as it is Christ who will be there as you go through this. He is the one who has already been through the great death and resurrection, who we died with and are raised with and who will take us through physical death and on to the great resurrection day ahead, so we can trust him with a mini death and resurrection like this.