The summer brings new ministers to churches. Some are newly-minted from graduation and ordination; others take the summer to move to new pulpits after a search process. Lists of what the new priest or minister needs in her/his new church float around, filled with things like vestments and a home communion kit. And yes, depending upon your denomination, you'll need those things (and a second job to pay for them, I might add - priestcraft tools are ridiculously expensive).
But while you're gathering your tools of the trade, consider these not-so-obvious items:
1. A glue gun and duct tape. In my years of ministry, I've used a glue gun to fix the Sunday floral arrangement, repair damaged Vacation Church School crafts and damaged church property, and glue orphreys back on vestments until they could be properly sewn on. Get one. And what a glue gun can't fix, duct tape can. Trust me on this.
2. The entire series of The Vicar of Dibley. It's more fact-based than most clergy care to admit. And it's a fun way to laugh at yourself. In case you are wondering, we do sound and look that absurd at times.
3. A sense of humor about yourself. Laugh at yourself. Laugh when you need to laugh. Life is hard, as Job in the Bible realizes, so enjoy the sound of laughter when you can.
4. An email address only your friends know. Having an email that, when you see the inbox, you know it will not be an email complaining about the Sunday hymn selection or an opportunity to get prescription pills for pennies on the dollar. It will be a message from people who simply know who you are, underneath the vestments and the titles.
5. A strong sense of humility. A rector I once knew told me not to do something because, in his opinion, "Our skills are too valuable for that." That happened to be working with the Sunday service leaflet. Remember this: If Jesus can wash the feet of the disciples, there is not one thing that our ministerial skills are too valuable to do. Preach the Gospel at a funeral. Set out chairs for a Wednesday night dinner. Take out the trash (literal and metaphorical). Do what needs to be done without treating underlings as such. And know you wouldn't last one minute in the Hunger Games. God did not call any of us because we are awesome. God called us because something in our brokenness allows the Holy to shine through, if we are courageous enough to recognize our brokenness.
6. A subscription to People magazine. Or the mindless entertainment reading of your choice. After a week of service planning and pastoral visits and a tree in the playground after a storm, reading an interview with Joe Manganiello about how he brings heart and soul to Alcide the Werewolf in True Blood makes me smile. And, okay, I admit it - my heart swoon. Whatever reminds you that you are wonderfully human and a bit shallow is just dandy.
7. A good selection of the Caldecott Medal winning children's books. Some of the best theology in the world exists in these books. Read, learn, and inwardly digest. And they have pictures, something most Biblical commentaries lack.
8. A quiet coffee shop or place of refuge of your choice. Sometimes you need to get away to a place where no one knows your name. Find that spot. Hide out with some regularity.
9. The "Shocked and Appalled" file. For the letters and emails you will get that begin along the lines of, "I was shocked and appalled by (fill in the blank)." Some of the complaints will be things to which you might want give some thought and reflection; others will be letters that will make you l-a-u-g-h. If you want a head start, just name your blog Dirty Sexy Ministry. That generated a fair amount of shocked and appalled responses...and a book deal.
10. A therapist or spiritual director. When I mentioned to a priest in a previous diocese that I hoped all clergy had a therapist or spiritual director with whom they could work, he replied, "Why? We get all our issues worked out in seminary." I was shocked and appalled. Trust me, we don't. We all get overwhelmed by life, and having someone to show us how to navigate those times is a sign of great strength, not weakness. And the only way we learn to let God's light shine through our brokenness is through courageous soul work that almost always needs a guide.