What New Ministers Might Need

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. 


LKT said…
We get all our issues worked out in seminary....hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, that's a good one!
Ben Wallis said…
I know seriously. I've been in parish ministry for...oh a month and a half now....as a new transitional deacon and after all of the therapy, all of the spiritual direction, CPE, and support groups I am finding NEW issues cropping up already. Thank God for Spiritual Directors and Therapists!
Donna Gerold said…
As a rising senior in seminary, good stuff, thanks! I have 10% sense of what's coming. This goes in the "useful things to get me through" file. Love your name and your blog.
Don't forget - a professional wardrobe! I was surprised at how many staples I had to fill in when I first started. Nice jeans don't always cut it like they do in seminary.

My advice - get two really good black skirts, four or five pairs of good dress pants (black, grey, brown), three or four pairs of good ministry shoes (mostly black flats, but one pair of heels that go with the formal stuff and makes you feel great), and tops that do not need to be ironed! I've become a huge fan of bright colored sweaters or even fancy t-shirts that can go under a blazer or cardigan. Have a "go to" funeral outfit that's always clean and ready.

If you live rurally or in an area with lots of poverty (I do!), and are in a denomination that doesn't robe (I am!), find a dress or two to preach in and just wear the same one every Sunday. Wear the same earrings and necklace. As a young female pastor, as soon as I started doing this the comments I got in the receiving line after church changed from, "Oh, I LOVE your earrings/shoes/dress/etc!" to more substantive things - "My husband is sick" or "I'm thinking about membership."

It might sound boring, but it's sure nice to have one fewer decision to make when it's a busy week, an early morning, or a surprise funeral!
revlauriebrock said…
My thoughts exactly.
revlauriebrock said…
Thanks for the advice. So many things for the class I've named Sh*t They Didn't Teach Us in Seminary. And FYI the opening chapter of the book is about my funeral uniform.
Navhelowife said…
Wonderfully written!
Whitney B. said…
Intrigued by the name, I stopped by for a peek. If only all Rectors had your sense of self and humility, the church would be in a better state than it is today. Thanks for delivering a snappy dialog-style of writing and being true to yourself. Good stuff indeed.
Unknown said…
I think a tattoo is good too. I find the tattoos help to keep the "I am shocked and appalled..." comments at bay. There is something gnarly about a tattooed priest, even if all the tats are flowers and Christian symbols.
The "shocked and appalled" comments abondm however. A Lutheran pastor, wife of the local Lutheran pastor, was in a local shop and the comments abounded. I am sure she has defended herself from them in the past but this time she did not hear them directly. What would have been said if Jesus were there with his firends, the tax collectors, "harlots,", etc. I am afraid that the "message" still is not getting across.
EJW said…
I get ordained a priest today and THIS is what I needed to read! I've got most of these already, but I never knew they were tools for ministry. ;)
EJW said…
I like all of this. My current work-in-progress is a clerical fashion blog! This is all super helpful. ;)
Diggitt said…
Beauty Tips for Ministers already exists and has been around for years. http://beautytipsforministers.com/ Very useful, too.

The subscription to People should be accompanied by subscriptions to a couple other very mainstream magazines so you know what the folks in the pews are paying attention to. I'm a UU, and UUs and Episcopalians both seem to many to be above it all, but trust me--we're not.
Silke said…
Just 2 weeks before I head north for my internship. Took a look at Amazon for the Vicar of Dibley -- which of the several collections is actually the complete series?!?!?
REVeries said…
Exactly, exactly right! I'd add one essential to the list, for the single female pastor: a vibrator.

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