The Puberty Stage of Ministry

It’s been a year since I had a sabbatical and eight months since transitioning from associate pastor to co-pastor. More importantly, it’s been about a year since I was in the depths of what I could only name as a crisis-itch-conundrum. It wasn’t so much a mid-life crisis, meaning I didn’t end up switching careers, buying a sporty car, or getting plastic surgery . . . and it wasn’t quite mid-ministry boredom, meaning there was plenty enough that kept me engaged and passionate. But I wasn’t feeling right and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

When I wrote about my crisis-itch-conundrum last year, I wrote about how I began doing things completely unrelated to my profession . . . seeing a spiritual director, running, volunteering at the hospital as a baby cuddler, and crocheting baptismal blankets for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. With each of these, I began to embrace and live into this crisis-itch-conundrum, living ever clearer that this may never pass.

And it hasn’t passed and now I realize why. I’m in the puberty stage of my ministry. It didn’t hit me until I went to my son’s Back-to-School night. My son’s teacher shared details of what my son will be learning in puberty class – body changes, hormones, and hygiene. She suggested we put together a puberty kit for the kids in the class filled with deodorant and other hygiene items so that they will have the tools to help them through this stage of change.

Finally, my crisis-itch-conundrum had a name and its name is PUBERTY.

My voice changed

it became bolder and wiser. It had greater ability to calibrate between when to speak and when to listen.

Oh, the hair!

Just like I can’t control where hair pops up like on my chin (sorry, TMI?), I can’t control where the spirit moves and leads me – which is why I find myself doing something I swore I would never do – go back to school. I have been researching places to apply for a Doctorate of Ministry.

What’s that smell? Oh, it’s me.

Rather than thinking odor is a sign that something is rotting, I prefer to think of it as a sign of fermentation. As kimchee, a Korean side dish of fermented, spicy cabbage, ferments, the smell is more potent. Just when you think it must be too sour to eat, it is transformed into kimchee stew. As I contemplated whether I had done all that I can as an associate pastor, my church called me as a co-pastor. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but it has surprisingly been a different sense of call.

Cramps

What can I say? Cramps suck. In this case, I’m not speaking of the physical kind, but about ministry cramps. I still find myself questioning, wondering, feeling vulnerable, and doubting. I am better at not reacting to the cramps, dwelling on the “WHAT does this mean” and “HOW do I get over it” and instead reflecting more on “WHY am I feeling this way.”

Pimples! Pimples! Pimples!

No one told me that when I turned forty, I would still have acne, just like no one told me that when I had been a pastor for about a decade that I would be contemplating my sense of call. As I asked my colleagues how they “got through” their mid-ministry crisis, the treatment varied as wide as the many brands of acne creams. Therefore, there was no easy way “to get through” this, but to journey through it myself – testing out what worked for them as well as trying other escapades like zip lining through the redwoods.

So as I move through this puberty stage of ministry – observing, witnessing, and engaging in ways that I am changing spiritually and vocationally – I will hold onto my puberty kit of going to my spiritual director, running, holding babies, and crocheting blankets. I no longer have expectations that “this too shall pass,” but instead look forward to “what may be.”

6 responses to “The Puberty Stage of Ministry

  1. Good morning, Theresa!
    Just as puberty is universal, what you are feeling and going through in your ministry is pretty universal. When I was going through it, the Spirit presented me with disaster recovery work and then police chaplaincy.
    I think part of the question is not so much “what does God want me do?”, but “what are my gifts and how do I use them to build up the Kingdom?”
    Commercial: come to SFTS for your DMin!
    It’s a really good program!

  2. Once again, you’ve given us lots to think about! Even those of us “of a certain age” still struggle with some of these same issues. . .

  3. Love this metaphor! BTW, you should look at the Theology and the Arts track at Wesley Seminary in Washington, DC. I know it’s on the wrong coast, but it’s a very cool program. Becoming more involved in the arts is my way of handling my mid-life crisis.

  4. Nice words. I find my mind full with thoughts as I read and reread your post. Here’s to your soon to come sweet 16!

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