‘Ministry’ is a somewhat loaded term. What exactly is it? Where does it start and end? Our pews are filled with people. Often people with problems. There’s always more you could ( and should?) be doing. Especially if you’re a natural carer and thrive on feeling wanted. We hate seeing others in pain and know in our heads that we aren’t the answer. But self-worth quickly becomes entwined with self-giving. We make ourselves indispensable. Instead of pointing other to Jesus, we can set ourselves up as mini-Saviours instead. Then we beat ourselves up for feeling overworked and not having the resources to work miracles.
In churches, just as in offices there can also be hierarchies. We serve in different ways, but manning the tea rotas is a lot less glamorous than say preaching, or leading up-front. Children’s work too, can be mistaken for child-minding, or at best, a stepping stone on the path to ‘real’ ministry – ie; with adults.
It’s easy to forget that God provides for us and not vice-versa. In other words, we can caricature Him as a slightly bigger version of the office bully, both dependent and demanding. This is so far from the truth that Jesus warns about it in the parable of the talents, where a servant is criticised, not for misusing office resources, but for misjudging his master’s character. Similarly, the culture of the boardroom can determine the shape of our service. Just as employees might be expected to put in overtime at work, in some church contexts, workaholism is viewed as a glorious and necessary outcome to discipleship. Burn-out can be wrongly perceived as a badge of honour, and rest flies out the window along with prohibitions on mildew and shellfish.
Then there’s the question of gifting. Of course we want to use the talents that God has given us – but these are valuable only when matched to maturity and character. Placing someone in a position of leadership just because they can do it, is not enough. Similarly, those in full-time ‘ministry’ need to challenged and supported, just like everyone else. Just because you’re married to the vicar or running the tea-rota, doesn’t mean that your spiritual and emotional life is perfect. Nor does Jesus need us for a sunbeam. He loves us, wants us and includes us – in His work. But He’s the great servant, not me. And thank God for that.