Tuesday, July 02, 2013


            After five years of active retirement, during which I pursued part time and full time employment in a variety of non-profit organizations, I decided to return to my first love, pastoral ministry.  On Sunday, I again stood before the congregation to lead in worship.  However, I have learned a few things over the years and I will no longer be doing pastoral ministry the way that I did when we started out over thirty years ago. The world in which I will be ministering has changed significantly and so have I. 
            What obvious change am I making?  I decided rather than stand behind the pulpit to proclaim the Word of the Lord, I am choosing to sit on a stool at the front of the congregation and chat to them as if they were in my living room.  The content of my message may not be changed significantly.  I will present to them the things I discover as I delve into the Bible to try to understand its meaning for our lives.  I will make suggestions and recommendations based my understanding of the Bible.  I believe these can help those who are present to try to learn to live out their faith in a practical way from day to day.  I will speak of my own experiences and those of others who have inspired me.  This seems like an appropriate approach in an era where people do not want to be talked to but rather to enter into dialogue.  If what I am presenting is true, and I believe that it is, they will be able to recognize that and apply it to their own lives as they are seeking anchors for challenging circumstances. 

            Another change I have opted for is to create an opportunity for interaction from the congregation at the conclusion of my sermon.  When I listen to the radio every morning, as I am preparing for the day, I have noted that after item that is presented, the announcer requested response from the listeners and suggests the various ways available for that.  Listeners are requested to tweet, email, go to the Facebook page, or call a number and leave their response to the subject matter.  Interaction is encouraged.  To adapt to the way things are being done, is actually Biblical.  One great example of this is the Apostle Paul, who went to where people were gathering to have philosophical discussions, which were a favourite pastime of his day.  There he presented the Gospel so others could consider and respond to what he said. 
            Attempting to attune myself to what is happening today, I have decided to invite interaction to my messages.  I invite people to raise questions or give comments related to the material that I have presented.  On occasions that I have done this so far, the results have been quite positive. 
            One unintended benefit that I see from this is a possible greater level of communication within the congregation.  As someone raises a question or concern, it is possible that there is someone else present who has been thinking along the same lines.  During the coffee time, after the service the two of them may get together and take the conversation further, enabling them to converse about faith issues at a deeper level and build community. 
  Another change that I want to implement as I undertake these pastoral responsibilities, is to try to minister from my strengths.  The more time that I spend in doing the things that I am able to do well, the greater will be the contribution that I can make.  However, of course I must not neglect those things that must be done for the effective operating of the congregation, for which I am not particularly gifted.  What I hope to do is to be able to encourage the concept of shared leadership with the congregation, so that others who are gifted in areas where I am not will be able to assist me in these areas.  This way we can be more efficient and each free to offer to the congregation those things that we do well. 
            I am aware that a rare opportunity is mine.  I am able to have a second chance to do at sixty what I tried to do at thirty.  However, I now have thirty years of living and learning, making good choices and bad ones and learning to some degree how to discern between the significant and the important.  I am not sure what all the consequences of these changes will be but I am excited to find out. 
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award


Peter Black said...

Eleanor, congratulations on your return to pastoral ministry! May fruitful success and blessing result from your labours, as you work towards implementing your insights and 'different' approach. ~~+~~

Donna Mann said...

Eleanor - your approach to ministry sounds very appealing as well as pastoral - in touch with the people - love it. I hope everything works out for you . . . and for them. Isn't it nice to come back into the pulpit. Since I retired, I've had the privilege of serving several congregations on two or three year terms, and it's been delightful. Blessings on you during this season of your life.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thank you Donna and Peter for your encouragement. At times it seems a little overwhelming, but I know He will equip me to do what He calls me to do.

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