Maybe its my Turn- A Personal Reflection on a Change in Identity

For most of the time we have been married I have been the person involved primarily in ministry in one form or another, but lately I have been observing that the roles have been changing and now Danelle seems to be the primary ‘minister’ (or insert whatever word you prefer)

Up until 2002 we were based in a local church and I was a pastor. I was theologically trained and in a system that preferred men as leaders (although the church I was in saw women as equals) so inevitably I was the one who would earn $$$ from it and spend the bulk of my life in it.

However the last 4 1/2 years have been quite different and I feel myself slowly sliding out of the ‘primary minister’ role and watching Danelle slide more naturally into it. We have moved from a medium sized church setting with all the bells and whistles to a missionary team setting with no sign of bells and whistles and I have much less to do. In a more programmatic environment with staff and volunteers to oversee, more admin and a regular preaching role I had stuff that I could do, but in a local community where ministry is relationship based, relaxed and often chaotic there is much less control over the environment and much less to organise or lead.

In fact very little at all…

Then there is the question of where the line is between ministry and friendship (buggered if I know or care these days) and a person who had found his identity in ‘pastoring’ could easily feel quite at sea. I know I have felt that way plenty of times as I have tried to figure out who I am in this new place.

We are currently in an environment that is perfectly suited to Danelle’s temperament and make up, but less so suited to mine. Danelle loves just hanging out with people and I like accomplishing something. Not that those two are as mutually exclusive as I just made them sound, but our lives here have been much more so suited to her talents.

So lately I have been reflecting on whether its my time to support her in the things she does and to free her up to do more of what she does well.

Truth be told I think we have slipped into that mode at present and this is a less of a question and more an observation.

As I listened to Wayne Carey share his post-football identity crisis I felt a little bit of resonance. There is a sense in which my identity has been tied up in the professional minister role for nearly 20 years and to feel that drifting away evokes an uncertain response. Part of me wants to re-claim it in some way and part of me feels that maybe there is stuff to be learnt in a space that I won’t get hold of if I hang on tight.

So its an interesting place to be in.

A little disturbing, a little disorienting also, but at the same time a sense of adventure as I walk down a path that is continually shifting and re-forming. I’m not sure where it will lead, but I am aware of the shift occurring. I actually don’t feel any less a sense of vocation or calling but the way that is being expressed at this point in my life is quite different…

Anyway that’s FWIW, as I imagine others may have had similar shifts.

21 thoughts on “Maybe its my Turn- A Personal Reflection on a Change in Identity

  1. yeah for sure Sarah – its probably more about the balance of time/energy etc

    i see it shifting at the moment and i guess thats what I am trying to relfect on 🙂

  2. love ya Hamo. Danelle and your brave leadership in moving from a church with ‘roles’ to a church with people released in ‘callings’ is hard but so important for our world today.

    I think only then can we really release people into their gifts and the reality that in Christ we are all ‘ministers’ (if we are disciples). I think the struggles you’re articulating reads like a reports from a new frontier of new experiments in what in meets today that we are the ‘priesthood of all believers’. (and all the Baptists said “Amen”.)

    I think I speak for a lot of people mate when I say, thank you.

  3. Good point Hamo – it’s one I started reflecting heavily on a few years ago when I started hearing the word ‘ministry’ lots and lots (don’t know where I was before that, but I didn’t hear it).

    To be ‘in ministry’ was to be paid by a christian organisation (church or para church) to do something that the group wanted.

    I really raled against it, cos I never felt as effective doing a job for an organisation as what I could be just ‘doing my thang’ around the place.

    I also saw Suz making HUGE impacts in people’s lives in various way, but no-one would have said that she was ‘in ministry’.

    I reckon it’s the phrase that needs some serious adjustment. We still (despite our misgivings) give ‘The Minister’ far more value than perhaps we should. That’s not to say we should denigrate ‘The Minister’, but rather recognise the fact that we are all called to minister in a particular environment.

    Long way of saying that I know what you mean.

    I’ve just been ministering to my street by digging purposeful holes in my front yard. You reckon the average Aussie doesn’t have a few ideas as to how that should be done?!? What a way to connect!

  4. Thanks Jarrod – curious times hey?!

    Grendel – that’d be nice! But sometimes…

    Toddy – I know what you are saying.

    Somehow the balance of living in reality and pursuing an ideal will always dog us I think

  5. ” In a more programmatic environment with staff and volunteers to oversee, more admin and a regular preaching role I had stuff that I could do, but in a local community where ministry is relationship based, relaxed and often chaotic there is much less control over the environment and much less to organise or lead. ”

    Sounds like a nice place to be Andrew

  6. Our journey very similar to what you have just described – Kerry no longer a “Pastor’s wife” but an active vital part of a living organism. No longer shaking hands beside me at the door of the church, no longer filling the “role”, but doing what God has called her to do.

  7. Your post is such a great reminder to me of how often things shift in our lives. We never know what we’ll be up to even tomorrow, will we? It really is true that the Spirit seems to be able to move us in and out of different places and different phases all our lives. It’s beautiful to see you not grasping to create something out of where you are!

  8. Moving to a NT model of ministry is differnt. There are no easy answers here. We all like to be “someone” and a definate role does feed that.

    I think we must get meaning from callings not roles. When you figure that out let me know.

  9. Hamo, I see this blog as part of your ‘ministry’. I know that you’re living very deliberately within your local community because that’s where God’s placed you, but I also think that he’s placed you here, in the ‘interwebs’ 🙂 I have learnt so much from this blog, even if just to not feel crazy in my increasing uncomfortableness with the ‘programmed church’…

    You’re thoughtful, careful, humble, questioning, welcoming, relaxed and honest in this environment, this ‘congregation’. Maybe this is part of what you’re being freed up to do. Maybe you should do more of it *grin*

  10. well gav,

    I normally hear “Maaaaaaaattttthhhhhhewwwww!” and it’s normally my mother and I’m normally in trouble 😉

  11. God of My Life

    An Augustinian Prayer for Vocational Discernment

    God of my life,

    I give you thanks and praise that I have life,

    and that my life is filled with touches of your love.

    You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,

    and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

    Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough

    for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,

    to hear your gentle invitation.

    Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.

    Help me to discover my identity.

    Let me understand how best to use the gifts

    You have so lovingly lavished upon me

    in preparation for our journey together.

    And give me the courage to choose You

    as You have chosen me.

    Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.

    In this is my happiness.

  12. Matthew, that’s your Mum….

    What about when it is God…

    what does that calling sound like?

    Maybe Augustine has something to say thanks Mark R

    “Here I am Lord Send Me”


  13. Gav,

    for me it has to do with Frederick Buechner’s quote “where the soul’s deep gladness meets with the world’s deep needs” (pardon my memory if the quote is off, but you get the jist)

    In saying that, my “hearing” of God is also filtered through a set of values I believe are paramount to any calling’s authenticity in my life – these include simplicity, slowness and local.

    Those are the “rose coloured” glasses God has to get through before I can hear him. This is also under construction 😉

  14. I just discovered your blog. Very nice. I can relate to this post. I wasn’t a pastor, but I got my identity in a different Eph 4 ministry function. God kind of stripped that away, and it was really disorienting. Like you, I realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in my function. And like you, I’m really glad God is taking me on this journey of redefining what it all looks like.

  15. beautiful, hamo.

    you have put to words many of the things that i (we) have been feeling all the way over here in kentucky.

    it is not uncommon for me to be referred to as the pastors wife….and i love it.

    thanks for posting your reflection.


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