Bruce Reyes-Chow, our current PC(USA) moderator, shared responses to nine questions that he was asked by a seminarian. His responses are here: http://www.mod.reyes-chow.com/2009/04/nine-questions.html
He encouraged others to respond to these questions too. So….
1. Tell me about your conversion experience/faith journey.
I’ve never had a conversion experience—have always had a belief/faith. I grew up Presbyterian; decided to go to seminary while working for the United Farm Workers as a Volunteer in Mission for the Presbyterian Church; decided to go into parish ministry while being the Youth Director for a Presbyterian church in Babylon, New York; decided to go into New Church Development while serving as a Redevelopment Pastor in Plainview, Minnesota. I’ve frequently experienced and discerned the presence of God on my journey.
2. Why did you go into ministry?
God called me into ministry. My journey has been a long and winding one that is hard to share through a short answer. I recently gave a 25 minute talk about my faith journey with the New Church Development that I am currently serving. During the many different parts of my journey God has sharpened my motivation for ministry. While working for the farm workers I wanted to go into ministry because I believed the best way to change the world was through the church; while working as a youth director I wanted to go into the parish because I wanted to combine spiritual growth with social witness; while working as a Redevelopment pastor I felt a call to be a New Church Development pastor because I felt the best way to create the type of church God is calling me to help create is through a new church. God has continued to refine my motivation.
3. What do you love the most about being in ministry?
It’s hard to choose only one! I’ll limit myself to four:
I love helping groups of people succeed with projects
I love preaching sermons that are used by God to touch and help people
I love helping people grow in their personal relationship to God
I love going on Mission Trips
4. What is the most challenging thing about being in ministry?
It’s hard to choose only one!
I think it is very hard for people to work well together. We live in a culture where control is more valued than collaboration. Being patient enough to work through differences, finding energy in common ground, and then trusting each other—these are tough.
5. What are the most important things to keep in mind while ministering to people?
Partnering with God in knowing how to be helpful in a situation. The other day I shared with a new person in our new congregation that it would be a privilege to be the person’s pastor. I was then asked, “what is a pastor?” I shared that a pastor is a guide. Guides play different roles with people. As a spiritual guide we are alongside people on their spiritual journeys. As a guide we’re sometimes called to carry a load, sometimes we’re called just to be present, sometimes we’re called to share our story, sometimes we’re called to be silent. When I’m ministering with a person and I have no clue what to do I pray silently, “help!!” God usually does.
6. How do you deal with the stresses of ministry and leadership?
Daily prayer—there is nothing in my life over which I don’t pray. My prayers are even more passionate when I’m stressed
Exercise—I try to run three or four times a week—it’s a wonderful way to clear my mind
Participating in a group—I’ve participated in a clergy group for nine years.
Being vigilant about my day off
Spending quality time with my family
Creating strong boundaries with people in my church. I’m always available, and there are certain times that I’m not available—unless it is a crisis.
Learning from other pastors and churches
Getting seven hours a sleep each night—this might seem to be minor, but it truly isn’t. I can deal with stresses much better when I’m rested.
7. How would you define your leadership style?
I was asked that in a PNC interview with my current church. I shared that I desire to be a servant leader. Every day I pray that I will love as Jesus loved, be a blessing to others, grow to be like Christ, and help bring in God’s Kingdom. In being a servant leader I see myself as collegial, a risk taker, innovative, a person who offers hope, and someone who wants to continue to grow.
8. How would you define your leadership techniques?
The techniques or methods that have served me the best are:
Prayer, strong relationships with people, keeping hold of the vision that God has given, persistence and more persistence, being willing to take risks, loving people when I disagree with them, not taking myself too seriously, being willing to say “I’m sorry—I messed up.”
9. What are the things people do that make you feel most supported and loved as their pastor?
Unexpected cards and notes. I keep an envelope that I call “nice notes.” I read them when ministry is hard. These notes are like precious jewels.