Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Judging Character

Something that has struck me is that as a minister I can't always go with the flow. This might be an obvious leadership principle, but in many ways it seems more Christian to give in to others and let them have their way. When it only affects me, that's fine, but when it affects the church, I just don't have that luxury. I can risk hurt to myself and bear it, but hurt to the church could be a much more significant thing.
The other aspect to this that I have just realised now is that of judging character. I always prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe them to be basically on my team. I thought of saying that I am not a good judge of character, but mostly I have not been surprised . . . but those times I have been have caused pain to others beside myself. I need to get to know people in order to know their characters, not only their competence. Obvious. Well, no, I have taken too much for granted with people that I thought were peripheral!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Reverend Minister

I sometimes laugh and sometimes want to cry when people call me 'Reverend'. It is a firmly embedded custom in the community where I work that the minister is addressed as Reverend - usually as a standalone form of address (which I always believed to be grammatically incorrect). I have been told by many that they were brought up to do this and it would be disrespectful to do otherwise.
But it has become quite a telling thing.
There are those who call me Reverend and it is a distancing mechanism. They don't want to engage with me as a person, perhaps they don't even want to engage.
Sadly there are those who call me Reverend with words and behaviour of such insolence that the title is a mockery (not many of them though!)
There are some who have decided, probably because I am a probationer, that they will not call me Reverend, but by my first name (which I prefer, so I rarely notice that there is a hint of lack of respect!)
Then there are those who call me Reverend and make me feel as if it is my name because it is spoken with warmth. And these people will often accidentally call me by my name and not notice at all (but I notice and it makes me happy!) There are lots of these people and they make this journey worth while.
And of course, there are those who are able to break the mould and call me by my first name and still have respect for me (normal human being respect I mean, which is what I look for.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Minister as Professional

I spent some time at the dentist this morning and it helped crystallise a dilemma that I have. Is the minister a 'professional'? My dentist is. She is smartly dressed in a customised dentist's uniform and calls me Mrs Hillebrand. She offers me expert advice and treatment. Her manner is what we call professional.
Part of me itches to be a minister like she is a dentist. But if I am honest with myself, this is because she has a barrier between herself and me. The relationship is strictly professional. The relationship is not personal. I relate to the dentist, not to the human being.
How much easier it would be to keep that barrier at church. To be the expert theologian and church manager/ leader. To wear a uniform that sets me apart. To do only what is in a job description. To separate myself from the pain and politics.
I think we are very confused in our expectations of ministers. We want the professional and separate, but we also want the fellow human being, the fellow traveller on the spiritual journey.
The dentist does not want my advice about treating my teeth - we don't have 'every member dentistry' like we have 'every member ministry'. And perhaps it is this that is the tipping point. We choose between an elite minister and the facilitator of community ministry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Homeschooling Again

We have decided to homeschool our youngest son next year when he will be in Grade 10. We think that he needs time to catch up with himself and become a bit more self-motivated. Our other three children were homeschooled throughout primary school, but our youngest got caught up in all the instability of my going into the ministry. This is not to say that he hasn't coped - all the children have managed very well. It is just to say that I feel that we owe him something for what he gave up.
We were all ready to go with a correspondence college when the school he is currently attending and where my husband teaches offered to be his support base. This is awesome because he can learn in his own time and way but still do the school assessments so that he can have a report at the end of the year.
The report is necessary because I don't know where we will be living in 2014 when he will probably go back to school. He is looking forward to it very much.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Blue and Black

The end of the year is bringing a rollercoaster of feelings and experiences.I go from mega-highs to mega-lows within each day. One of the blues is the change of societies under my care. I am looking forward to my new opportunities, but there is a lot of tension left unresolved and perhaps even flaring up again in my old church. I know that I need to just move on, but until the year is over I can't.
One of the highs is that this same society is ending the year financially in the black. I couldn't believe it when I saw the financial report for November. But this society that I was told has always been a month behind is now very definitely caught up and not owing anything. God is so good.
(But I wish he would sort out the other stuff too...)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cell Group Celebration

These are just some pictures from our cell group get together last night. Our cell groups have only been running for two or three months and it was awesome to hear the enthusiastic reports. Mostly people were excited about the new sense of caring and support they had, but others shared a new insight into the Bible and a new ability to read it. For me, I was excited about a crop of potential leaders. There were nearly 50 people there. God has been good to us!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


I am currently reading Axiom by Bill Hybels. I bought it about six months ago for the unfortunate reason that I found it on sale for R40. I struggled to get into it then, but when I picked it up now I found that it really connected with me. Probably because Hybels is teaching leadership to people in settled situations - I spent the first few months in the church in Mitchell's Plain trying to keep my head above water. But I do like Bill Hybels' way of doing things and I struggle with some of my immediate superiors who do not really understand the concept of vision. Some want to force me into the 'maintenance minister' mould, but I can't do it!
Reading the book of Joshua from the Bible with my Bill Hybels eyes open, I really like Joshua's leadership approach and the response of his 'society stewards':
"Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!" (Joshua 1:18)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bible Reading

I have decided that next year (but starting now) I will do the same Bible Reading Plan that I used in 2011. You can read what I posted then here.
It will take me through the whole Bible in a year with one reading each day, but a different genre each day of the week. There are days, but not dates and it really worked for me. I have struggled to get into any system of Bible reading this year and am hungry for it!
My enthusiasm to get going was dampened when I found that the first day's readings are from Romans. I have written a bit over 27000 words on the letter to the Romans for my PhD thesis in the last few months. I can recite certain sections of it! I will start on day two.

Monday, December 03, 2012


I am at a point where I haven't been before. That is that I am entering the second year as minister of a society. The thing that I have found unexpectedly is that as things are getting going I am running out of leaders and I don't know the congregation in general well enough to find more. I am a bit afraid of being swamped next year. My very next step needs to be in the direction of leader development!
This is only true for one of my societies, I have struggled to get any momentum in the other. But as it happens the circuit has decided to switch me from that society to another. This was to accommodate a colleague of mine, but I still feel a bit of a loser. If I had done better with that congregation maybe I wouldn't have moved!
But I can see lots of possibilities for the new society and I hope that all will go well with the 'old' one.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


One of the churches where I work has a vision for growth in its Sunday School and also outreach and empowerment ministries. The problem is that there is not enough space for this growth. We have land, but need more buildings. We are engaging in a process that will hopefully generate a best way forward - which may lead to building another hall the same size as the existing one. We could probably do it. The thing is, how well will we be able to maintain it afterwards?
Churches in Mitchell's Plain have benefited from overseas funding in order to put up their buildings. This means that their experience of building is very different to what I am used to. I asked a Bible Study group from the biggest Methodist Church in Mitchell's Plain how much faith it had needed to put up their big complex. I expected them to share a sense of risk and adventure and perseverance. But actually, the money was just there because it had been donated. The local committee needed to be involved, but they never really felt the cost of the building process.
Overseas funding isn't usually called upon for building maintenance, and that is when the crunch comes for the local society. When they have to raise money themselves to do repairs to the structure. And this comes without the excitement of a new building and new possibilities.
And so we could get funding to put up another building - I doubt if we could do it without. But what about the maintenance? I think that we need to be very creative in our solutions to our problems.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

From under a rock

During the last few months I have had the recurring feeling of 'coming out from under a rock' as I overcome some new obstacle within myself. I feel it at the moment and the sense that actually I might just survive all this. I say it hesitantly, knowing that when one comes out from under a rock one's skin is white and sensitive and easily damaged, but I do believe that I am getting stronger.
The year has been hard, but I have learned so much and grown so much that it has been worth it for me. I know that in many ways my congregation members have had to be patient and I hope that many of them have also benefited from this year in one way or another.
I am struggling to focus as there are changes within the circuit that affect me. I just want them over and done so that I can plan for next year, but they seem to drag on . . .
I also need to learn to be patient!