I attended the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual gathering last month, and had the joy of catching up with a number of friends and ministry colleagues while in Dallas for the conference. I hadn’t seen many of these colleagues since the CBF assembly the previous summer, so it was a gift to swap stories—to hear about new babies that had been born, homes that had been bought or sold, and quite a few professional transitions. Often in the conversation, I got to share some details about my own transition to Richmond and to Tabernacle. TBC—you should be proud! Tabernacle has a reputation as a vibrant and creative place, far beyond the borders of RVA. It was wonderful to watch others’ faces light up when they heard I had landed at in this particular community, and to hear what they knew about the work of our little congregation on the corner of Grove and Meadow. And inevitably, the conversation would lead to some form of this question: “So—what do you do there?” My response was basically this: “Uumm, uhh, well… it’s hard to explain.”
You may remember that the job description for my position here at Tab was anything but traditional. The first two lines were as follows: The goal of this new position is to equip our community with a more effective framework and systems both for and within our ministries. The ideal candidate will have a passion for both people and process, an ability to thrive in a team environment, and expertise in building teams. Talk about out of the box. The job description went on to identify key areas of restructuring (Children’s Ministry and Administration), the desire for congregational asset mapping, the expectation of worship and spiritual leadership, and, of course, “other duties as assigned.” It’s an understatement to say that this is not a traditional Associate Pastoral role. This position is unique, and there is no road map for this work. In many ways, we are making the road while we walk it. And it’s no wonder that I sometimes struggle to articulate and synthesize the work I have been doing when speaking with colleagues and friends. But, it got me wondering—if I can’t even articulate what I’ve done, does the congregation have any idea of what I’ve been up to? If not, here are some highlights of how I’ve spent these first six months.
- Getting to Know You: I can’t be a part of helping Tabernacle to discern God’s calling on its future, and equipping the church for this call, without knowing Tabernacle—knowing each of you. I’ve spent time each week trying to do just that—swapping stories over coffee, meeting for lunch, or being invited into your homes for a meal and conversation. I’ve learned about your families, your gifts, your frustrations, and your dreams. This is also rather slow work, to be honest, since there is only one of me and a few hundred of you. But it continues to be one of the most fulfilling parts of my job—and I hope to keep doing it, so that as I walk with you in ministry, I can lead from a place of depth and connection. If we have not yet connected, please reach out to me so we can find a time to do so in the upcoming months. It would be my joy to know you more deeply.
- Children’s Ministry: I have also been working to support, assess, equip, and expand our ministry to little ones. I was not asked to be a Children’s Minister, and those are not my gifts, but I have been working closely with the Children’s Ministry Team over the past six months. We have worked together to grow the team from 2 members to 5 members, we have shared administrative responsibilities for things like the nursery rotations and Sunday school, we have updated a copy of the job description for Minister to Children and Families and begun a search to fill this position. We have also worked with small groups, parents, and volunteers to draft and promote a Vision and set of Core Values for the Children’s Ministry at Tabernacle (attached below), we hosted a Roundtable discussion to dream about the future of Children’s Ministry at TBC, and we met to consider how we might restructure our programming model to better fit our Vision and Values this fall. These have been exciting conversations, and I hope they set us up well to welcome a new Minister to Children and Families in the next few months.
- Administration: Besides leading the staff meeting each week, the bulk of my work in administration has been around communications restructuring. Part of my role has been to help the staff and laity build a strategy around how we communicate and why. After familiarizing myself with the current structure and taking over responsibility for weekly announcements, Sterling and I worked together to discern what was most needed in a Communications hire. Ultimately, we redrafted the job description from a design-heavy skill set with some organization skills, to an organization-heavy skill set with some design experience. We posted the job description and worked with Personnel to sift through over 110 applicants, narrowing it down to 3 phone interviews, 2 in person interviews, and one final candidate, which we hope to hire just a few days from the time I am writing. As we prepare to on-board our new Communications Coordinator, I am working with a designer to recreate the bulletin and develop a new, weekly e-news platform, to update and expand the way we tell the Tabernacle story and share information with you and others. Also, a HUGE shout out to Terry McMahon who has so graciously volunteered in this role for the last few months. We couldn’t have done it without him!
- Just Life: Outside of my responsibilities at Tabernacle, I had a few previous before coming to Richmond that I have been working to wrap up this summer. In June, I was one of the pastors for Animate Worship Arts camp, preaching and leading writing workshops for youth and young adults interested in creative worship practices. It was a joy to be at Animate for the 3rd year, and it was a special gift to be there with some of the Tabernacle youth—to spend time with them in a different context and to watch many of them use their gifts in new and unexpected ways. I can’t wait to see how we make use of them at Tab! Also in June, I presented my capstone project for the CBF Fellows cohort, of which I have been a part for the past 2 years. My capstone project—intended to synthesize my learnings from the two year cohort—was about the development of my philosophy of leadership and the shifts in the way I approach congregational ministry. If this doesn’t sound dreadfully boring to you, take me to coffee and I’ll tell you all about it—I’ve learned a ton. I also had the pleasure, during my time with the Fellows, to lead a workshop for 30+ clergy called Embodied Theology: Yoga as a Resource for Pastoral Ministry. What a joy it was to use my passion for yoga to help other ministers! This is a new avenue of ministry for me, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Outside of these commitments, I have spent time on two other tasks in the past few months: community and grief. You might not think of either of these things as a “task” per se, but both of them require significant time and energy. It has been delightful to be building new relationships with friends and colleagues in Richmond, and begin to make a life here that has depth both inside and outside of the church’s walls. It has also been a bit of a challenge, particularly after the death of my aunt in March. If you know much about grief, you know that it can easily zap energy—emotionally, relationally, even physically. I have been especially aware of my limits these past few months, and the need to give myself time to process and heal, even in the midst of competing responsibilities and demands. I am convinced that one of the ways we lead well as ministers is to model for others a healthy work-life balance, and nurturing our own souls, especially when they are hurting. I hope I have modeled this well in the midst of the past few months.
Stay tuned! As we wrap up the hiring process for both the Communications Coordinator and the Minister to Children and Families hire, and onboard these new employees, I will begin to shift my energy to the next few tasks on my list:
- Lay leadership Recruitment/Engagement
- Congregational discernment
- Ministry structure
- Spiritual Life