Further to my suggestion a few weeks back that people should get hold of Carson & Woodbridge’s Letters along the way, I started thinking about the pieces of advice that various bods have given us down the years. So here is a little anthology.
On your first assistant ministry post:
Choose the boss, not the job!
This is crucial because you learn far more on the job in your first job than you ever did/could at college. The models you pick up from your first boss can bless or curse you for years to come! But there is a wider application – because we ALL imitate someone. The question we should always be asking is ‘who actually are we imitating?’
On life and ministry:
Take Jesus seriously; but don’t take yourself seriously.
The key to survival and sanity.
On pastoral temptations
A congregation’s greatest temptation is to place their minister on a pedestal; a minister’s greatest temptation is to want to be there.
Ouch. Too true. I first learned this from David Jackman (though don’t know whether or not it originated with him). The next one is related, by someone called James Crook (though don’t know anything about him).
A man who wants to lead the orchestra mustturn his back on the crowd.
On working cross-culturally.
Never go with a preconceived idea of HOW you’re going to work. Never go with a preconceived idea of WHAT you’re going to do.
This was the advice of Martin Goldsmith (formerly of All Nations College) to us just before we left to work in Uganda. It was the most important and telling piece of wisdom we were given. The first half is what they always say to you about cross-cultural work – in other cultures, people do things differently and you need to go with the local flow so often (‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ etc). But the second is harder but for us was prescient. I went to be a lecturer and teacher. I then became academic dean and was doing a third of the teaching I’d done. Then I became Acting Principal and was teaching only 1 hour a week – spending my time getting stressed with admin and fundraising and quietly going nuts. But it was right for a season season. What Martin had said kept me going and encouraged the right service attitude.
On feeling overwhelmed
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night with a mosquito.
Bit of a cliché this one, but it particularly appeals to anyone who has lived in the tropics. A helpful reminder.
Do you have any other nice one-liners to share?