One of the hardest parts of the seminary journey for me has been finding the right answer to the question, “So what do you want to do when you finish?” It’s not unlike asking an elementary school student, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” Except that it’s kind of hard to answer without sounding too pious or churchy… or without making assumptions I’m just not ready to make.
As a child, all the possibilities in the world are open to you. I remember wanting to be a meteorologist, an archaeologist, a forklift driver, a breeder of Saint Bernards (on a ranch in Montana, to be specific), a university president, and a teacher. If I couldn’t be a professional softball player while taking photographs for National Geographic, of course.
Realities like skills, talent, experience, and opportunity didn’t figure into any of those dreams or desires. Just the potential for it being fun and interesting. Is it any different now, as I consider the vocational options for a gal with an MDiv framed and ready to hang? Maybe, sort of.
I mean, I know my gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses, Meyers-Briggs and Birkman profiles. I am gaining skills in preaching, pastoral care and Biblical interpretation. And yet…
I still look at all the ways that God might use me in ministry and it feels wide open!
I love being part of people’s lives, teaching their kids, leading them in worship, caring for them personally, and taking care of the business that needs to happen for a community to be in touch with one another… so small church pastor could fit. But I’m not really a maintainer, so I can’t imagine doing that for more than a few years in the same place at a time.
Perhaps interim ministry would be a good fit. There’s not much more exciting to me than taking a look at the reality of a situation, discerning what God is calling a group to be and do, and then developing a plan to get from here to there – strategizing and dreaming, praying and seeking God’s direction, and preparing people to move forward in hope.
Then there’s the whole idea of finding a role that would do the same thing on a larger level- helping congregations in a single area maximize the resources each of them have by working together to reach even deeper into the community they serve. What would it look like to help mobilize an ecumenical partnership to support community outreach to children or the elderly or the homeless- with each church bringing its unique gifts to the effort?
What if I used my experience in Fund Development to help churches, seminaries and other organizations become better teachers of stewardship and better partners with those who support their mission? Could I help bring some of the resources into the Kingdom that are missing today?
All of these things are possible, some of them more than others. But the greater reality is that there is no reality in those things for me. They are simply dreams, ideas, hopes, thoughts… and if there is one thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years, it’s that this part of my life is not about hoping, dreaming, thinking about my future. It’s about preparing for my future.
God is planning and preparing a work for me that is as unique as I am. And my job right now isn’t to try to figure out what that plan is, so much as to prepare myself to do the work. My job is to dig deeply as I learn about the Scriptures. To wrestle with the paradox and mystery that faith brings to light in the study of doctrine. To start articulating with clarity exactly what it is that I believe, alongside the saints of yesterday and today. To learn about leadership and servanthood. To practice caring for and loving people in my community. To proclaim the gospel, sometimes from the pulpit, sometimes from the lecturn and sometimes from the pew. My job is to live each day with the same question… what do you have for me today, Lord?
Tomorrow will come. As will the 800+change days after that before graduation and exams and the call process brings me to the work that God is planning and preparing for me.
What do I want to do when I finish seminary? God knows. And that’s enough for me right now.