As we prepare for this year’s Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry, we are asking several writers to write about what the word “declare” means for them, for their ministry, and for the church. Throughout history, prophetic voices have made declarations—often ones that are uncomfortable to the religious elite. We hope to bring some of that same discomfort into our lives and yours over the next few weeks. If you are interested in thinking through the meaning of “declare” further, sign up for the Forum today!
Hypocrisy and Ministry
There are few words that Christians shudder at more than the “H” word… “hypocrite.” We assume the wider world already sees us that way so we do everything in our power to avoid the connection. We have seen far too many of our “brothers and sisters” preach one thing and then get nailed for doing the exact opposite. Most of all, we desperately want our faith practice to be more than just words.
Yet while we are directing our energies to avoid one problem, we are unintentionally creating a new one. Sure—you may be successfully evading the mortal sins that get your name in the news (i.e. lying, cheating, stealing), but are you modeling the life-giving practices that sustain a healthy ministry and a healthy existence?
Learning to Rest
What I find shocking is not only the fact that most of my colleagues are working seven days a week—but that they are proud of it.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have with fellow ministry folks that end up in comparing how much time we take off. What I find shocking is not only the fact that most of my colleagues are working seven days a week—but that they are proud of it. They view it as a sign of their commitment to their call, devotion to their community, and proof of their value to the church.
Ironically, if you were to do a study on any of the major scandals that have hit the church in the past century, they would be preceded by a pattern of unhealthy habits. Working too hard. Not taking time off. Not spending time away from the church. In short, there is no way to avoid bad ministry without practicing good ministry.
To be fair, a ministry job is probably the hardest profession in which to develop and maintain good habits. After all, our work is of eternal significance. We are dealing with matters of life and death. Major life events don’t schedule their occurrence around our days off. It is far easier to give this line of work everything we have than to figure out how to balance it all.
Modeling Good Ministry
Being a good Christian isn’t just about NOT doing what we say we shouldn’t do, it is also about DOING what we say we should do.
But not only is it bad for us to devote our entire beings to our jobs, it is also bad for those we minister to. Being a good Christian isn’t just about NOT doing what we say we shouldn’t do, it is also about DOING what we say we should do. Things like remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy, honoring our relationships with time and attention and loving ourselves enough to do things we enjoy. Taking care of ourselves requires work, but just like the work of the church, it is work worth contemplating and work worth doing.
Consider the following questions:
-When was the last time you took an ENTIRE day off?
-What is something, outside of your work, that gives you joy?
-Who is someone you love and care about, outside of the church, that needs your time and attention?
-When is it hard for you to step away from work physically, mentally, and spiritually? Why is this?
The Rev. Dr. Charlene Han Powell is the Associate Pastor for Education & Engagement at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Charlene is a second-generation Korean American, honored daughter of immigrants Wha Lim Han and Dr. Hye Kyung Kim, devoted sister of Christine and Luis Perez, Cheryl Han and Sebastien Gagnon, beloved wife of Jordan Powell, and adoring mother of Amelie and Noa Han Powell. She holds a BA in religious studies from the University of California-San Diego, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from New York Theological Seminary. Her passion is helping people understand and articulate their faith in our diverse, multicultural, multifaith world. When she is not at FAPC, there is a good chance you will find her in Central Park chasing after her girls, or catching up on one of her (many) TV shows. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @TheRevHanPowell.