What it Means to be a Minister
The significance of ministering to others.
The journey to enlightenment (or even the work it takes to kindle a spiritual fire) can be a daunting path. It takes time, effort, persistence, and of course integrity. It is not something you can passively play at and expect to receive any significant result. It goes back to the old saying, “You get what you give”.
My work as an Interfaith Minister and as the Elder of my church and coven means I need to be many things. It means knowing myself and acting with integrity.
How I came to understand what it means to be a minister and the importance of ministering from an authentic place, started with a journey that is not yet complete.
The other day I was having a conversation with my friend & co-elder about how I place my spirit in a box. This is something I know I do and it is something I do deliberately. She and I share an understanding of why.
Spirit, true spirit, scares people. For some, it is straight up terrifying.
As a Minister, I need to decode and present Spirit to believers and non-believers in a way that helps them accept and understand Spirit with their level of spiritual capacity. The trick is to do this in a way that keeps them from running away in fear.
I can’t unleash Spirit on them, turn their world completely upside down, and expect them to be okay with the experience. Naturally, I box it up and control with whom, where, and when my spirit is experienced. This only happens with trust. If I don’t trust you, you will never know my deep inner workings.
Spirit unhinges everything you know, or think you know. Most people are extremely uncomfortable with being thrown off kilter in the most prolific way. Spirit is unbridled energy that often goes against everything we know to be right and true in our controlled and manufactured lives.
When I was a little girl, a few months after my brother died, I went to our annual church summer camp for kids where we would spend a week “in the woods” discovering our faith and learning to practice our faith as dictated by our congregation’s bias priests of pride. This particular year, I was called to participate in their loose version of a Spirit Quest or Vision Journey, better known as “Speaking in Tongue”.
As they called willing participants up, I sat down on the floor in front of the stage with the Ministers and seminary students and began praying. Now keep in mind most of the accounts I will share here come from the perceptions others who were attending me as this 2+ – hour experience unfolded. I only remember my experience as it happened behind my closed eyes.
As I sat and prayed I opened myself fully to the energy that was surrounding us. Suddenly, I found myself in a safe place where my deceased brother stood and spoke to me. I could see his silhouette, hear his voice, and see a light behind him. This soft glowing light was calling me home. Not in relative to death but home in relation to my purpose in life as a spiritual being.
What I was told after I recovered from the 2+ hours event, laced with tears, unconscious speaking, and emotional outpouring was that I was speaking Chinese. I have never spoken a word of Chinese in my life up to this point, not even to order dinner at our favorite restaurant. Now, you can imagine fully coherent Chinese coming from the lips of blonde haired, white middle-class 10-yr old was an odd thing to see indeed. It caught the attention of many participants.
Apparently, I was surrounded by many people as I journeyed who were desperately trying to figure out what I was saying. Finally, they found a Chinese exchange student who was there with her host family and she gave them a translation. The significance of speaking Chinese and the translation is not important here, but the experience is.
One of the seminary students attending to me was holding my hands and said that they felt like fire. The energy radiating from them was so intense she asked someone to bring a cold glass of water she could hold it for relief from time to time as she stayed with me.
The whole experience was very taxing. Not only on my mind and body but for those around me. The whole next day I felt like had a hangover, and suffered through the day with a hoarse voice and puffy eyes. To top it off, instead of this being an experience of wonder and hope, people now feared me. I became a monster to all who witnessed the event; I was a freak.
I was anomalous and unworthy of my community’s friendship and compassion, and all I did was what I was told to do; I simply opened myself up to Spirit. As we all know, placing a child in this situation is beyond destructive. Maybe that’s why I identified with Anne of Green Gables so well. Now that I know more about Vision/Spirit Quests I know that the leaders of this event were not prepared for what I would summon and the Divinity that would manifest using my body and voice as it’s conduit.
Later, I spoke to my Youth Minister, (he heard about my experience and asked me to speak with him), and from our conversation, the new founded fear and resentment I initially experienced at the camp was reinforced. The one person who should have had a better grasp on Divinity and the act of Speaking in Tongues also deemed me as a freak.
I was made to feel like I made it all up. Like I was a faker and liar. Like I was seeking attention and that I was making a spectacle of this religious practice. They used my brother’s death as a springboard for their misunderstandings and false conclusions.
This experience -The attitudes of those I thought I could trust damaged my spirit, leaving a scar that will never fade. Which explains why to this day, I have zero tolerance for fakes and liars. It also explains why I choose to box it up.
However, now that I am a Minister I can look back on this trial by fire, and I realize what it means to be a Minister and the importance of appropriate compassionate ministry. I realize the significance of leading from an authentic place and seeking guidance when and where necessary.
Here are some important points I have come to realize to be true in relation to serving as a Minister and conducting any kind of ministry for others.
Ministers are a source of guidance…
Ministering to others does not mean you know it all or that you have all the answers. It is impossible to know it all. BUT one thing you should know is yourself, and your path.
As Ministers, we should be seeking our truth and demonstrate to others how to live the BEST possible life.
Perfection is an illusion, we don’t need to be perfect, but Ministers should do their very best to know as much as they can about their path. To guide others, you must have a positive forward momentum in your life, including knowledge and experience. It means continually learning spiritual concepts, counseling techniques, spiritual techniques, and more.
It also means you must be a solid foundation that others can lean on when they need a sense of peace and guidance. Again, this does not mean you are perfect, but it does mean you have a better grasp on the trials of life when everyone else seems shaky and ambiguous. It means you have enough sense to step back out of the emotion of a situation to see the bigger picture. It means you can look at any situation from a different angle and find a solution without getting caught up in the drama. It means you live your life in a way that helps you maintain balance in all things; financially, emotionally, spiritually, and so on.
If we are struggling with basic things like supporting yourself or family or maintaining positive friendships/relationships, you struggle with emotional outbursts, engage in gossip, if you are disorganized you are not quite where we need to be. When the most basic incident knocks you off balance and this shift interferes with your ability to connect with Divinity and counsel others you are not in the place you need to be as a Minister.
Some of this comes from having a basic understanding of psychology. It also comes from having faith and having trust in yourself and the Gods you represent. It comes from personal and professional experience. It comes from getting your life and health together. It comes from continued education. It comes from knowing that in the end, no matter how difficult the journey, everything will be just fine. Most importantly, it comes from living our life with veracity.
A Minister works to become whole…
To expand on the above statement, a minister must be stable, but not necessarily whole. Perfection and wholeness are an illusion meant to distract us from doing the work necessary for our community.
Working to become whole, does not mean that you will never have a bad day or any level of uncertainty in your life. To reinforce my previous comments on stability, working to become whole means you will become more emotionally agile and stable because of your diligence. It means you will have the level head in the most severe of situations. You will become the solid foundation others need in times of crisis and confusion.
Working to become whole means you have a very solid foundation in your life to stand upon. It means you work to keep your emotions, mind, and life in order, allowing you the room and permanency to embrace the weary and illuminate the road they must walk, (if they so choose) without losing or damaging yourself in the process.
To effectively do this you cannot be weary. You cannot be a mess and expect to help others on their path with any positive result. You cannot live an unhealthy life and expect to heal others. You cannot drink excessively, do drugs, and expect to help recovering addicts. You cannot expect to council others on their personal, mental and emotional issues if you don’t have a firm understanding and grasp of your own personal, mental and emotional issues.
I have said this a thousand times and I will continue to say it until the message is understood, “You cannot heal others until you heal yourself.”
A Minister is authentic…
This is a definite. If you expect to teach and lead others toward their own authentic path, you must teach and lead from an authentic place.
It boils down to this: “You get what you give!”
When Ministers lead and teach from a place of counterfeit foundations they are misleading those they guide. When we steal ideas and the work of others we are choosing to work deceitfully which in the end damages the trust others must place in us for the real work to happen.
By denying our own authenticity, we are denying others the ability to discover their authenticity. Most times when people fall into the trap of copying and piggy-backing on the work of others, they end up imposing their own fears, and misunderstandings on those they lead.
I wrote a whole other blog post on trust and authenticity, so I will not rehash that message here, but you can follow this LINK to read it if you like.
A Minister is a “Servant” …
A large part of our mission as Ministers is to serve those who seek our guidance. We are called to serve as trusted and knowledgeable spiritual chaperons. We care called to serve the purpose of our Gods and Divinity within this realm as closely as we can. We are called to do what we do because it is part of who we are, and we have chosen to answer this call because we have a unique ability to fulfill our calling. How we choose to perform our duties as Ministers is crucial.
We are here to represent our Gods. How we do this is important. It again goes back to integrity and authenticity. If we are imposing our own desires and selfish needs on our work as Ministers, we are not serving our Gods as intended.
As Ministers, we are meant to be a part of something BIGGER than ourselves. We are meant to serve our spiritual calling and purpose without selfish or misleading agendas and distractions. We are meant to see the big picture and not get caught up in the unimportant elements of mundane life.
A Minister has a solid moral compass…
As Ministers, we must have our ducks in a row. This does not mean you must be a prude or the “Stick in the mud”. It does mean you need to understand what is harmful to yourself and others with laser precision. This means knowing right from wrong. It means recognizing behaviors and attitudes that are destructive and having the ability to guide yourself and others out of harmful patterns.
This means we as Ministers we MUST have truthfulness and that comes from having a strong moral compass and strong positive character traits. You can’t fake this or pretend to be a good solid moral character for long. Again, this does not mean you need to be a prude, nor does it mean you need to be perfect; it simply means you need to have your wits about you and have adequate capacities to advise yourself and others in knowing right from wrong especially in the areas that seem a bit gray. It means having solid core values and living by them every minute of every day.
Those who represent themselves with a false moral compass are always revealed. Their fraud does not simply disappear because they will it away. Instead, it seems to hide and wait; resting until the right moment presents itself and then it waltzes in bells ringing and horns blowing.
In short, walk the talk; mean what you say and say what you mean.
Ministers are counselors and confidants
This should never be taken lightly. As a minister people come to you with their faith on their sleeves. They often feel broken, bruised, and they are looking for hope in their darkest hour. You might be their last chance for redemption, sympathy, and acceptance in this world.
They need you. Therefore, we need to be there for them in the best possible way. We need to show up with our finely tuned moral compass in hand, ready to be fully present in the situation. When someone comes to you for help and guidance, their ability to learn and grow beyond their current means rests squarely on your shoulders. You cannot taint the counsel you offer with your own fears, limiting beliefs, personal agendas, and bias.
To adequately counsel others you must know how. This comes with training.You MUST learn how to guide people without setting them off to do more harm.
A Minister understands complicated and even scary spiritual concepts…
In the story I told before, I experienced what a Minister should never do to someone who is seeking spiritual and emotional clarity.
My experience in Speaking in Tongues, and with Spirit was very real and it was not the last experience I would have. Because I did not have a solid spiritual mentor, I learned to box up my spirit so I had full control over when and where it is revealed. I do this because I learned that even the perceived trusted or presumably spiritually minded of this world can turn on you. Especially when your gifts and abilities intimidate or scare them.
I learned that I will be misunderstood and hated for my abilities and knowledge. This was a hard lesson to learn for a 10-year-old who just lost her brother. To this day, it continues to be a hard lesson. We all walk this path alone when we exile our kin because we don’t fully understand them, we cause lasting harm to ourselves and others.
If my Minister at the time of my initial experience had embraced what had happened and if he instead chose to teach me more about my abilities, I assure you things would have turned out differently. I would have grown within my spiritual life’s purpose instead of spending half a lifetime running away and denying it.
I also understand that the reason my leaders were not able to guide me is because they had no experience with “Speaking in Tongue” or any other type of deep spiritual phenomenon; because they could not experience it for their selves, they discounted it and judged me for it instead.
As Ministers, we need to understand what Spirit can teach us. We need to be open to the infinite ways Spirit works with and through us and others. We need to have a grasp on the many spiritual conduits we can tap into if we only allow ourselves. We need to accept and understand what happens when we do finally consent to Spirit and allow Divinity to do it’s intended work.
As Ministers, we cannot work with fear at our backs and we cannot resent others for having a certain knack for connecting to Spirit. We need to have our wits about us so we can teach others who seek a connection with Spirit that it this connection, not something to fear or resent. This comes with contentment. Being content means we have no need or desire to compete with others, and we have nothing to prove. We instead become servants of Divinity, as intended.
Think of it this way, most people fear change. Spirit changes everything it touches. Knowing this means that when people realize that they will most definitely appear to be different to others compared to before they began working with spirit, their fear of change will take hold. We again must be that solid foundation, that guiding star that helps them stay the course.
We must demonstrate to our students that this IS A GREAT THING, and becoming your true self through working with Spirit will make life increasingly better the more they work toward connecting with Divinity
This again means we as Ministers must have our proverbial shit together. We must live in a way that demonstrates the wonder and fantastic possibilities along the way. We need to serve as proof that this kind of change is fantastic and fulfilling, instead of scary and isolating.
Whether you are an ordained minister, self-appointed or even if you only consider yourself a teacher, all these points apply to you. By placing yourself in a position of authority or expertise you need to be prepared for what the jobs demands.
I could write for days on this subject, but I will leave it as this for now.