By Betty Pugh Mills
I entered full-time ministry in the summer of 1990 and by 1994 was beginning to understand, painfully so, some of the more complex and challenging aspects of the demands of congregational ministry. That fall, I attended my first Leadership in Ministry Workshop at Lost River Retreat Center in West Virginia, and have been attending ever since. I now serve on the faculty of the one of the workshops, so I get four times a year to head up the mountain where cells phones have no life and there is time to think, reflect, dig and discern more deeply about “what I am doing?,” “why I am doing it?”, and “how might I do it better?” Sometimes this work on self, on functioning, and on leadership is very painful, sometimes it is energizing, but all the time it is rewarding and worth all the effort.
I am blessed through my congregation’s investment in clergy self-care and professional excellence to have monies that will support this work in Bowen Family Systems Theory and I am thankful each time I get to go. It is pretty much the only thing I do these days other than an occasional preaching conference, because it is pretty much the thing that helps me in my ministry and feels worth the money.
I am thankful for the colleagues that I have found over the 18 years, the learning that has occurred and all the opportunities for growth that I have received from presentations, small group time, and even in conversations around a mealtime or at late night social gatherings while learning some new line dance (yes, some Baptists dance). It is a good place, a safe place, a place in which I am surrounded by people who care but who are also honest, interested in growth, mine and their own, and willing to traverse the discomfort of the human predicament for the mere sake of such personal growth.
Each year when I go through the personnel evaluation at my church, I take time to remind my personnel commission how valuable the experience of the workshops are for me, and how appreciative I am of the financial support the church provides in order to take advantage of these workshops. It is money well spent, and continues to be so. It has enriched my life, steadied me in difficult days, and deepened my understanding of what it means to continue to grow a self and to be part of a community. I feel like these workshops have helped me to be a better steward, a better pastor, but most of all, a better person. This is why I keep coming back.
The Rev. Dr. Betty Pugh Mills is pastor of Hampton Baptist Church, Hampton, VA. She serves on the faculty of the Leadership in Ministry Workshops. This article was originally published in Leadership In Ministry Newsletter (Winter 2009).
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