Someone in another presbytery, far away from here, once commented that the process of preparing those seeking ordination in the PC(USA) as ministers of the Word and Sacrament was akin to the uber-popular HBO series, Game of Thrones: “When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die.” I have to tell you, I have absolutely no time for that analogy. If it’s true, I want it to be different. Our historic commitment as Reformed theologians to the expectation of and support for educated pastoral leaders is at the heart of our rigorous process and road to ordination, but it doesn’t have to feel like a bloody battle.
My hope for the Presbytery of Wabash Valley is that we hold our inquirers and candidates to a high standard of learning, reflection, self-awareness, spiritual practices and lifelong exploration, and that we do so with love, compassion and prayerful reflection of our own. We need many candidates and inquirers for ministry who are equipped to lead in the 21st century in bold and new ways. I want our congregations and present and future leaders to have very positive and fruitful experiences in all of their encounters with the presbytery, including but not limited to CPM. I want them to feel called to service right here in this presbytery.
One of the ways in which we can positively influence and support those who are called to leadership as elders, deacons and ministers of the Word and Sacrament, is to identify and encourage them (and ourselves) to lean into their/our strengths. I’m a strong supporter of the character strengths approach, the positive psychology that undergirds appreciative inquiry, and the simple truth that we are “Equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:17).
Here’s an illustration of what I mean: a local congregation encourages and nurtures an enthusiastic member of the congregation who displays a great love for learning about scripture and sharing that love with others. They not only accept her offers to volunteer and help, but lift her (and many others) in prayer in worship. They give thanks for her and they name the gifts and strengths they see in her, taking the extra step and saying, “We thank God for your LOVE OF LEARNING and your ZEST in approaching God’s word with us.” They do more than say, “Thanks for volunteering.” They name the gifts they spot in an individual.
Spotting strengths is very biblical; both testaments witness to the power of encouraging others.
Our next opportunity to hone our skills of encouragement of others as well as identifying our own God-given gifts and strengths arrives on Saturday, May 4. Register here: https://ourpresbytery.org/events/connecting-through-character-strengths-workshop/