As a Regional Pastor I sometimes find it can be difficult to get pastors to open up and talk about what really matters. Surprisingly, that was not the case in the three (yes, three in a row…September, October, November) CRC pastor conferences I attended last fall.
Perhaps it was my new role as a Regional Pastor that caused me to interact more and be more open. Perhaps even that Birkman Assessment helped push me a bit to be more social (thanks, Sam!). Regardless, a key element in all three conferences was using questions to help us open up and share our stories.
This was especially true at the later career pastors gathering in October. Cecil and Dave gracefully walked us through the Biblical story of Jacob’s wrestling with God right into telling our own stories of pastoral calling, serving, and struggling. It seemed so simple, so profound, so satisfying, and so blissfully exhausting! I longed for more and thus shall be part of a later career pastor mentoring group in 2020 to continue the journey and explore more of what it looks like to "finish well.”
But perhaps the most insightful moment came at our Biennial Regional Pastors' Conference in November. During a table discussion, we exchanged ideas on how to get pastors to share their "real" stories. Here's the question one pastor suggested from his little box: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Pause. Listen. Help draw it out if necessary. And then ask: So how, if at all, has that experience and memory affected your life?
Interesting. Revealing. Powerful!
Personally, I’ve been on a “recollection of childhood memories” ever since. Even my Advent sermons “suffered gain” from asking myself “early childhood memory” questions. It seemed especially revealing to me to follow the Advent themes of love, hope, joy, and peace, and ask these questions:
- What is my earliest memory of experiencing love? How did that shape my life: my understanding of God, family, and the world?
- What did I hope for as a child? As a preacher I quickly redeemed and rephrased the question away from commercialistic Christmas gift expectations (i.e. "What do I hope to get for Christmas?") and asked what did you hope to be when you were a child? A fire-fighter, a doctor…etc. So, what are your hopes now? What do you hope to be for the new year? What is your 2020 vision?
- What childhood memory of “great joy” do you have? What memory still puts a smile on your face and laughter in your heart?
- And what gave you peace as a child? Or perhaps: Who brought you into the place of peace, safety, and security when you were just a child?
You get the picture. Revisiting our childhood memories might just reignite our first loves and hopes and joys…or the hurtful lack there of which needs to be reframed and redeemed by God’s story of grace. Retelling these childhood memories may just send us on a revealing journey of transformation and rescue us pastors from the lonely, tiresome ruts of routine and ruin.