So, you have been called to ministry in Maine, but are “from away,” what are some principles of which you will do well to be mindful? Or perhaps you have served here a little while, and already are experienced lingering doubts, even despair, over decisions you made months ago. Is there something that you might have missed? Whether or not you currently agree with these 7 principles, matters little. What matters more is that what is written here be prayerfully considered in your own ministry context and life: (in no particular order)
- Think long game, not short—To commit to ministry in Maine, it is better to think 3-5 years before seriously measurable fruit can be expected. Of course anything can happen in a day, month or year, but be prepared to invest yourself and your time over the long haul, not the short one. For many reasons the spiritual pace is slower in Maine. To attempt to run contrary to that pace is to risk not following the lead of the Holy Spirit where you are currently.
- Trust must be earned through relationship, not assumed through role—Generally, people in Maine are friendly but such are still reserved (especially to those not originally from Maine). With many people over time coming in to the area with passionate desires to “change things” or “to make improvements,” only to move out a few years later, has left a skeptical taste on the lips of “Mainers” living here. Invest early energies in getting to know people, as well as the lay of the land. This is a good place to do ministry!
- Humble hearts prevail, not prideful ones—Genuineness of character, has a much louder voice than confident pride. Although the initial draw may be significant to the one seemingly able to direct in leadership, such draw is often short-lived and not lasting. People see through and fall away from those who fail to be vulnerable, willing to listen, and learn.
- Ministry in Maine is difficult, not easy—To think otherwise is to be easily disheartened and discouraged. Maine is often called “rocky soil” for a reason. At worst it is called “a graveyard for pastors,” which also is not without reason! Others have said that Maine is a mission field. It is. Expect difficulties, but look for joys to be found in surprising places.
- Know your call and calling to Maine, not your dream—Revisit them often. Many voices and opinions may seek to distract and pull you away from your primary call and mission. Dreams get dashed. If there is a need yourself to question your call and calling, do so before the One who gave them to you in the first place. Wrestle with them until He wins! Being resolute as you engage your ministry comes from this.
- Commit, re-commit, not quit—Honestly, there will be many times you will feel ready to write your resignation letter. Write them if you must, but don’t submit them! These occasions can be painful opportunities to shape your character and mature your faith. However, “staying in the fight” is what is frequently required of a spiritual leader who seeks to advance the Kingdom in his area of calling. Blessings, often missed, usually come on the other side of the battle.
- Minister in Maine together, not solo—It is far too easy to get isolated and eliminated. “Iron sharpens iron.” It cannot sharpen itself. Seek and develop deeper, more vulnerable relations with a few others who are also “In the dust of the Rabbi” with you. Such are not gleaned from occasional clergy meetings (no matter how well intentioned), but from relationships of intentionality, mixed with spontaneity of shared experience. Make this a priority in your life as well as ministry.
—RWO/MAST (with the help of those who’ve been there)