Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

7/17 2014

Ministry: God Qualifies the Called

youth ministry in Pittsburgh

Joy Pedrow (second from right) felt called to ministry in her youth. She now interns with the Seminary’s Miller Summer Youth Institute.

What do you want to do when you grow up?”

This is most common asked question to a teenager or young adult, and the most hated. In high school, kids are 14-18 years old. At such a young age, it is challenging to completely know the answer to this question.

During my 10th grade year of high school in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, I started to get the call that God wanted me to go into ministry. What ministry has meant to me has changed over the years, but I knew two things: that I wanted to help people and that God was pretty cool. Combining those two things seemed perfect.

When I was asked that question, I felt embarrassed to share with others my heart’s desire for my career, so I would always reply, “Orthodontist.”

This was the safest way to go. If I would say, “I don’t know.” Then, I would get additional questions, “Well, what is your favorite subject? Did you like math? How about teaching? Etc.…”

These questions never helped me make any decision. Thus, I realized the safest thing to do was reply, “Orthodontist.” There were no follow up questions, just a nod of agreement and maybe an encouraging statement.

For a high schooler, it is extremely difficult to fully trust God with this subject. It is difficult to share with others when you are not 100 percent sure that this is what you will spend the rest of your life doing. Students also worry about what others will think of their choice. I worried people would not understand or they would try and talk me out of it.

The Miller Summer Youth Institute at Pittsburgh Seminary provided a safe place for students to discuss a call into ministry. There were many opportunities to ask questions, talk to peers, and begin to start trusting God with this decision.

When I was thinking about going into ministry, I believed the lie that one had to be perfect. I questioned, “How could I help people in their walks with God when I was not perfect?”

It is common to respond to God’s call for one’s life and say, “I’m not qualified.” My response now is, “Well, what is qualified? Name one person in the Bible who was qualified.”

Abraham lied about Sarah. Moses stuttered. Jonah ran away from God. Peter denied Jesus. The disciples fell asleep while praying. And there are more examples found all through scripture!

As you go through the process of figuring out your call, remember that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.

Joy Pedrow was born in Monroeville, Pa., and is now pursuing her communications degree at University of South Florida. An alumna of the program and now an intern, Joy is exploring her call to ministry with the Seminary’s Miller Summer Youth Institute. Check out her blog at http://joypedrow.wordpress.com/

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5/22 2014

Seminary is Only the Beginning

Elaine

I actually laughed when I was asked to reflect on one thing I wish I had learned in seminary after nearly a year in ministry.  A friend’s response to hearing about this prompt was, “One thing?  Can it be ten?”  Truthfully, I have encountered more things than I can count in my first year of ministry that seminary did not prepare me for.  It would be easy to write a laundry list of how I wish seminary had taught me to navigate the world of church insurance, had given me better tools to reach out to congregants with dementia, had trained me on how to lead people into healthy conversations about money; how I wish I had learned in seminary just how much time I would spend answering emails, sitting in meetings, dealing with administrative tasks, and just how rare actual theological conversations would be.

At the end of the day, though, seminary is not really there to teach us those things in the first place.  I think I knew that, but I wish I had appreciated it.  I also wish I had appreciated the fact that the things I was taught in seminary were only seeds that still need a lot of time and space and nurturing to grow.

Seminary taught me how to think differently.  It opened my mind to new ideas, new concepts, whole new worlds of thought.  It gave me a new perspective, a new language, lots of new vocabulary.  Seminary taught me more than I could have ever imagined, and I loved (almost) every minute of it, but it did not – and could not – really, truly, practically prepare me for what being in ministry looks like.  I wish I had appreciated sooner that even though I may be a Teaching Elder, I need my congregation and my context to teach me about theology, about church history, about pastoral care, too.

I learned in seminary about the dynamics of “family churches,” but I was not at all prepared for what that actually meant until I saw my congregation pull together to support, defend, or care for one another.  We talk so much about the importance of hospitality, but I hear that word with new ears after going weeks without buying produce as bags and bags of vegetables kept appearing on my doorstep.  I certainly thought I understood the concept of grace after three years of seminary, but that idea, too, has taken on new life for me after a year that has certainly not been mistake-free.

There certainly have been days in the past year of my life when being unprepared feels like it is par for the course.  There are days when it is easy to say about so many things, “Why didn’t we learn this in seminary?!”  There are also days, though, when I hear echoes of lectures, of discussions, of conversations from classes that can feel a world away and think, “Oh, that’s what that meant,” and realize again that seminary was only the beginning, that I was not supposed to learn everything there, that God is still working through all the people and situations and circumstances around me to continue that growth.

Written by, Rev. Elaine Loggi ’13, First Presbyterian Church, Fairfax, MO

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5/15 2014

Things I wish I would have learned in seminary

The question provided to prompt this blog post was, “now that you are working in ministry, what is one thing you wish you would have been told or would have learned to prepare you?”

Even though I only started ministry in October 2013 and am very new to ordained ministry, I have already been greatly enriched, encouraged, challenged, stretched, discouraged, blessed, and baffled by God’s abundant grace. I loved my time at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and believe my time began to prepare me for ministry.  I say “began” because ministry is truly a unique calling where something new is learned every day.

Therefore, narrowing down what I wish I would have been told or learned to better prepare me for ministry is difficult. Ministry really does require life-long learning. Theology books should not be closed and packed away after graduation. Keep a collective list of all books (including non-theology books) you have read and a brief summary. You would be surprised with how helpful this can be for sermon preparation. Try to learn something new daily.

Other bonus tidbits of potentially helpful advice:

1) C.P.E-Even if you are not required to do a unit; do one anyway. Yes, I truly believe lots of pastoral care skills can only really be learned in the field. I do think it is possible to be a pastoral leader without having a C.P.E unit.  However, chances are as you visit parishioners in their homes or hospitals you will not have the chance to reflect theologically with either your senior pastor or others. It is a benefit I wish I had after driving home from the nursing home to visit an elderly and lonely parishioner.  I am currently looking into using continuing education to complete a unit of congregational C.P.E, but while you are in seminary go ahead and do C.P.E.

2) Administrative/ business type tasks– Administrative tasks also vary from day to day. Be prepared for anything and everything. I have done lots various tasks that end with me laughing and saying “I didn’t learn this in seminary!” Also, I am not great with numbers and I wish someone would have suggested to take a class which teaches administrative, budgets, numbers, how to run a business, etc.

3) Estimated Taxes– Check and see if there are any withholdings from your check and ask if you are not sure. Please do yourselves a favor and learn about estimated taxes. I am grateful my senior pastor filled me in on the process but I have had friends who went a while without budgeting for estimated quarterly taxes who ended up owing tons of money to the Federal and State governments.

I’m sure if asked in another month or day, I would have more to add to this list. But above all, remember to rely on our Lord, who created, called, and sustains us. Remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Maybe even post these verses somewhere in your future offices or work spaces and read them whenever you face trials.

Blessings and prayers for each of you on your journeys,

Written by The Rev. Amanda Maguire ’13, Associate Pastor at Graham Presbyterian Church in Graham, NC.

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