So Major Life Decision has morphed into Major Life Event. We are no longer leaving Arkansas. We are no longer moving to South Dakota. Both are accomplished facts, no longer part of our planning, now part of our history.
I’m asking that question a lot in these first few days at my new appointment. DWU in July is quiet, to say the least. I’m reading through files and filling out forms and trying to learn the names of the buildings and the offices on campus. But that only fills up so much of the day. Ministry to me is always about people, not programming. No matter how much I plan, I still have to wait on students to arrive on campus before I can truly get to work on that part of my job.
I imagine this is at least somewhat true for my colleagues who pastor local churches. Those who moved this year began their ministries in their new settings in June or July, when church attendance is usually at its lowest. It’s almost impossible to get a true picture of congregational life in the summer, and those who try end up with a skewed understanding of what (and who) a church really is.
Maintaining perspective is one of the most important disciplines for those of us in new settings. We have lived in chaos for weeks in anticipation of the move. The temptation is to rush toward stability, to jump right in and declare ourselves landed.
But that approach only considers our need for order, not our duty to learn and love a new congregation. When the flight is turbulent, the ground looks awfully inviting. But the end result is good only if we have the discipline to grab the parachute first.
A new job—pastoral or otherwise—requires some floating. The first few weeks offer us a unique perspective from which to survey the terrain and decide where we will land.
So I’ve arrived at DWU, but I haven’t really landed yet. I’m floating toward stability and trying to not get in a hurry, trusting that solid ground will be here soon enough.