Recently I have been asked if I was a minister or a teacher. This was in two different settings, but it was close enough together that I decided to start thinking about it.
In both situations I kind of hedged. I didn’t really say no, and I didn’t really say yes. I am both, in a way. I’m both at the same time, but not officially.
But what makes one official? The paperwork? A ceremony? Does training count? What kind? Or is it simply if you do the work, you are the worker?
For three years, I’ve tutored kindergartners who have learning disabilities or have English as a second language. Before that, I did the same in college for years. I’ve taught classes on various subjects in the medieval reenactment group I was in. I’ve taught classes at my old church. In all these situations, what qualifies me is that I do the work. I just know how, and I do it.
I’ve taken classes in Pastoral care, in the Circle process, and been in the discernment process to be a deacon. I’ve read many books on how to be a minister and how to bridge cultures and styles. I’ve gotten certified as a minister online so I can legally perform weddings for people who are not affiliated with a religious community. In this, what qualifies me is the training.
To me, part of being a minister or a teacher is not that I think I’m better than those that I minister to or teach. It is that I feel it is my blessing to help them remember their own power. It isn’t about “lording” over people. It is about leading them back to themselves.
My goal in both being a minister or a teacher is to help build bridges. I’m a facilitator, a translator. I find out what is preventing them from being able to fully be themselves, and I find a workaround. Perhaps there is some prayer form that they don’t know about. Perhaps they would enjoy painting more than beading. I try to find the best fit for the person.
When people ask me if I’m a minister or a teacher, perhaps I should ask them “What do you say I am?” like Jesus did. Jesus didn’t tell anybody what he was. He just did the work – with no training and no certification. He was all about just getting in there and doing it. He wasn’t ordained, and he didn’t ordain anybody. He was actually against the idea of giving over your power to authority figures.
Perhaps if people on their own are asking me if I’m a minister or a teacher, I am. If they see me that way, then I must be that way, right?
But I’m not a minister or a teacher in the way they think I am. I don’t want them to then think that I have some authority or power over them. It is the exact opposite. I’m here to help them find themselves. I’m here to help remove stumbling blocks. I’m more of a facilitator – I make it easier. In a way, I’m more like a cheerleader than a coach.