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What I Wish Others Had Known in My Various Ministry Settings

by Sandi Bradford

Sandi has been involved in directing graded music programs, teaching ministry, and prayer ministry to moms. She currently supports her husband in his ministry as general secretary of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri.

As I reflected on the title of the article assigned to me, at first I couldn't recall any major issues. In fact, I wanted to affirm the healthy climate of my ministry assignments. As a single teacher at several Christian institutions, I appreciated the camaraderie of fellow teachers. I felt accepted even when I was the novice, and was given support as I launched into new curricula or developed my own programs.

I do remember a time when the head of my department brought me into his office to discuss what turned out to be misinformation and misunderstandings on an issue. Out of it came even more mutual respect and trust as we openly worked through the issues. I have never forgotten the sense of self-worth I felt as we concluded that discussion, and the awareness that resolving conflicts in a godly manner brought a stronger bond to our relationship.

As a single woman in any ministry position, it was easy to pour all of my energy and passion into my work, and then feel resentment or loneliness when I realized it was not required or validated. I appreciated the consideration of the leaders of the Bible school while teaching overseas. After realizing that I was attending the early morning chapels and teaching through the evenings, they encouraged me not to attend the morning chapels. Self-care was a challenge for me, so it was a gift to have leadership care about my welfare.

In one of the Christian schools in which I taught, two of my female associates discovered that they were not being paid equitably to their male counterparts. That created tension for all involved and took strong resolve on their part to get fairly compensated. Though I didn't personally experience the salary discrepancy, I did sense the differences in how we were valued and perceived. It is a challenge for male and female teams to all feel equally supported and included by the leaders.

As I look back over 35 years of ministry, I think many of the challenges that existed are still the same: insufficient funds required to support ministries, lack of open communication in resolving conflicts, and unrealistic expectations of people.

After I married a pastor, I continued to teach for several years and was grateful for the church's acceptance of my calling as a teacher. The university also was gracious to allow me to travel overseas with my husband on several occasions.

For a couple of years, I was a paid staff member at one of our pastorates. Knowing the financial and political pressures of the church made for an interesting balancing act of supporting my husband and serving the people within my area of ministry. Often with tight budgets I made conservative decisions due to my concern for the pressures on my husband. Obviously, there were occasional personality issues and differences of perspective among the staff. Being one who dislikes conflict, I avoided issues or ignored situations to prevent confrontation. That was not the wisest response on my part, but it did save putting my husband in a difficult position on several occasions.

I also volunteered where I felt called, though serving as a volunteer put me in a unique place. Some people tried to use me to communicate their agendas to my husband. Other times, confidential information limited how I could respond to people. As coordinator for the children's music program at one of our churches, I loved working alongside other volunteers. But when there was an issue, the impact was greater and farther reaching because of my position as the pastor's wife.

As I look back over 35 years of ministry, I think many of the challenges that existed are still the same: insufficient funds required to support ministries, lack of open communication in resolving conflicts, and unrealistic expectations of people.

Reflecting more on my years in ministry, I wish there would have been more encouragement given to me. I needed to be encouraged like any other person. There were times that having a leader who would have been open about the financial challenges or the concerns for the ministry would have brought more understanding and incentive to respond as a team.

In pondering this writing assignment, it is easy for me to think more about what I wish I had known when I first stepped into ministry roles. It is easy for me to take the blame and responsibility for many of the situations I faced. I didn't understand my personality or my giftings when I began. I had a lot of wonderful role models and assumptions of what I should be, and yet was disappointed in myself when I couldn't live up to their accomplishments. It has been a long journey of discovering who I am and accepting my strengths (and my weaknesses) to fit into the places of ministry in which I have been privileged to serve. Each place has been unique in its assignment, but I am grateful for the opportunities I have had, and I must trust God that He has taken what I have planted and brought the harvest that He ordains.