I get tired of hearing ministry students utter the phrase, “They didn’t teach me THAT in Bible College.” Most of the time, they’re saying that their Bible College training didn’t prepare them for bad things. They maintain that they were not prepared for how to deal with a death in their church. They were not told how to respond to a major natural disaster. They were never made aware of the fact that there would be people in their own congregation who would say and do hurtful–even downright evil–things to them.
I went through Bible College, and I currently WORK in one. I was prepared for that stuff. I had a couple of professors who went out of their way to tell us that we’d need thick skin. If people go through Bible College and aren’t prepared for the bad stuff, then they can’t blame their professors. My personal theory is that those people probably skipped class/Chapel a lot…you’d have to have been virtually absent for entire semesters not to have had some professor, somewhere basically say, “Look…you’re going to have to love it. A lot of the time, it sucks…and the money isn’t going to be enough to make it worth it.”
I learned that. I knew it in Bible College, and I was more than ready for that when I was working in my ministry. Though, to be fair, maybe some of those students went into their ministry/ministries with blinders on, thinking, “Well, it’s not going to be like that for ME.” I forget sometimes that a lot of the Christian College crowd grew up living fairly sheltered lives, and that they have no idea what the world is like. Shoot, I know some 40-year-olds who’ve never even been in a bar, much less a fist-fight. And, shocking as it is to someone with my personal history…there are just some people who’ve never lost anyone (or if they did, it wasn’t sudden or devastating enough to give them any sense of the horror that some people go through).
I’m good at that stuff, at this point. I’m the guy you want to walk into the bad situations. If someone dies, I’m the guy you want mingling at the wake. If a tornado tears apart someone’s house, I’m the dude that you want in the office to tell them that either (a) the church can put them up for a while or (b) the church has no money that they can offer, but they’re free to get a bag from the food pantry. If a teen in the youth group reveals that she’s pregnant, I’m the guy you want to be there to tell her that she’s still a good person and that she can be a good mom. If that same teen has an abortion, I’m the guy you want there to tell her that God still loves her and that (yes, church, this IS true) she’s still able to be a Christian and live a happy, God-fearing life.
…and if you think I have trouble dealing with abhorrent, vindictive, rude, conniving, slanderous, just plain MEAN people… Well, you clearly know nothing of my days working in churches. (Even still, let’s face it, there’s only so many times you can be personally attacked without walking away…and that’s an important lesson that you *should* learn in Bible College, too.)
What I’m saying is…I’m GOOD at dealing with the bad stuff. I have never said that my Bible College professors didn’t prepare me for that stuff… But there IS something they didn’t prepare me for…and I think this is probably the only really fair use of that accusation…
I have absolutely no idea how to minister under happy circumstances. I realized this when I visited my brother, sister-in-law, and new baby niece in the hospital last week. A new baby is a happy-thing. I went over, as any good uncle would, and hung around the hospital with everybody twice. (I would’ve been there more if not for my work schedule.) I realized, and even commented, that I had no idea what to say. I’m good at hospital calls–but not when the person that I’m visiting is actually HAPPY to be in the hospital!
No one prepared me for that one…
- Got a kind of retro-hits mix going on…