Part 3: What Road Signs Are You Seeing in Your Ministry?

We invited several pastors to reflect on “road signs” they’re seeing in their ministry and here’s what they had to say:

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear…

Reflection by: Mamie Broadhurst

About a month ago, Mark Ramsey wrote, “The work of ministry requires fluency in all the signs, clear direct and peripheral vision, and the quick judgment to discern the ones to obey and the ones to consider…as well as the ones to ignore.” While I agree with the spirit of what he said, I have been thinking about whether or not I agree with him – or, better said, whether I think what he suggests is possible. 

After all, what happens if you run across a sign that you don’t know?

There are several options: 

Dismiss it. 
It’s not a real sign. It’s not in any book. It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s stupid.

Obsess about it. 
What if it is in some book somewhere? Allow it to occupy your waking hours and let it keep you up at night worrying whether there is something you are supposed to be doing because of it.

Allow it to spark your sense of wonder.
What might this sign mean? Does it matter? Could it matter? Who would enjoy 
thinking about this sign with me, and who would have an interesting perspective on this that I haven’t considered? 

I’m pretty sure I’ve tipped my hand about what I think is the best option. Certainly there are times to let things go, just as there are times to tease them out and spend extra energy on them, but I think wondering is almost always a prior step for either of those options. 

Wondering gives us the space to open ourselves to the Spirit and see what she has in store for us. Perhaps it is just a chance to stop and laugh a little – to take ourselves and our ministry a little less seriously. Perhaps it is the opportunity to learn from others who will see this sign differently because of their own experiences and faith journeys. Perhaps an unknown sign is just the chance to remember that God is wonder-full, and to follow God is to be full of wonder ourselves. 

Temporary Signs

Reflection by: Carrie Graham

In this time of change for religion in the United States, my ministry is like the temporary signs that help direct traffic during construction and change. Some -but not all- will become permanent fixtures as signs along the road. These signs, often adhered to gates, barriers or on wooden pedestals, often work to experiment, observe, help through the change and/or see what helps traffic. It lets people know the exit is still in the same place…for just a bit longer. It prepares drivers for the new ramps and lanes to come. 

More details on this:

The work I do in ministry reminds me of my neighborhood. It’s a new neighborhood, yet in the thick of a metropolitan area. There is a constant flow of new visitors navigating our new streets, our new signs and pedestrian crosswalks that may or may not be very visible to drivers. Our city’s neighborhood assistance system is often overloaded with calls from my neighborhood, where residents make frequent requests for new signs to go up to cope with what we are learning works best for all the foot, pet, bike, vehicle and construction traffic in our midst. Some of the current signs simply don’t work for this mix of people, so we ask for new signs to help develop a safer environment for all. If the city checks it out and agrees, we see those changes happen. For example, it is common for a 2-way stop to ultimately be treated like a 4-way stop, as folks acclimate to new roads, building, residents and visitors. Eventually it very well may just become a 4-way stop, if we discover that’s what’s safest. We see more and more pedestrians choosing to cross at certain intersections more than others; they will likely become equipped with pedestrian signs or lights in the near future.

Because I engage in nontraditional, experimental ministry, it often seems like I am discovering what signs still matter, and which ones it may be time to change. The important aspect of my call, in service to the future of Church and my colleagues who serve in more institutional contexts, is to pay enough attention to reinforce a sign that still matters, take it down or try a different one out to see if it might work better for our service to God and God’s people. 


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