Rev. Wendy Mohler-Seib served as a TiM Associate Pastor from 2012-2014 at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, KS. We interviewed her to learn more about some of what she experienced in her two years as a part of the Transition into Ministry (TiM) program.
What are some ways that your involvement in the TiM program shaped you in your first two years of full-time ministry as a pastor?
The TiM)Program served as an incubator for developing me into a more committed disciple of Jesus Christ, and it provided foundational pastoral experiences that will serve me well over a life-time of service to Christ and the church. TiM offers young clergy the opportunity to work alongside a seasoned pastor in the initial years of ministry. The program provides a cohort of colleagues that provide stability, support, and encouragement during the tenuous, uncertain transition between seminary and full-time pastoral ministry. The program provides the opportunity for young clergy to begin developing lifelong friendships with colleagues by walking through the first few years of ministry in a safe space whereby intentional discipleship formation occurs in a trustworthy, covenant community. It offers excellent advice and coaching through the one-on-one expertise of an experienced, well-established Senior Pastor in a healthy ministry setting. Furthermore, TiM provides special opportunities for new clergy to connect with other church leaders around best practices for fruitful ministry.
What relationships did you develop during your time as a TiM Associate?
The TIM program helped me by providing a network of laughter, joy, support, and friendship with my cohort of fellow TiM Associates. Together, we explored the many ways God shaped and molded our calling through the practice of ministry. In quiet reflection, we worked through the joys and frustrations of ministry together, and assessed our personal growth in small groups. In my first two years of ministry, my TiM cohorts always provided a safe space for me to share the raw emotions of ministry. My mentor helped me to act in wisdom and discernment as I navigated conflict management in the life of the church and he helped me to hone my strengths and identify my blind spots as we reflected in one-on-one weekly meetings. In conversation and practice, my mentor worked alongside me to form my pastoral identity and grow into the gifts and graces God gave to me for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.
You had several years of experience as a youth and young adult minister prior to attending seminary. What is something that was a new ministry experience for you in your time as a TiM Pastor?
In my two years with TiM, I experienced supervising staff for my first time. I learned the different motivational needs of eight employees, and I discovered many styles of leadership necessary for a leader to address the various motivating principles for each individual employee. I shared in sacred moments with newborn babies and those facing death. I wrestled alongside others with the demons of depression, suicide, and hopelessness. Along with a lay team, I worked to implement a stewardship campaign and preached my first sermon on tithing and stewardship. Through consistent preaching and the feedback of my lay committee, I worked to hone my preaching skills by trying new ideas and listening to the feedback of the laity after preaching a sermon.
Do you have any words of advice for young clergy?
First and foremost, I invite all young clergy to tend your soul. Take care of you! Saying “no” is okay, especially if it enables you to be a better pastor in the long run. Take Sabbath, read the scriptures daily, spend time in prayer, and do not neglect your own needs. Tend to your soul in order that you may tend the souls of others. Secondly, I encourage young clergy to take a retired clergy person to lunch regularly. Pick their brain! Ask the retiree for advice, wisdom, stories, and insight into your weaknesses. Next, ask questions. Don’t be afraid that you are expected to know everything right out of seminary. View ministry as a great learning adventure whereby God places experts all around you to strengthen the work of the kingdom. Since the weight of ministry does not rest solely on the shoulders of the pastor, ask questions of laity with more experience and expertise than you. Lean on the strengths of the laity and trust the laity to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as I lead the work God is doing in and around us. Finally, work hard to build strong relationships with colleagues. There will be days you think you are too busy to talk to a colleague or meet for lunch. Create space for other colleagues. These relationships are essential to the tending of your own soul and they are essential to the longevity of clergy in the life of the church.