Is Pastoral Ministry Like Taking a Test?

This week following the Leadership in Ministry workshop, I visited my friend and colleague, Meg Hess.  Her daughter, Keziah, has on the refrigerator a list of “Test Taking Tips” left over from elementary school.  I love tips, and I thought these might actually apply to pastoral ministry more than you might expect.

Here they are:

Test Taking Tips

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Enough said.
  2. Eat a healthy breakfast. Likewise.
  3. Read and follow directions. I remember taking a class from Bob Goeser at the Lutheran seminary in Berkeley. He said: “It’s not the parts of Scripture I don’t understand that are the problem. It’s the parts I do, like ‘Love your neighbor.’”
  4. Your first answer is probably right. This one doesn’t always apply – if your first response is anxious, it may not be right. However, if you have an instinct about someone you want to hire, especially a twinge that they might be a problem, you are probably right.
  5. Use time wisely. Enough said.
  6. Answer fully and accurately. Generally, greater openness is better than less.
  7. Stay calm and focused. Enough said.
  8. If unsure, take an educated guess. As my grandmother said, “Do your best; angels can’t do better.”
  9. Make sure all answers are readable. Be as clear as you can in your communication.
  10. Celebrate your effort. This one may be the most important.

What do you think? Do you have any tips to add?

2 replies on “Is Pastoral Ministry Like Taking a Test?

  • Roslyn Wright

    Reminds me of the lovely piece by Robert Fulghum “All I need to know I learned in kindergarten.”
    His words:
    All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
    Share everything.
    Play fair.
    Don’t hit people.
    Put things back where you found them.
    Clean up your own mess.
    Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
    Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
    Wash your hands before you eat.
    Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
    Take a nap every afternoon.
    When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
    Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
    And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.
    Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

    Fulghum, Robert. All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thought on Common Things. London: Grafton Books, 1989, pp1-3.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *