General CBF

The Push and Pull of Ministry Discernment

By Craig Janney

Craig Janney - Copy

Craig Janney, CBF’s Congregational Reference and Referral Manager

For the last 15 years, I’ve fronted a rotating ensemble of musicians in a praise and worship-Top 40 cover band hybrid aptly named The Craig Janney Band (original, I know).

The best part about playing with talented musicians is the inevitability of learning new parts of the craft. During one particular practice session, the drummer — who sunlights as a city manager — improvised a beat in the chorus that hit my ears with curiosity. After we finished the song, I asked him to show me what he did differently.

He played the beat again and explained that it was the push and pull technique built off of the leverage and rebound of the Gladstone stroke. This advanced technique allows drummers to play more beats with less energy, reducing fatigue and expanding their range using one hand.

While we’ve covered many songs, we’ve never played “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash. *Email to self: Add to repertoire.* In my work with Reference and Referral, ministers consistently ask me about staying put or going somewhere else to serve. The hesitancy in their voice is a familiar sound: that of push and pull.

The push and pull of ministerial discernment is both a push out of/from one ministry and a pull to/toward a new ministry.

For each minister, the push is different but clearly identifiable. You may find yourself thinking, “I’ve completed what I was called here to do” or “I wonder what other ways I can best use my gifts for ministry?” For some ministers the push occurs when key leadership shifts, congregation size changes or life situations necessitate transition. When you sense the push, it’s important to name it, own it and explore it. Understanding your push will hone your sensitivity to the Spirit’s tempo. Those who leave a place of service because of the pull without a discerning push from a former ministry feel the grief of urgency.

In contrast, those who leave a place of service in the push without a pull toward a new place of ministry may feel the urgency of grief. To most ministers, the pull comes as contact with a pastor search committee. Sometimes you may be searching for this pull, while other times the pull finds you. Perhaps you’ve said, “That would be my ideal church” or “I would thrive there” or “If I had my pick, I’d go there.” However, not all pulls will be the right fit. The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. When you sense the pull, take the time consider your motivating factors. A misalignment between your push and pull is likely to cause your feeling of push to resurface.

Anticipating the leverage and rebound of this technique will help you practice discernment. The confirmation you’ve made the right choice requires both push and pull. The leverage of the push includes the stories behind the bullet points on your resume that highlight God’s calling; those significant accomplishments you’ve achieved with focus and investment that also affirm your push. Leverage accounts for what you’ve learned while pastoring and the skills you will take with you to a new place. Proficiencies in discipleship, pastoral care, preaching, convening and running productive meetings, fundraising and follow-up are attractive to churches looking to pull (call) a new pastor.

The cyclical pattern of the push and pull technique is: leverage ~ push ~ rebound ~ pull.

Rebounding between push and pull allows for efficiency and validation throughout your transition. In order to begin well in a new ministry the rebounding pull of a church is vital because it positions you for a steady, proactive start. You might not pick up drumsticks anytime soon, but you may find yourself asking God what’s next sooner or later. I would love to talk with you about your push and pull at this year’s General Assembly in Atlanta.

Sign up for your 15-minute appointment during Ministers on the Move from 9:15 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 30, in Hanover Hall G (Exhibit Level) of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Contact Craig Janney to register

Craig Janney serves as the CBF Congregational Reference and Referral Manager. 

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