I do not believe I got into my current ministry role as Director of Small Groups for Greater New Jersey by accident. I chose to respond to a call. A call that I first thought was beyond my reach because of its additional demands that would compete with family needs. But when I talked to my family about helping others grow in their ministries of making more and stronger disciples through small group ministries, their unanimous response was, “that sounds like the perfect job for you.” I was surprised, but recognized God’s hand in their confident responses.
Small Groups is a form of ministry I have been involved with for many years. I’ve led small groups in every kind of environment: in prison, overseas, interdenominationally and in local UMC churches, as a lay person and as clergy.
Telling the story of “why” can be a powerful statement to examine in a small group. Why did you get into small groups? Why has your faith led you here? I pray this little story of my faith journey inspires you.
When I was ten I lost the birthstone ring my grandfather gave me for Christmas. Facing certain punishment, I got down on my knees and prayed in desperation. When I opened my eyes, the ring for which I had searched for hours was on the floor directly in front of me. Through that early experience I learned personally that God answers prayer.
One cold night while walking across the University of Pennsylvania’s campus during my junior year, I had a vivid realization that God was not calling me to become a broadcast journalist as I had for years planned. I changed direction. I was scared, but resolved not to look back and trust the nudge in my spirit to do something else. I felt exhilaration as I did so even though many around me did not understand. I learned that God gives direction and it takes courage to follow it.
When I was twenty-eight, my husband became suddenly critically ill, in a coma, and was on life support. After many days and personal prayers that amounted to bargaining with God for my husband’s life, I surrendered. My prayer honestly became “not my will, but yours Lord.” I physically, emotionally and spiritually felt myself let go of trying to control the situation. In less than an hour my husband came out of the coma and pulled the intubation equipment out of his own throat. He began a healing process that amazed his doctors. I learned to surrender my will to God.
When I was thirty-nine, I began realizing that my kids were growing up and I wanted a plan for something else in my life. I prayed for almost two years, asking God to show me. The answer seemed to take forever. But then, one January night, I had a vivid dream. In that dream the Lord told me to go to seminary. When I awoke I knew this was no ordinary dream. Although it had never been my plan and I was at first extremely reluctant, I enrolled in seminary seven months later. I learned to wait upon the Lord for clear direction.
As the stories I have shared indicate, the personal voice and power of God is very real and important to me and I have experienced it in many forms. It leads me forward – luring me into closer relationship, taking risks and growing deeper in my understanding of God’s vast love. I believe that I am at my best when I focus on seeking and obeying God. I have energy and passion for whatever I perceive is from God and I crave it. It is that desire for God that has infused in me a love of all people and a thirst for justice.
With that said, I think it important to note that I recognize that my experience of God is personal and others experience God differently. I also believe that experiences of God’s personal voice will be confirmed through the understandings and experiences of others, through the Bible and through tradition. I believe these understandings are crucial for keeping me grounded.
So now that I have opened up to you, I challenge you to share your own answers to “Why I got into this?” Share in small groups and with me by responding to this post! The answers will enrich community and your own individual relationship with God.