I’m not a surfer. I know almost nothing about surfing. But I happened to be on the Pacific Coast for a holiday Monday that intersected perfectly with a high surf warning. So I had the opportunity to spend a good hour observing the intricacies of surfing. As I watched, I noticed several metaphors that connect with ministry:
SURFERS WATCH FOR WHAT JUST MIGHT BE THE RIGHT WAVE.
Surfers aren’t watching the shore. Surfers aren’t distracted by bright, shiny things. They are watching for the upcoming, potential waves. If they aren’t watching, they miss it. Or get knocked over by it. But if they are watching, they know which wave they want to try to catch.
Are we paying attention to what is coming and how we need to position our ministry and leadership accordingly? Or are we only paying attention to what already is?
SURFERS PADDLE INTO THE WAVE.
To catch the wave requires some hard paddling at just the right moment. Surfing is not passive. The waves are powerful, but the surfer has some work to do to connect with the power of the water.
Ministry is not passive. What do we need to do to align ourselves with a wave of the Spirit?
SOMETIMES IT’S A LONG RIDE, SOMETIMES IT’S A SHORT RIDE, AND SOMETIMES IT’S A WIPEOUT.
There’s no telling when you’re paddling into a wave how long the adventure is going to be. And sometimes there’s some spectacular falls. But that’s all part of surfing.
There’s no sure thing in ministry. There’s no guarantee against spectacular failures in ministry, except that if we never try anything we won’t fail. But we won’t experience the joy of the adventure either. There is inherent risk in trying new ministry, but sometimes, the risk changes lives and communities. Isn’t that worth trying?
THERE’S ALWAYS ANOTHER WAVE COMING.
Even if a wave is missed, or the ride wasn’t what the surfer hoped or expected, there’s always another wave coming. Always another adventure possible.
There will be missed opportunities in ministry. Are we going to wring our hands in despair, are we going to give up, or are we going to look for another opportunity?
Shannon Kiser is the director of the East Coast Presbyterian Center of New Church Innovation based out of northern Virginia. She is field staff for the Office of Church Growth, and parish associate at Riverside Presbyterian Church, a church planting church in Sterling, Virginia. She is involved in the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement, and works with presbyteries, existing churches, and potential planters to fan the flames of new, creative ministries. Shannon lives in Springfield, Virginia, with her husband and two daughters.