The New Christians

The New Christians

Mondays with Mark

Here’s the next installment of an on-going conversation with Mark Patrick, my spiritual director.

Tony: Mark, I wonder if you’re willing
to tell us a bit about the last ten years of your life.  It seems like
it’s been quite a journey, and your experience has been extremely helpful to
me at the present moment.

Mark: You know I’ve gone
back and forth between being a pastor–who ends up doing a lot of
counseling–and being a therapist/counselor who has a deep appreciation for
the place one’s spiritual journey plays in life.  Ten years ago I was
working as a therapist.  While I enjoyed being of help to people in that
context I missed the ongoing relationship with people after they had made
progress with their current struggles/issues.  One of the aspects of
pastoral ministry I enjoy is knowing and walking-along-side of people through
the years… I often know a person’s family and history well–not
simply because someone attempts to explain it to me, but from my own
interaction with them.


    So, I began
working in a large church just south of Minneapolis, MN.  I felt I had something to
offer through my counseling background and my pastoral care experience. 
Often one of the challenges in working in a large church is the constant
emphasis on growth.  Some of it is a genuine desire to help people find a
meaningful faith.  Some of it is the subtle pressure to be successful, as
demonstrated by numbers of people and a growing budget.  With my focus
and personality I am continually concentrating on the individual person or
family and wanting to create a helpful connection in community. 


    When I
left the church position three years ago I began doing counseling again. 
Now while I continue with that I am expanding to also offer spiritual
direction/personal coaching.  One of my strong interests is learning to
make prayer a resource during challenging times.  I’m findiing this
refreshing and more honest connection with God and want to see
others experience it as well.  Another strong motivation I have is
assisting younger leaders as they find their way through the challenges
of working in a ministry context.  Part of my vision is to see
churches be as committed to their staff as the church want their staff workers
to be committed to their ministry.  We all need continuing education and
growth.  I see a growing need for a personal and practical resource for
leaders in ministry. 


    I’d be
interested in hearing what your commenters are finding to be
of help in their own life of faith–in or out of the church

Tony: Yeah, I hope some people will chime in on that, too, Mark (although it seems people would rather comment on GLBT issues!).  In my own life, I never felt that I was very good at walking alongside people over an extended period of time.  That was definitely one of my struggles as a pastor — I always felt that I lived too much “in my head” to be of much help to others.

Prayer, on the other hand, is something that I’ve worked hard to incorporate in my own life.  Back when I was your kids’ youth pastor, I wrote a few books on it.  And now I’m exploring some types of prayer and meditation that you and I can discuss in coming weeks — I’m sure it will stretch the boundaries for some of my Christian readers.

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posted January 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm

“Another strong motivation I have is assisting younger leaders as they find their way through the challenges of working in a ministry context. Part of my vision is to see churches be as committed to their staff as the church want their staff workers to be committed to their ministry. We all need continuing education and growth. I see a growing need for a personal and practical resource for leaders in ministry.”
Reading these conversations has made me realize the great need I have in my life for someone with just such a passion. Working in ministry can be brutal. It’s difficult to balance the responsibilities of employment with the daily struggle of personal growth. Prayer can be particularly difficult for me, personally. I’m excited to hear the details of your explorations.
Sharing life, on the other hand, comes somewhat more naturally for me. I am continually changed by the stories and the thoughts of the people who surround my everyday life. Just today, I had a friend sit with me and spout off his deepest, most intimate thoughts for almost an hour uninterrupted. I just listened to everything from his loftiest thoughts to his stories about school and his girlfriend. I was amazed by his perspectives and his understandings. Afterwards, after pouring his heart out, after exposing himself in all sorts of vulnerability, he straightened his shoulders and asked me if I would like a tortilla. To me, those relationships, those moments of vulnerable communication are life. Those are the times and places that God’s kingdom is most evident to me.

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posted January 26, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Looking forward to hearing more about prayer and meditation and more from the conversation with Mark!

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posted January 28, 2009 at 10:22 am

I have found therapy/Spiritual Direction to be vital for me right now in my journey of faith.

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