Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Asking for what we need is scary!

This topic has been on my mind repeatedly during my ministry, in every congregation I've served. It is, for me, terrifying to put together a proposal about some shift in my work or schedule, present it, and then wait to see what the outcome will be.

I came from a profession in which the teachers' union did all the heavy lifting for us. We had professional negotiators looking out for our raises, our class sizes, our evaluation standards. And, as a preacher's kid, I didn't know how my dad handled his salary concerns with the board of trustees, so when I came into ministry, I didn't have much experience with asking for what I needed, as a minister.

In my earliest congregations, I just took what they offered and made it work. Gradually, I began to feel on more solid ground and started to set my own rates for such things as weddings and memorials. But even they weren't firm; I'd take what folks could afford. It was an "honorarium", after all, not a fee. Fees weren't religious! The ministers' professional chapter helped with this and set recommended honoraria, which gave us something to use as a reference.

But the task of asking for a new approach to a ministry is scary! I am in the waiting stage, but past the chewing my fingernails stage, of getting input about tweaking my work for next year. Changes in a small congregation need to be carefully considered, for they cause shifts in the culture of the congregation.

It's often valuable to think of changes as "experiments" or a process of discernment about the future of the congregation. It helps for people to know that changes are not necessarily carved in stone and are designed to help the congregation prosper.

My Buddhist buddies tell me to let go of the outcome and I try, I really do, but I also have such a strong drive to get completion on situations that I tend to "awfulize" if I don't get feedback right away.

Did I mention that on the Myers-Briggs I'm "J to the nth power"? That's me, ENFJto the max!


Ms. Theologian said...

I have a lot of trouble with this too, particularly when I think if I ask for too much, I'll just not be hired in the first place or have my contract nixed.

But I like the idea that it is important to ask for what you need regardless of the outcome. That's really helpful to me. thank you.

Miss Kitty said...

I think a LOT of people have trouble asking for what they need. I'm one of those people. Whether it's asking my loved ones for something, or asking for a raise, or asking customers to buy something, I've always had a tough time with it.

I'd mention what Jesus said about "Ask, and ye shall receive," but I think that might be sacrilegious [sp?] of me.

Berrysmom said...

Is this a woman thing? I feel the same way.

I tend to say, "Oh, it's okay, don't worry about me..." (back of hand to forehead). Fortunately I am married to a man (co-minister partner) who says "This is not okay!"

So I am learning.

Also, I'm a total ENFJ like you. No wonder we like each other!

ms. kitty said...

I have gotten much better over the years, but I still get scared to ask, I still agonize over whether I've asked properly or have asked for too much, etc. However, I've learned that when I don't ask, I get more resentful of the status quo. Of course, sometimes I ask and get turned down, and I must say I am not a happy camper then, unless the reasons for being turned down are understandable and I can see the point.

Mile High Pixie said...

Not asking for what we want is indeed a woman thing. We're taught not to rock the boat and to go along to get along. However, if we're going to get our fair share in the world, we have to get over that and learn how to ask for what we want without being obnoxious...which is actually very easy to do.

I would echo Miss Kitty's quoting of Jesus, whom I think of as a feminist. One must ask so that others know what we want and can let us know if they can meet those needs. There's nothing wrong with being clear with others; it's a very kind thing to do with others.