Reflections on my Coursework
Through entering and continuing with this program, my passion for the ministry has been engaged and renewed through learning about new applications, foundations, and research surrounding pastoral care and ministerial leadership. In delving more deeply into studies surrounding mental health, forgiveness, family systems, working with seniors, and spiritual psychology, I believe that I have given myself a stronger base to stand upon when interacting with individuals within my church.
One of the key issues that my studies has helped me to understand is the process of forgiveness, particularly when the offender is someone with values much different than my own. Through studying forgiveness, I have been able to recognize my shortcomings and understand how I can better interact with members of my congregation. For instance, for particularly difficult cases, the continual negative behavior of offenders in the past has made it difficult for me to complete the process of forgiveness. Through studying this process, I can now identify that the offender is facing their own struggles and issues in their every day lives, and because of this, I am trying to better relate to them and see the struggle through their own eyes. What I have learned and recognized through my studies is that to better relate to offenders, we must look closely at their behaviors, to understand things they might be feeling and how that may impact their daily interactions. In addition to this, I now understand that not forgiving does not grant me any pleasure, as it makes me feel negative thoughts and causes me to act in ways that I do not desire, such as in anger. Studying the psychology of these processes has taught me that holding onto these feelings will only continue these negative moods, so I now believe that I need to give my offender forgiveness, for the wellbeing of myself, as well as for them. My course on the Psychology and Theory behind Forgiveness has granted me great respect for the ability to forgive, even when it may appear undeserved. I have learned that there are few benefits in holding onto grudges, and that we are often better served by utilizing the process of forgiveness, both for others, as well as for ourselves. Through completing my coursework, I know realize that is important to understand that while we may perceive the behaviors of others as negative, there may be reasons behind them, such as issues with family or friends. By forgiving these people and attempting to understand their situation, we can break this cycle of negativity and can be positive to those around us. While negativity may be easier to accept and hold onto, positivity will better enrich us and those around us, allowing others to be happier and healthier.
Another key issue that I have learned through my studies is the importance of self-management for effective pastoral leadership. Through my studies in pastoral leadership, I was able to continuously witness pastors and leaders presenting self-management in order to provide lessons to their congregations. These studies helped me to identify how to discuss such issues with my congregations. In particular, I learned that it is important to hear how others struggle with issues of self-management in order to have a better understanding of the people around you. Knowing that even mentors, such as pastors, struggle to self-manage themselves can help us to better relate to others and to not put ourselves down when we encounter these issues. Further, listening and understanding how others self-manage themselves can help us to create better strategies for our own self-management. After learning about these concepts, I was able to apply these concepts myself in a congregation I helped to lead recently. In this congregation, I discussed the importance of self-management, and spoke of an instance where I was forced to examine my own actions when discussing matters with family. While I spoke of becoming frustrated with the discourse, I also spoke of how rather than forcing my beliefs upon my family members as the only truth, I spoke of what I believed to them, using words such as “I think”, rather than “I know”, or “You’re wrong”. Through this, I was able to clearly discuss my points with my family, without shutting down the others in the argument. This story allowed the congregation to better understand how patience and active listening can help prevent anger and arguments, and stimulate more healthy relationships. Through completing my coursework, I now have the insights and spiritual creativity to create stories that better relate to congregations. My studies have helped me to believe that pastors who can face their own issues and demonstrate self-management in front of others are superior mentors and leaders, through “leading by doing”, rather than just lecturing. Further, I have learned that by speaking to congregations about issues they struggle with, pastors can better relate to those around them, which makes them better leaders and mentors overall.
A final issue that my studies has helped me to address is the societal pressures that many new couples are feeling because of modern ways of thinking, and the lack of traditional familial relationships. What I have realized through my studies in family systems is that through new modern arrangements, many young families find themselves in dual-worker relationships, in stark contrast to the traditional one-income household. I have learned that these dual-worker lifestyles offer unique challenges and benefits for families. For instance, it allows couples to share career goals and professional challenges, in addition to allowing women to pursue traditionally male fields, which provides their children with solid role models, and a more independent lifestyle. Further, the onset of the dual-worker household has allowed for greater financial opportunities for families, allowing for lifestyle upgrades, education and retirement funds, travel, and an overall greater disposable income. However, these households also display distinct disadvantages when compared to more traditional ones. Families with dual-worker parents often face issues of fatigue, child care worries, and stress. This can lead to parents feeling guilty for not spending enough time with their children, as well as children feeling like they are an inconvenience to their parents. In addition to this, dual-worker families also face household issues, such as the fair division of chores, and personal challenges, such as deciding to further one’s career at the expense of familial relationships. To combat these issues and to keep relationships strong, I have learned that pastoral care and meetings can be of great benefit to discuss challenges and keep the lines of communication open between the couples. These pastoral meetings can help couples to discuss their career goals with each other, set priorities, and develop plans and processes to help them conquer household issues, such as chores and child care. Dual-worker households are becoming commonplace, and it is important that these types of families maintain communication between each other and their pastors to help them adjust their lifestyles accordingly. This new theological insight I have gained will help me for future congregations, and has helped to expand my spiritual imagination in responding to such challenges, especially as these new models of family continue to challenge our traditional definitions of husbands and wives.
Through my studies thus far, I have learned to expand my mind and spiritual imagination to address many modern issues that I might face with congregations. My studies in self-management and the theories of forgiveness have influenced both my personal and professional life through allowing me to better understand the people I interact with and the struggles they might be facing in their every day lives. Further, my studies on modern family systems have greatly influenced how I hope to interact with congregations in the future, in terms of understanding how traditional family values are changing, and how to skillfully adapt to them. I hope that through applying these new methods and insights, that I can create a ministry with more open lines of communication between all its members, to better help people cope with issues and discuss their problems without fears of judgement. With these new skills, insights, and passion, I believe I will become a greater pastoral leader than I could have hoped before this program began.