Each of us has far more potential to serve the Highest Cause, and each other, than we ever tap into. Many of us seeking to commit our lives to such service have, even if only briefly, considered leading or joining an established ministry - at least until the responsibilities associated with our real-world concerns reasserted themselves in our thoughts. How can we even begin to commit to a ministry service with all the work we currently do and all the responsibilities we have? Such a choice seems to be reserved for those with no families, no need to work (or a willingness to live in abject poverty for their cause) and none of the other demands on their time that most people have. I was agonizing over the same problems when the following question popped into my head:
Why do I have to join a ministry in order to do the work of a ministry?
I know the sort of things I want to accomplish, and the sort of change I want to affect in the world. Surely, if I put my mind to it, there could be any number of ways to take the sort of daily activities that we all need to attend to - the need to have a career and make a living, have a fulfilling social life and other "worldly concerns" - and rework them so that they accomplish their surface goals (such as getting the dry cleaning collected and the bills paid) while at the same time they are used as a vehicle to further my spiritual goals. In other words, to create a sort of free-ranging, one-woman ministry.
Then I realized that there were already people out there doing just this, famous people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Carter, Maya Angelou and Dr. Patch Adams, as well as the less famous (but just as effective) individuals like the doctors who donate their time and expertise to healing the destitute or victims of war, disaster or crime, or even Joe and Jane Q. Public who dedicate their lives to a certain cause or concept, men and women of the world who used a personal tragedy, success or epiphany in their lives as a turning point in their behavior or as emotional currency to "fund" the creation of something greater than themselves. These people still had to eat and pay rent, still had families and jobs and social lives to attend to, but at the same time, they either did live or are currently living their lives as a full-blown ministry, serving the greater good as much as any organizational ministry under the "disguise" of living their lives to the fullest.
The truth that I have discovered is that each of us, with the right amount of support, creativity and an open mind, can find ways to turn our once normal and mundane lives into living works of spiritual art, not only through the obvious methods such as supporting our favorite causes and contributing our money to charities, but also by modeling the behavior of a spiritual leader, being available to help others at need, taking our own spiritual standards public (and not backing down when others want us to "play along" with unethical or un-loving activities) and taking responsibility to actively pursue the creation of a positive, nurturing environment for everyone.
For example: I am expressing my ministry by working for global change through personal evolution, and I do this not only through coaching, writing and speaking, but also by constantly seeking and finding ways to do good in everyday situations even if they don't relate to my "career ministry" directly - such as smiling at everyone in order to contribute to and increase the positive attitude of the world around me, collecting aluminum cans on my walks with the dogs (I get a few pennies, non-renewable resources are recycled and the world is a cleaner place) and complimenting others on jobs well done or challenges well met, even if I don't know those I am speaking to.
[Note: Yes, strangers may be flabbergasted to be complimented for, say, handling a toddler's screaming fit in a loving manner (and those of us who are shy may be just as strained by the exchange!). But it is really the responsibility of each of us to not only complain when we see someone mistreating someone else, behaving in a socially destructive way or creating an atmosphere of intimidation or endangerment for others, but to actively support and encourage those doing the opposite. Praise always reinforces good behavior much better than complaints do. If enough people feel that their efforts to do right are being appreciated and acknowledged, then over time the whole behavior base of the society changes as these people stick with the hard decisions and choices, and pass that ethic down to their children.]
The path to creating your own personal ministry is a matter of a few simple steps:
First, you need to begin work on getting your own house in order. You don't need to be a perfect person, or even be able to play one on TV. But you do need to be in a position to focus on being the best "you" there is. After all, how far can the ministry get if the minister is kaput?
Second, you need a cause. This could be something as specific as raising money for at risk Latino children in a particular neighborhood, or as broad as creating a pocket of happiness around you wherever you go. It doesn't matter what it is, just that you have a destination to head toward. "Random acts of kindness" are wonderful, but "targeted acts of will" get more done. (And don't worry about getting "trapped" by a single idea that you may grow out of. It's your ministry. If you decide to change horses mid-race then by all means, jump! Staying with a particular cause after you've lost your interest can only hamper your activities, and does a disservice to those you're trying to help.)?
Third, you need to contemplate what a ministry dedicated to the work you've decided to take on would do, besides the obvious activities. As an example, a ministry devoted to raising money for the blind does just that, but also does community outreach (informing the public, offering related services to the surrounding area and inviting help with their own work), partners with other ministries to initiate and implement broad-based projects and community aid strategies, and otherwise makes itself useful locally and in the bigger picture. As a ministry of one, this will also be your task.
Talk to people about your cause. Make up flyers and post them on corkboards at stores and public laundries. Call in to local radio shows whenever the topic veers reasonably close to your own and weave a "plug" for your cause into your question or comment. Write letters to the editor. Make or buy hats, t-shirts and/or nice, quality pins (available online as 'metal name tags or badges') that proclaim your purpose and wear them often in order to pique interest and start conversations. If you have access to a nice residence and wealthy (or even just generous) friends with charitable attitudes, invite them over for elegant full-dress "house parties" where you ask a speaker from the cause you support to give a presentation to the group and then round up donations (let everyone know ahead of time to bring their checkbooks) while your guests shmooze and network with the movers and shakers around town (who, if given enough warning, can usually be rounded up for a good cause and a good dinner). Don't forget to invite the press, and use this public expression of "see and be seen" as an incentive - donors love to get their pictures in the paper handing out checks to good causes!
Fourth and finally, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, be the change you wish to see in the world. If you are tired of the violence and me-me-me attitudes of modern life, don't give in to surges of anger and frustration when someone butts in line ahead of you or wrongs you. If you are sick of all the unnecessary hunger and poverty in the world, don't take the easy route in your own life by buying cheap merchandise made affordable only through the use of child, or slave, labor - and put down the less expensive brand of coffee that comes cheap through the exploitation of farmers unable to fight for a living wage without facing severe retribution. Walk your talk.
As no one raindrop believes itself responsible for the flood, we are all too easily convinced that our behaviors aren't a "drop in the bucket" on such issues. But all those drops do add up. If you want proof, consider how many fast food places now have at least one vegetarian sandwich or food product on the menu every day, or how many garment companies now offer third-party inspection of their manufacturing plants and proudly flaunt "Sweatshop Free" stickers and labels. Only a handful of years ago that was wishful thinking. But enough people demanding it, and refusing to lower their standards and take what was offered, turned the tide and changed the world. If you won't live the life that supports what you advocate, why should you expect anybody else do differently?
IMPORTANT! There is a fine line between devotion to a cause and an obsession. Part of the premise of the ministry of one is that you should seek to create a balanced life. If you become a repetitious, predictable, one-trick-pony stick-in-the-mud (you know what I'm talking about - the bore that everyone always avoids because they know exactly what the conversation will be and that there will be no escape), then your ministry will suffer rather than prosper. We can all bring to mind people who, while no doubt sincere and well-intentioned, did much more harm to their cause than any determined detractor could, simply by being unable to think about, talk about or take into consideration other topics for discussion.? Don't become one of them. Even the greatest religious leaders - Jesus Christ, Buddha, the Pope, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, etc., were able to take a little time off to smile and laugh with friends, family and community. Don't neglect loved ones, or the other "non-ministerial" facets of your personality or dream life by getting too hung up on the central focus of your ministry. After all, you never know what pathway will lead you to where you need to be next.
(c) Soni Pitts
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Soni Pitts is the Chief Visionary Butt-Kicker of SoniPitts.Com. She specializes in helping others reclaim "soul proprietorship" in their lives and to begin living the life their Creator always intended for them.
She is the author of the free e-book "50 Ways To Reach Your Goals" and over 100 self-help and inspirational articles, as well as other products and resources designed to facilitate this process of personal growth and spiritual development.