Practitioners in Ministry {The Grove: Welcome to Ministry Life}

I’ll never forget my first day of grad school. I felt l was so out of place. Incredibly inadequate. An amateur in a room full of experts.

I’ll never get there, I thought. I’ll never measure up.

It’s been six years pursuing my degree. I’ve written hundreds on hundreds of pages about community development, human trafficking, expat mental health, and human rights. Still, when I sit in a classroom with theorists and philosophers, I feel just like I did the first day of grad school.

Finally, I’ve realized it’s because I’m not a theorist. I’m not a philosopher. I’m a practitioner.

And being a practitioner means that I need to be able to take all the wonderful ideas I learned in the classroom and figure out what they look like practically in my day-to-day life.

As we welcome many of you moving overseas and joining a life a ministry, I want to encourage you in the same way.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent hours upon hours in the classroom of field preparation, learning about building movements and making big things happen in your personal ministry. And I don’t mean to discount the things you’ve learned at all!

What I do want to do is challenge you to make realistic goals about what it means to walk an obedient journey of ministry in a foreign context. You’re not in the classroom anymore. You’re IN THE THING. You’re a practitioner of ministry.

For my husband and I, living a sustainable ministry life has meant that we are regularly focusing on two to three people that we want to pour into with our time and energy. It’s not global in its impact. It’s not touching the potential for a CPM.

But it is what it is…practical and sustainable. And means a whole lot to us and to the people with which we’re spending our time.

We’ve asked our shepherds and our accountability partners back home to regularly ask us this question: Who are your two or three?  

The names will change over your time abroad. And they should. But we can all choose a handful of people with whom we spend intentional time and share intentional conversation. And I deeply believe that will help us all be practitioners in ministries that last.

What do you fear will threaten your ministry life as you move abroad? What are some expectations you have of your life in ministry? What are some sustainable ministry goals you’ve set for yourself? If you’ve been on the field a while, what can you teach us about cultivating a ministry that lasts?


This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesWelcome. You can add yours!


  1. Amy Young August 25, 2017


    I love this for a zillion reasons, but I’ll only share a few :). I’m a practitioner too!!! Many moons ago I trained people on how to teach English in China and then I moved on to something else. The person who took over the job for me was a MAJOR theorist (and beloved human being and fun and a good friend). He was a phenomenal presenter but consistently got low marks from people new to ministry in China. It was confusing. When I talked with him about it, he presented only theory (i.e. the theory of teaching oral English). From his wiring, of course theory lead to implementation. But for many, theory leads to theory :). Both are fine wirings!! Both are needed in the Kingdom!! Later when he and another mutual friend would get together and discuss their PhD research and treat me as an equal in the conversation . . . . First of all, I was very honored. But mostly, I was extremely lost 🙂

    The second reason I love this? Is because if people can early on have realistic expectations about how many people they pour into, how freeing it will be! I truly hope everyone Reading this who is new to the field Will take your words of wisdom to heart! Thanks Lauren.

    1. Lauren Pinkston August 28, 2017

      That’s an incredible story, Amy, and it fits perfectly with this piece! Thanks for sharing that, and also for sharing the encouragement that we are ALL needed, ALL valued, and ALL a part of work in the Kingdom…theorist and practitioner alike.

      And realistic expectations — we just need to see how Christ choose a few to walk alongside and stop thinking so highly of ourselves that we can do more than he did. 😉

  2. Ellie August 26, 2017

    I love this Lauren. “two or three”, yes. Yes. Yes, yes! And yes they will change over time. And in time you will perhaps find that the two or there who were your two or three early on have gone on to good things. And so on. Ministry, mentoring, pouring into. Deliberate, intentional. This. This. This. Is often what’s missing from our training/conversations/expectations because not everyone can do “big people movement” stuff. But also, particularly as an introvert and mum to young children at the moment, it’s all I can manage/my best fit. And that’s not less-than, just “different” than and God honours it. And I so value the people who’ve made intentional time for me over the years. Modelling mentoring. Phew. A relief to read this today and feel more valued/self-valuing for my life over the last few years! Thank you. 🙂

    1. Lauren Pinkston August 28, 2017

      Ellie, it sounds like you could have written this piece yourself! And it also sounds like some of your two or three are right under your roof. Isn’t it great how as moms we don’t even have to leave our house to find some pretty important people to mentor and walk alongside? I have one child in particular who needs all the extra “mentoring” I can give – ha! I’m so glad you were encouraged. Lots of us women here are trying to figure out how to do life and ministry and motherhood and our self-worth gets confusingly tangled in all that at times. You’re in good company here. Thanks for your comments!

  3. Cecily August 26, 2017

    I have the two or three, but if feels so insignificant.
    I’ve just returned from 70 days in my home country.
    So I’m readjusting to “life on the filed”.
    I have recovered from jet lag, but I am still asking the questions.
    Why am I here, again?
    I have a dream to do the impossible (a vision from God should be impossible apart from Him).
    But is this how I am supposed to spend my life?
    Is this what God wants?
    Why is it taking so long?
    I reach out to “the least of these”, and in doing so I look into the face of Jesus.
    But does my life count as much as it should, or have I wasted it?

    1. Lauren Pinkston August 28, 2017

      Cecily, I’m reading The Ragamuffin Gospel right now and it speaks so truly to what you’ve shared here. Those feelings of insignificance are real and haunting, and we must fight against them every day. The enemy would LOVE for us to believe that we’ve wasted our lives, that we’ve done nothing of importance. But to those two or three? You have meant the world. And I think you and I could both say that we are BEYOND grateful for the two or three that have poured into our lives. No insignificance there. 🙂

      Praying today for you to find your footing, know your value, and rest in the One whose significance surpasses all the smallness of our personal ministries. <3

      1. Cecily September 2, 2017

        Thanks, Lauren, for your identification with my own struggle, for the encouraging words, and for your good prayer for me.
        I do know that I have had a good impact in the lives of a few. And you are SO right about those, different ones throughout the years, who have had a huge significance in my life for good. May I learn the secret of contentment!

  4. Renée Grubb September 8, 2017

    I found this so encouraging and it totally resonates with my years overseas. My husband and I have been abiding with and available to others our whole married life (38 years) and have poured into relationships all those years. Sometimes when we are at our M meetings and hearing the global impact others are having in church planting movements etc. we can feel a bit deflated, but then we remember that it is the faithful discipleship over the long haul that sustains people we pour into. It is the life on life principle that Jesus lived those 3 years with his disciples. I just re-connected with a gal I was a youth leader for over 30 years ago and when I asked her what she remembered about our time together, her words of affirmation, made me break down and cry. We just never know what fruit comes in people’s lives, but just when I was discouraged living in the post Christian culture I serve, I get that message in a bottle reminding me, that there is hope when we persevere and simply love others and are available. So your two or three is huge and it adds up over time and multiplies thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit and simply being available.

    1. Cecily September 8, 2017

      Renee, I couldn’t agree more about your “life on life” statement. I think that this, though, is an easily overlooked reality when people want to see results NOW! Let us continue to spur one another on to love and good deeds, as long as it is called today!

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