The journal of a life in ministry

If you’re keeping up, you know that our church is celebrating its 150th anniversary — our sesquicentennial year.  Try making that announcement on Sunday morning!  Anyway, our committee is doing a wonderful job of inviting former pastors, musicians, and members, and gathering photos and other memorabilia for our 7-month long celebration.  Among the artifacts, clippings, and records that we have found, several small ledger books stand out. 

These bound ledger books were the journals of Reverend H. B. Hardaway, who was pastor of our church longer than anyone else — 29 years to be exact.  Hardaway pastored the church out of the aftermath of the Great Depression, through World War II, and just past the Korean war in the early 1950s.  He was beloved in the community and a little eccentric — he kept a pair of trained tufted titmouse birds (I am not making this up) — a novelty act he readily shared with his guests. 

But “Brother” Hardaway did something else.  He kept records of his ministry — detailed, meticulous records of when he preached, where he preached, how many people were there, what the weather conditions were, the sermon title and scripture, and other informative comments.  In addition to that he kept records of whom he married, where and when he performed the ceremony, and how much he was paid by the happy couple.  Some were happier that others because the going rate ranged from $0.50 to $3.00! 

As the ledgers came to the end of each month, Brother Hardaway tallied the results — number of sermons preached, baptisms and weddings performed, funerals conducted, pastoral visits made, and persons converted.  At the end of each year, he added up and recorded the total-to-date for each of those categories.  I have never seen such detailed record-keeping in all my years of ministry.

Which got me to thinking — what are we leaving today?  E-mails and attendance spreadsheets don’t have the same charm as these lovingly-written records of ministry.  It also made me wish that I had kept journals.  I’ve forgotten half the people I’ve married, and most of the sermons I’ve preached.  I may need to start recording something of what I think is important in my own ministry.  Maybe this blog is my way of wanting to be remembered, of wanting to be able to look at something and say, “My life made a difference.”  What are you leaving as a record of your ministry? 

9 thoughts on “The journal of a life in ministry”

  1. Great post, Chuck. And quite ironic, really.

    As you know, we are celebrating our 90th anniversary this spring. And as I was going through some of our records, I came across one of our previous ministers who did the EXACT same thing. The records are amazing…when, where, who, how much, and what. It’s awesome.

    And thanks for the reminder about what we leave behind…I think in this digital age, our blogs are exactly that. A record…a testimony…a memorial to what God is doing and what we are attempting alongside Him.

    Thanks again, brother.

  2. Brandon, amazing. I must have missed that day of class in seminary when we were told to keep records. Do you wonder why these guys kept records? Was it out of self-defense, or for their own reflection? Any thoughts?

  3. I think our guy did it for Board Meetings. He condensed his records into nice little reports…”I made 78 evangelism calls. I made 47 pastoral calls. I preached 900 sermons.” That kind of thing. And then report all he had done to the guys who were paying his salary.

    It makes my Board Reports look pretty lame! “I did some stuff.”

  4. You’ve got me thinking about leaving a record of my life — which includes my ministry

    Journals are a great way to leave a trail others can follow through our lives. They’re more permanent than bread crumbs or digital media future computers may not be able to read.

    Since these comments could easyol become long and detailed I’m going to put bullet points to work this time.

    * I began journalling in earnest (data, stats and reflections) as a way to convey to my kids and grandkids what was important to me, places where God showed Himself true to His Word, places where life was hard -just plain hard- and points of interest in between.

    * I write when I have something to say. I doesn’t have to be profound, just worth saying – or worth remembering.

    * I use a nice pen to help me think above the everyday.

    * My wife & kids know I’m writing for their eyes – eventually. I’ve told them they can read-in anytime, but I’m forthright on those pages so it may not read “pretty” when I’m in the middle of a struggle. That’s part of life.

    * When my dad went home to glory I received over 30 years-worth of his pastoral journals (much like Hardaways). What a treasure. The empty pages have nothing to say, but the written ones certainly do.

    * Three ring biders on my shelves help me keep permanent track of service plans, special services, seasonal productions I write. A friend recently asked to see some of my work and it took all of 20 minutes to find a binder containing the “We Remember” service we did on Sept. 11, 2002 (1st anniversary of the attack), and two Christmas productions, one from 1992, another from ten years later.

    * The biggest blessing -in my opinion- is being able to take a couple of hours now and then and remember. These volumes are like 12-stone arrangements on either side of the Jordan River. “this is where god did this” “this is where it began and my, look at that life now!”

    I guess in one sentence, it’s easier to rehearse God’s faithfulness through the years with real data open in your lap. Taking the time to capture and record it makes it possible. Thinking back and thanking Him makes the effort wortwhile.


  5. Phil, great comments and wow! I have a series of random moleskine notebooks but can’t compare to you. And I use a pen — a real fountain pen – -which I find can be messy, smeary, and real. Great thoughts and thanks for sharing with us. — Chuck

  6. You’re welcome – those lines were hastily written and you might could guess. (Feel free to fix my typos, and capitalize God for me) 🙂

    One of the challenges about keeping records or journalling — or blogging — is that it’s easy to let it take too much time and have an adverse affect on the rest of life & ministry if one isn’t careful.

    Time and money are alike that way, I suppose. Both have to be carefully budgeted. But if there’s a way to efficiently track the details of day-to-day service to quickly summarize for a monthly report, or record thoughts above grade, we oughtta KEEP ’em a while! 🙂


  7. Wow, great thoughts. Thanks for sharing these…I have to get up early tomorrow and go to Office Depot and get a nice pen now; you both have inspired me.

  8. While you’re there get a couple inexpensive 3-ring binders. The kind you can print a title page and a spine panel and slide in there so you can see the contents without taking it off the shelf. It’s a great place to put hard-copies of those spread-sheets and board-meeting minutes, 2007.

    🙂 And remember – “Nice” (as in writes smoothly / feels good in my hand) is not a synonymn for “expensive”.


  9. You mean I should take back that $1,000 pen I just bought with the diamonds and computer in it?

    Oh wait…I’m not fooling anybody. I’m a minister. Back to my Bic.

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