Many years ago, I attended the Clergy Orders retreat hosted by the Rocky Mountain Conference and held at the SilverTree Hotel in Steamboat Springs, CO. Held in early fall, the resort was actually closed and opened just for the few hundred clergy who attended the retreat.
At the time, I was a Commissioned candidate serving a small church with a homeless ministry. The hotel had very nice travel sized toiletries, but I knew most attending had their own products and the hotel would be discarding the travel products left behind in their rooms. I set up boxes for the attendees to donate the products from their room, with permission from the hotel manager, so we could pass them on to the homeless and in-need folks in our church program.
Those running the retreat allowed me to make an announcement about the donations in front of the entire group. Not only did it serve the purpose of soliciting donations, it allowed my Reading Team and the BOM to see me in action, hear about my ministry, and see my Connectional nature as I invited the clergy to bring a group to participate in our ministry and thanked by name the churches already participating.
We filled boxes with the products, and the manager loved what we were doing. He took my contact info and anytime the hotel changed packaging or had other reason to dispose of products, he would send them to me.
And then one day he called. It went something like this.
Him: “I’ve got a large quantity of products for you.”
Me: “Ok, send them over.”
Him: “You don’t understand. We have been bought by *national chain* and all our branded products have to go. It’s a truckload, about 6,000 pounds coming to you right from the warehouse. It’s worth $22,000”
Me: “Uhhhh….” (Head spinning)
Him: “Can I tell the driver to deliver it tomorrow?”
Me: “Uhhhh……yes……” (Freaking out)
Him: “Great, I’ll check in with you after it’s delivered.”
Me: “Uhhh…..ok. Thanks.” (Shell shocked. What to do with it, but how can you turn down a donation like that?)
Did I mention I was out of town? And the only space on the main level of the church was the sanctuary. And it seemed cruel to make people carry 6,000 pounds of things down steep, narrow stairs in a historic building, only to carry them back up to distribute them.
Called the building manager, John, who was always down for a little crazy and caused a little himself now and then. He agreed to gather some friends and help unload the truck into the sanctuary, lining the walls with the boxes. I’ll have to keep looking for the photos, but here is one. 6,000 pounds of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap is a lot. Like a ton. Or three. Literally. It lined both walls 6’ high and filled the back eight pews.
I would hit retirement before our homeless program could use it all, so we had to get creative. I challenged every member (about 60 in worship) to find an organization that could use these products. As they found them, the member would then come before the congregation and tell about the organization, how much they needed, and if they needed the products bulk or packaged up. If they needed them bulk, we just loaded boxes into their car. If they needed them packaged, we set up assembly lines after church and put one of each product into a bag so the organization could hand out a ‘personal care kit’.
It took nearly a year to hand it all out, but it went to organizations transitioning families out of homelessness, homeless ministries, shelters, homes for the mentally ill, firefighters during summer wildfires, domestic violence shelters, mission teams from other churches took them to orphanages around the world, and over 25 other organizations. We as a congregation learned about mission projects going on all over metro Denver and we watched as the boxes slowly disappeared, knowing we were making an impact. And we shared it all with the hotel manager who made it happen.
The moral of the story for ordination candidates: Seize opportunities to promote yourself. Your team and the BOM probably see a lot of candidates and you need to stand out and be identifiable. With Annual Conference coming up, is there a way for you to lead a prayer during a worship service, talk about your ministry setting in a special lunch, or otherwise advocate for yourself? My team loved that I had the moxie to stand up in front of my colleagues, and at my subsequent meetings, they asked about it and I was able to share how that one moment ended up impacting thousands of people.
You have to promote yourself, but that move of self interest may become something so much bigger than you ever imagined.