Ministry as Running/Running as Ministry


I’m a runner. It seemed as if I started one afternoon on a relatively blank and open road and the new story of my life and ministry began to fill in along the way. Just before taking my first steps into life as a seminarian, I was given advice to make self-care a priority.  Thankfully, I had begun that practice without knowing it would be a significant part of what sustained me and gave me the strength to face the challenges that came along the way.

Being a first year seminarian was a challenge, kind of like the first steps of a beginning runner.  I began slowly, learned to pace myself and became more disciplined in order to do my best.  Soon I was off and moving forward at full-speed.  Before I knew it, I crossed the finish line of graduation, celebrated my ordination and found myself on a familiar, yet different road.

In order to attend seminary, I had to discern if I could do it all while working two jobs, going to school full-time and being a Mom to two young boys.  Thankfully, it worked.  However, we are all human and the balancing act of work, family and our personal lives will always find a way to challenge us.  LTS taught me a great many things, but I also learned on my own that just when you think you can’t take one more step, or add one more mile to what seems like a marathon, something (or someone) tells you, “Yes you can!”

When asked who I look up to and who’s “getting it right,” it’s the people who said, “Yes you can!” in the most challenging times. I look up to those who ran along side of me long before I ever discerned a call, and to those who have run far more miles than I have in ministry.  I look up to my professors who I now see starting at point A with new students and teaching all over again just like they did with me.  I look up to my former youth who were ordained the same year I was, colleagues serving for 30 years and those who have served for 30 days, and I look up to my boys Brady and Cade who make me a better Mom, woman and minister with every breath I take on this road.

I’ve learned that it’s not always about how many races you have run or how long you have served in ministry; it’s how you’ve done it and how you are doing it.  Some folks are fast right out of the shoot, they get lots of attention and accolades, but I believe it’s more about taking it one step at a time, listening, learning and being nourished and strengthened from even the most unexpected experiences.

As a runner, there are three things I simply cannot do without: good shoes, good socks and water.  As a minister, the three things I simply cannot do without are self-care, learning more each day and staying connected with my colleagues.

As ministers we run this race called life with so many people, not for the sake of reaching the finish line, but for the sake of sharing our lives and ministries together along the way.

On this road together, we will find challenges, we may find ourselves off balance, and we may have to keep searching for what three things we simply cannot do without, but because of ministries like MCLI, there will always be voices telling us, “Yes you can!”

–Rev. Jacque E. Parlato, Associate Minister/Minister of Youth, Madison Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Huntington, WV


The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.

The MLCI blog series is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.