Sometimes we chaplains use a strategy called "the ministry of presence" in our effort to support our patients and families. It is an offer of self that is import demanding than you may realize. I have jokingly said that "the ministry of presence" is all I have to offer, especially when I engage in the unwise sport of comparing my skills to that of my musically trained colleagues! The truth is the ministry of presence is no joking matter... it is a powerful and demands more than simply occupying space.
The ministry of presence self-awareness that is able to manage emotions and physical expressions that communicate an open heart. Finding an appropriate balance of an honest expression of emotion with that of being fully present for the other can be challenging. I like to take a deep breath and slow everything down in order to be mindful of the surroundings before engaging in service. The self-awareness of the caregiver can be very helpful to the recipient of that care as a guide forward, allowing a clamp presence to smooth the way for open and honest sharing.
The ministry of presence also requires self-control. I have always liked the idea of showing up with a "yes face." A "yes face" invites the other to share whatever is on their heart and mind. It takes advantage of the two ears/one mouth ratio of our face and values the art of listening over the need to say something. It is so tempting to speak when there are patches of silence, filling the awkward silence with nervous energy and mindless chatter. So much better is it to patiently endure the silence and listen to the one ware there to serve.
The ministry of presence also requires self-esteem. If I am not confident in my own skin, that lack of confidence will seek to find fulfillment through effort rather than seeking to give appropriate service that is other-focused. A good self-esteem allows us to be fully present without regard for meeting any of our own needs. The truth is, our self-esteem is often a work in progress, building on failed efforts and past mistakes.
So, the ministry of presence is personally demanding and very serious. However, I have never laughed more, accomplished more, or been more deeply satisfied with my work than when I have exercised the ministry of presence, sharing space with others in calmness, patience and confidence. Try this at home... your loved ones will thank you!