What a Thrift Store Taught Me About Being a Pastor

What a Thrift Store Taught Me About Being a Pastor

If you had asked me what I was going to be doing on my internship, I probably would have said something like this: “I’ll be doing some worship ministry, and some pastoral stuff, and just seeing what ministry is like!” Nothing too out of the ordinary or overly exciting there. I knew that my partner church had some awesome community ministries happening, one of which is their thrift store, and that I’d be helping with those as well. I love to help, so I had no issue agreeing to give some of my time to their outreach efforts. Afterall, outreach and missions are a part of ministry.

I was even more excited when they offered me a part-time position at their thrift store, because what student doesn’t want to make some extra money?! What I didn’t realize was that they were making me an interim manager!

What do I, a 22-year-old ministry student, know about managing a thrift store? I knew I was underqualified, but they had confidence in me to do the job, so I stepped into the role blind but ready to learn. Surprisingly, I realized that a thrift store and a church are not that different. Managing the store has taught me some valuable lessons about ministry and pastoring. Now, I want to share with you five things that I’ve learned:

1. People need a leader, not a boss

It seemed ridiculous for me to go in and start telling everyone what to do when I barely knew the store myself. These volunteers had been there for weeks and even months. But a ship needs a captain - someone to make decisions, solve problems, and mediate conflict. Serving these volunteers as their leader seemed similar to how a pastor leads the church.  

2. Listening is SO important

I confess that sometimes when people are talking to me, I don’t hear a word they are saying. As a manager, I had to really focus on listening to people. By actually listening to them, I was better able to solve their problems, build relationships, and make them feel heard and understood. As a pastor, I’d want that for my congregation as well.

3. Organization is a gift

A specific task that I was given was to organize the office and online files. I love organizing! But it is obvious that not everyone does. Whether I’m working in the office of the thrift store, or the office of the church, I can use my gifts of organization to better serve that community. I knew that organization was one of my strengths, but this helped me realize why it is a strength and beneficial to others.  

4. It will drain you

I love being at the thrift store. I love the people. I love making sales. But I also look forward to finishing my shift and going home. After a full day at the store, I am wiped physically and mentally. Especially after a hard day, I have no energy left to cook or clean or study. Call me lazy or a wimp all you want, but dealing with people all day takes all the strength I have. I bet that pastors feel the same way more often then they’d share. It takes so much out of you to serve others all day. Without the strength of the Holy Spirit, it would be impossible.

5. There are some people you really don’t like - love them anyway

This is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned. There are a lot of interesting characters in this area of Hamilton. Every day I come face to face with people that are vastly different from my community at Ambrose. And some of those people are hard to love. They are annoying, and frustrating, and challenging. And they need Jesus just as much as I do. So, whether they are buying tea cups or chatting after the service, I will show them love, and respect, and empathy. Because that is what I am called to do whether I want to do it or not.  

I never expected to be starting my internship by managing a thrift store, but it has taught me so many things. Thankfully, a full-time manager has been hired who is more than qualified in both business and ministry. I am so excited that God provided someone with the knowledge and passion to take this store through its next season. I can’t wait to see the store continue to grow and am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to grow with it. Internship is full of unexpected surprises, and this is one that I will fondly remember.

If you’re ever in the Hamilton area, check out The Giving Closet Thrift Shop, a ministry started by the Crown Point Community Church.

*Stay tuned as Mo continues to share her internship experiences with us. 

Image of a clothing rack.
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