As I consider the variety of questions I get asked, it would be difficult to say what is the most prevalent. There are a few that stand out as general concerns.
For instance, when people encounter difficult situations whether it be health concerns, family issues, work place problems, etc., the questions are typically focused on how to do some problem solving. “How can I improve this situation?”, “What are my options?”, and similar questions.
My role is not so much the problem solver, but the one who listens carefully and one who facilitates the conversation so that the person can answer their own question. Each person and each situation is different. There is no cookie cutter solution, other than making sure all involved are treated with respect and dignity.
The second scenario that comes to mind are questions around sexual and gender diversity. And again, since each family and each person is different, there are no fixed answers here either. “Should I come out to my family?”, “How will my family react?”, etc.
My primary answer here is that people will surprise us, for good and bad. Be prepared to be surprised, but regardless, make sure you have a support person or persons to help you with the surprises.
Last, but not least, I get questions about paying bills. When money is tight or short, the anxiety it produces is unlike any other. It impacts not just the person’s living conditions, but often their sense of self-worth. Our culture far too often equates money with value, and it’s simply not true, especially when it comes to people. But, when a person is trying to provide for themselves and their families, and money is short, despair, depression, and frustration come quickly behind. Helping solve these problems is challenging, at best.
As you can see, these questions are not so much theological as they are practical. So, my goal as a minister is to provide the theological framework to help my community think about how we want to support those in need. And then, we do it to the best of our ability with the resources at our disposal.