Fundamentally, I am actually quite a shy, introverted person. I don't especially like large gatherings of people - especially groups of people I don't know. And I am pretty much allergic to anything at all which places me at the centre of attention, in any shape or form. Yes, and I am training for ministry...
So, what do I get myself into these days? I stand at the front of a congregation most weeks, trying to 'proclaim the gospel'; I turn up at church social events; I go into schools and care homes; etc, etc. I know, I am (I really, really hope) pointing to God in all I do, but with the best will in the world, it's me they are seeing 'up front'.
But, especially when leading worship in church, there are places I can 'hide', be it behind the communion table or in the pulpit. It's just a little bit, but something. Other times, there is no 'hiding place.'
Leading small groups I find very intimidating. There's the proximity of everyone, so less 'room' for those nervous ticks which are normally hidden from view. I can, so to speak, see the white of their eyes, really see how the group are interacting with me, and one another.
I especially find this hard when leading bible study (which, admittedly, I've barely done much of). As the person with theological training, I am expected to have all the answers (to one extent or another). And, though it's genuinely great to learn what those there thoughts are on the passage, I have struggled to work out exactly when to 'fill the silence'. That fine line of allowing people the chance to add thoughts, ideas, questions, without letting it go in too long (but then, I am really quite comfortable with silence, so they don't seem that drawn out to me!).
But, you know what they say, practise makes perfect. And, boy that's what I need, not only for leading bible studies, but for being 'the minister' in these more intimate of situations. Strangely, one-to-one or one-to-two pastoral situations don't have this effect.