Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Proper Care and Feeding of Pastors

In the short time I have been a pastor, I've encountered a good number of people who are wondering why they are in ministry, myself included. Danny Bradfield, a fellow blogger over at Field of Dandelions wrote a post about his own struggles with his call. He is leaving his current pastorate to...well he doesn't know. He is moving his family to Southern California, where he is from and looking for a job. Listen to what he says:

Nearly every pastor I know can relate. There are times when we've said, "I wish I'd never become a pastor at all." Some of my friends have seen their wish come true, as they are no longer in the ministry.

When I heard the call to ministry, I remember all my family and friends being happy for me. These days, I sometimes wonder if some of them were secretly thinking, "better you than me." As I prepare to move my family despite the fact that I have no job waiting for me, taking my kids to a new community and new school, faced with the possibility of not having enough money to pay the bills (not to mention health insurance), and with little support from the congregation I am leaving, I'm increasingly finding myself wishing that I'd never entered the ministry.

Another blogger is dealing with the stress of finding a call and wondering if his sexual orientation has something to do with it. He wonders if he needs to go back to school and get his Masters in Social work.

Being a pastor is frickin' hard. You are called to do this job, a calling where people are never satisfied with you, where you have to deal with senior pastors who are bigger divas than Diana Ross, where you are paid next to nothing and where you expected to marry and bury, but God forbid if ask people to take their faith seriously.

In the Disciples, ordination is not a guarantee that one will find a call at a congregation they way it is in other denominations. You can be ordained and never called to a congregation. It kinda sucks at times, but then that's what happens in a denomination that is congregationally based.

But the larger question here is how does the church help and encourage pastors? I think more often than not, we are left on our own after we ordained and have to figure things out on ourselves. I don't think our Regions have to guarantee us a job, but at times I wonder if there were a way that they could be better in helping us along the way. The sad fact is that there are many pastors out there who end up leaving the ministry because they are burned out or just gave up trying to find where they fit. And yet denominations keep trying to find young people who might be interested in ministry.

What to do about this? I don't know. But it seems that if denominations are so keen in getting new ministers, they need to do more on the backend, after ordination than on the frontend. It's great to try to get people interested, but you need to keep it up afterwards.

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