I have been in vocational ministry most of my “career”, but I am not currently. I have served on staff in 4 churches, worked for an Association, served as a NAMB appointed missionary twice, have a degree from Golden Gate, and lately I am wondering if I’ll ever be back in vocational ministry. The abrupt exit from my last experience has done some significant damage, and my wife is not real excited about me putting my head back on the chopping block so to speak. I have some scars and wounds, but I sometimes. . . . often look at SBC job boards. I feel called, I can’t help it, I long to serve in ministry, and I spend much of my time off trying to connect with people, writing blogs and books and trying to help churches with Sunday School and discipleship. I love Christian Education, I stalk Lifeway pages and articles. David Francis is one of my heroes and I saw a coffee mug that said “Arthur Flake is my homeboy” and I knew I had to have one. It’s in my heart, but the process. . . . can’t say I’m excited about the process.
My last position, I tried to be very honest and open about who I was, but I was still walking in blind to a room of people who were blind about me. I moved over a thousand miles from where I lived to where I served. They asked me about my qualifications, my credentials, my education, awards, achievements. I have all those things. Every church I served at has grown and I will admit that my contribution has been part of that growth, in some churches more significantly that others. Opinions vary, but I am confident that I am good at what I do in the areas of outreach, discipleship, Sunday School and even in structure and systems, but that doesn’t make someone a good fit for a church. I can organize a Sunday School structure for your church that will help your people, grow the congregation and empower people but you may hate my guts after a year. Sometimes you can’t communicate on paper, they don’t come through a resume and you don’t talk about them in interviews.
I have flaws, I have hang ups, there are things I struggle with. I sometimes disagree and I have pretty strong opinions. I have things in my head that I am convinced will work, are right and are best and sometimes it causes conflict. I am also very laid back, a little sarcastic and can be blunt, which is why I like Ed Stetzer so much, he makes me laugh. I have a little bit of a warped sense of humor, which is why I like Dave Miller so much. I don’t take criticism very well and I am pretty introverted. I love to write, I am so happy that so many love my evangelism book, but I am very miffed no one wants to publish it. I have my issues and my hang ups, many which don’t come up in an interview.
There is pressure when getting a “job” in a church to sell yourself. There is pressure to sell the church to the candidate. Then you get the job and there is all this expectation floating around. People complain, because you are now an “employee” and you are paid, so there is this pressure. When I served, in every one of the churches I was in people complained to me about the Senior Pastor, and many of them complained to the Senior Pastor about me. You can never please all the people, so often what happens is you begin to focus on pleasing the “right” people. The temptation arises to show favoritism to the big hitters, those with deep pockets and a loud voice on the church counsel.
Sometimes it stops being a calling and it stops being a passion and it becomes a job. You have those who feel their job is to be your supervisor, sometimes it’s official (personal team, etc) and sometimes it’s people who are self appointed. There is constant pressure to “produce” and make things happen. Sometimes it’s simply things the people in the church want, even if you don’t feel God calling you to do any of those things. A Pastor is now torn between his calling and his job. We are suppose to care for a pastor so they can focus on the word, teaching, prayer and equipping the saints, but it never seems to work that way. It so often just becomes about the job, the money, we pay him, so he should deliver.
Now I am sure some of you out there will comment how your church isn’t like that, how your position is perfect and I am either just lazy or crazy. You can ask my supervisor where I work now, he would agree I am crazy, but he knows I’m not lazy. Ask my last supervisor, ask the guys I work with, and ask other pastors, worship leaders and youth ministers. They have to walk the line between teaching the word and managing expectations. A worship leader has a desire to help people express love to God and pour out an offering, and in return, they get complaints about the music style, the tempo, the volume and if the bass player’s pants are too tight. Youth pastors deal with angry youth, angry parents, rising costs of camps, gas and tickets. The youth group wants nothing but fun, they parents want their kids discipled and the pastor wants to know why the budget is so high. How do I know? I’ve led worship, been a youth pastor, and I know the pressures of a lead pastor, I did that one too. Most of the people I served with were amazing, they were great and loving and forgiving, but when things get hard, when the numbers aren’t there, the budget is short and the sermon goes a little long, the critics come out. The justification for the pay check begins, and just like a football team fires the coach and failing schools ditch the principal, a struggling church often eats the paid staff, because making things work is their “job”. Isn’t this what we are paid to do?
So, what do we do? Can’t all just quit, you don’t want to look for a secular job with a seminary degree, trust me. God took care of me for sure with mine. Can things change? Can we make the church less like the business world, with employee reviews, performance based pay, resume building and the dreaded interview process, or does it just come with the Western American Church? I don’t have an answer, I wish I did. I would love to see churches stop “hiring” and raise up leaders from within. Men from the church become Pastors and Elders and are moved into the position because God’s hand is there. No more packing up all you own in a uhaul and driving across the country because you have a solid resume, the right experience and a seminary degree. There must be a better way to call the man to lead a church than the Forbes school of hiring executive. What do you think? By the way, anyone looking for a slightly used and beat up Sunday School guy?