Yesterday was my thirteenth anniversary as pastor at my church. So now we start into year number fourteen...
I don't really even know what to say. My what a long strange trip it's been. The thirteenth year was undoubtedly the most difficult I've had personally. But it's not about me, and life goes on.
For the record, this is my first and only church where I have served as pastor. When we lived in Illinois I served as a Deacon, a Sunday School teacher, and a youth worker. Then I went to seminary in 1996 (I think) and got a degree in Religious Studies from the U. of Findlay, and one in Pastoral Ministry from Winebrenner Seminary. I graduated from both places in May 1999. I spent that summer mulling some offers and debating whether to plant a church or not. I finally accepted the position at my current church in July and my first Sunday was August 1 of 1999. I remember when I started that I didn't even think to ask how much I was going to be paid. I believe it was $13,000. Jane didn't work at first, so we lived pretty meagerly (though we were used to it). She finally got a part-time job at a nearby church, and later started working at a pizza place.
When we came here we sort of had a four-tiered plan of attack. The first thing we noticed right away was how down everyone was. It seemed like a beat up congregation. So first we wanted to instill some JOY. Next we wanted to address the WORSHIP (the worship services were pretty dry). Then we wanted to start working on DISCIPLESHIP, because it didn't seem like that had ever been much of a priority here. And finally we hoped to REPRODUCE - for this to be a church that started other churches.
I think we did alright with joy. We did little things like add a candy dish in the entryway, spruced the place up a little, changed some of the language, and just tried to make it a place that people were proud of and wanted to be a part of. I think we also improved the worship services. We transitioned from a pianist and organist who tried to pull the congregation in opposite directions, to a worship band. The trouble has come with discipleship. We have been stuck here for a number of years now. Gee, it's almost like it's a spiritual thing or something. That is still very much what we are trying to address.
Anyway, I have no idea where the future will lead us, but it's been a good thirteen years here. Ministry is bound to be messy no matter where it is, and we've had our share of that. But we have also had our share of good times and successes. It really is what it is.
On to number fourteen, I guess.