Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Why it's hard to leave

I'm sure every job has it's own significant issues to deal with. I ran across this article 'Why It's Difficult For Pastors To Leave the Ministry,' and it seems pretty accurate to me. It's not just a job, it's not just something you 'do,' and regardless of how you feel about pastoral roles or titles or ministry in general, full-time ministry is a very unique vocation and life. I would have to agree with every point made in this article (to at least some degree). Especially now when I am making less than half the money I made as a pastor, with no benefits or vacation. I'm actually making less now than I was 20 years ago in a small factory and with no post high school education. So these things weighed heavy on my mind while I was a pastor... and when I was forced out... that seemed to make it all the harder to deal with. At any rate, I hope the authors don't mind, but I'm going to just paste the entire thing here:

When you read the latest stats concerning the pressures of pastoral ministry it would be no surprise if a lot of pastors are ready to throw in the towel and walk away.  But many don't - here’s why:

    money: Like any other career change, it is very frightening to let your salary go. Even if it might be an insufficient one, it is still difficult to let go of your guaranteed income. Most pastors have no idea how they will provide support for themselves and their families if they leave. 

    family: Especially if your family is Christian, they had so much pride in the fact that you were “serving the Lord“. Pastors will anticipate a great deal of disappointment from their families when they walk away from this very special calling that so many people took such delight in.  

    self: When pastors get ordained, they, like me, vow that they will never, ever give up. They swear that they will serve the Lord and the church until death. To even think about surrendering this induces an incredible amount of personal shame. 

    theology: I always took great comfort from scriptures such as, “Run the race. Fight the good fight.” These passages helped me in the worst of times to persevere. To quit the ministry evokes enormous feelings of spiritual failure. 

    vocation: Almost all the pastors I have known are very specially trained. They have focused their whole lives and educations on theology and ministry to others. It is feared that to walk away from the only job that employs these skills is to expose oneself to a completely unmarketable and unemployable position. Usually it requires retraining, which in itself is too daunting to face.

    congregation: To leave the ministry is to walk away from the congregation that the pastor has served. It can feel like abandoning your family. In fact, some might accuse the pastor of being a false shepherd who abandons the sheep. To anticipate this painful separation is excruciating. 

    enemies: Those who have questioned, ridiculed or even opposed the pastor’s ministry will suddenly have all the ammunition they need to say, “I told you so!” I’ve heard many times that leaving the ministry was proof that I shouldn’t have been a pastor to begin with. It feels like throwing in the towel, and there are people who love to cheer that demonstration of surrender.
    meaning: To leave most jobs doesn’t bear the weightiness that leaving the ministry does. Leaving the ministry carries an existential significance that shoots a resigning pastor into the darkest of nights because, as most pastors sense, their job wasn’t just a job, but an extension of their spiritual selves. Ministry is the expression of their convictions, and to leave the job appears to be the desertion of these core convictions. 

    waste: All pastors are taught and believe that they are planting seeds. They toil year after year with faith that one day their labor will bear fruit. To consider leaving the ministry is to consider relinquishing the garden and to leave it untended or under the care of another who doesn’t share the same commitments. All that work is gone to waste without any chance of sharing in the harvest, if it ever comes. 

    friends: When pastors leave the ministry, they leave friends. For one, they are walking away from their peers in ministry. They are quitting that team. But they are also walking away from people they’ve served through their births, baptisms, marriages, divorces, deaths, tragedies and spiritual pilgrimages. They are saying farewell to people they have loved in very significant ways, intuitively knowing that walking away from the community network will also endanger their chances of that ever happening again. 

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MR said...

Suddenly the comment box seems inadequate. Lots to process here. I know your family was very involved in your church, but I hadn't thought about how your "job" then was a higher calling and the pride your family would have in you. I get that now.

Money can ruin anything. There are those people who have saved everything because of lessons from the depression passed down through the family, and they remain grounded and humble. Then there are people who sought money as a means of prestige and power. So, I guess it's back to Shane's lesson, a gun is just a tool like a shovel or an ax. It's the man who holds it who is good or bad. However, since no institution in its right mind is going to turn down resources, they may find themselves doing so well that they attract the parasites looking for wealth. If you had a cheese factory, it would be easy to spot the rats, the greedy are harder to spot.

re: the vow to serve the Lord and the church. I would agree with the first part of that sentence. Even in the constitution of this country they make an allowance for if the government goes bad. We are instructed to throw off that corrupt government and return to our principals. I think, especially here in the city of churches, the bloat of resources has created too many churches and too much bureaucracy with them. I think in this case thinking outside the box means thinking outside the church-building. No, I'm not going to recommend a pub church, haha. I'm just back to the point that, while you addressed many people weekly at the church, they might not have been the right people. I think you may have a better chance of finding the people who really need your help by just living your life like you're doing and bumping into them and, without fanfare, just the right words at the right time.

I know you were just conveying what the experience was like. But I for one am glad you're out of that environment; your new job as grandfather is influence enough on the future.

Pastor D said...

When we seek relief
From a long felt grief,
When temptations come alluring
Make us patient and enduring
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more!

-Jesus,Lead Thou On Stanza #3